What does FORK mean in Crypto?

Hard forks vs. soft forks


You  have ever  heard of the term ‘FORK’ ;  Fork is a change of a blockchain protocol. It is when a blockchain  moved forward into two potential paths.A fork can be a hard or soft fork. It usually happens to add more security or features to a cryptocurrency. When doing a fork, it is also possible to create new coins and cryptocurrency.

In this article, we’ll explore how cryptocurrency networks can be upgraded, despite the lack of a central authority. To do so, they use two different mechanisms: hard forks and soft forks, Stay tuned for more!


What is a fork?

A software fork occurs at a point where software is copied and modified. The original project lives on, but it’s now separate from the new one, which takes a different direction. Suppose that the team of your favorite cryptocurrency content website had a major disagreement with how to proceed. One part of the team might replicate the site on a different domain. But going forward, they would post different types of content than the original.

Note that this kind of thing happens a lot in open-source projects, and has been happening for a long time before the appearance of Bitcoin or Ethereum. However, the distinction between hard forks and soft forks is one almost exclusive to the blockchain space. Let’s discuss those a bit more.


Hard forks vs. soft forks

Despite having similar names and ultimately serving the same purpose, hard forks and soft forks differ significantly. Let’s take a look at each.

What is a hard fork?

Hard forks are backward-incompatible software updates. Typically, these occur when nodes add new rules in a way that conflicts with the rules of old nodes. New nodes can only communicate with others that operate the new version. As a result, the blockchain splits, creating two separate networks: one with the old rules, and one with the new rules.

So there are now two networks running in parallel. They’ll both continue to propagate blocks and transactions, but they’re no longer working on the same blockchain. All nodes had an identical blockchain until the point of the fork (and that history remains), but they’ll have different blocks and transactions afterward.

Because there’s that shared history, you’ll end up with coins on both networks if you were holding them before the fork. Suppose that you had 5 BTC when a fork occurred at Block 600,000. You could spend those 5 BTC on the old chain in Block 600,001, but they haven’t been spent in the new blockchain’s Block 600,001. Assuming the cryptography hasn’t changed, your private keys still hold five coins on the forked network.


What is a Soft fork

A soft fork is a backward-compatible upgrade, meaning that the upgraded nodes can still communicate with the non-upgraded ones. What you typically see in a soft fork is the addition of a new rule that doesn’t clash with the older rules.

For example, a block size decrease can be implemented by soft-forking. Let’s once again draw on Bitcoin to illustrate this point: though there’s a limit on how big a block can be, there isn’t a limit on how small it can be. If you want to only accept blocks below a certain size, you just need to reject bigger ones.

However, doing so doesn’t automatically disconnect you from the network. You still communicate with nodes that aren’t implementing those rules, but you filter out some of the information they pass you.


Hard forks vs. soft forks – which is better?

Fundamentally, both of the above types of forks serve different purposes. Contentious hard forks can divide a community, but planned ones allow the freedom to modify the software with everybody in agreement.

Soft forks are a gentler option. Generally speaking, you’re more limited in what you can do as your new changes can’t conflict with the old rules. That said, if your update can be crafted in such a way that it remains compatible, you don’t need to worry about fragmenting the network.


Closing thoughts

Hard forks and soft forks are crucial to the long-term success of blockchain networks. They allow us to make changes and upgrades in decentralized systems, despite the lack of a central authority.


Forks make it possible for blockchains and cryptocurrencies to integrate new features as they’re developed. Without these mechanisms, we’d need a centralized system with top-down control. Otherwise, we’d be stuck with the exact same rules for the lifetime of the protocol.

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