What is a Hard Fork?

A Brief Guide on Hard Forks

April 2020, 5 min read

bitcoin image with computer screen

It’s been more than a decade since the launch of Bitcoin. A technology that was regarded as a bubble that will eventually burst is now something that is being considered as a revolution in modern internet space. The fact that Bitcoin was released as an open-source program enabled the community with a lot of opportunities in the crypto and blockchain market. As Bitcoin is decentralized in nature, this means that it operates on the participation of the community that becomes part of the network through their computers.

What are Hard Forks?

Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies exist in the form of software that we could call as the “Bitcoin Protocol,” i.e., the set of rules and regulations on which Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies operate. The developers keep on adding security and improvement updates. Now, if at any time there comes a major update or change to the protocol that is not so welcomed by the community, and they decide to come up with their version, they could do so. By doing that, they are creating a “fork” of the original core blockchain.

How are Hard Forks made?

Hard forks are developed by first copying the original protocol, e.g., taking a copy of Bitcoin protocol, making the desired changes, and then stating that at what block number the updated version will be activated. When the specified block number is reached in the blockchain, the community will need to decide to choose from one of the two blockchains, i.e., the forked one and the original one. All the record that is available on the original blockchain is also available on the forked version.

Difference between Hard and Soft Fork

The core operation in both hard and soft fork is the same, i.e., making changes to the original blockchain. In the hard fork result is two blockchains, you will need to update from old to new fork if you support the new fork development. In a soft fork, only one blockchain will be the result, and everyone in the user base will be upgraded to the new blockchain. Soft forks are very rare as per the security and computational power issues.

Bitcoin Cash & Bitcoin SV

Bitcoin Cash came into existence as a hard fork of Bitcoin. Block size disagreement among the community lead to the development of Bitcoin Cash as it was released on the 1st of August 2017. Bitcoin Cash is still one of the most successful hard forks ever done on Bitcoin. Bitcoin SV is also a fork of Bitcoin that claims to be the “Original Bitcoin,” the project aims to focus on the “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” as it was stated in the original white paper of Bitcoin. SV stands for Satoshi Vision, and this hard fork was developed from Bitcoin Cash. Bitcoin SV started in November 2018. Both Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV are very well-performing on the crypto exchanges.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to cryptocurrencies in general, the “community” driven factor is one of the significant features that make cryptocurrency and blockchain one of the revolutionary inventions in the recent era. Hard forks are one the greatest example where the community holds power to come up with their version and applying it practically.