To fork or not to fork — that is the question.

So, what the f*ck happened here?

  • The widely covered and lauded Ethereum smart contract known as The DAO, which raised USD equivalent amounts of over $150 million in ETH was hacked.
  • The hacker identified and exploited a vulnerability in The DAO that allowed them to repeatedly drain it of ETH into a child DAO.
  • According to Vitalik himself:
  • In total, the hacker ran away with 3,641,694 ETH (US ~$51mm at time of writing). Hacker contract link is here
  • Due to the nature of the contract code, it is locked away for 27 days.
  • This leaves the community 27 days to discuss what to do about said contract.

The Options:

Incredibly important point to keep in mind: any fork of the system would require consensus from miners. It cannot be forced onto the network.


  • A soft-fork will make any transaction that makes any call to the DAO and children invalid from a specific block onwards, preventing the ether from being withdrawn by the attacked past the 27-day window.
  • It would have No Rollback — no transactions or blocks will be ‘reversed’
  • Freezes the attacker’s account, and buys the community additional time past the 27-day window to figure out what to do about it.
  • Upside: more time to debate.
  • Downside: more time to debate.

Hard fork

  • Details are light, but the hard fork would essentially refund most, if not all of the stolen ETH by moving the DAO and its children into a new contract where owners can simply withdraw their ETH.
  • DAO token holder get their ETH back
  • Potential slippery slope: the integrity of the system is compromised by subjective consensus, not objective code.

No Fork

  • The community doesn’t fork, and tries everything possible to recover the funds within 27 days.
  • Most likely that the ~$50mm USD will be lost forever in the hands of an unknown hacker
  • System is known for its emotionless integrity, serves as a tough lesson in smart contracts and cryptocurrency in general.

What I think could happen:

Let’s not forget that there is already a difficulty bomb built into the current version of the code that will force a hard-fork. It was initially intended to bring about the transition to the Proof-Of-Stake consensus mechanism.


Let’s keep it civil

The Ethereum community up until this point has established itself as an incredibly welcoming and open minded group of people working towards a common goal. The r/ethereum subreddit is uncharacteristically kind and informative and it’s been a reason for such high developer engagement and adoption. Let’s keep our heads and live up to that as we deal with this, we’ll all be better for it.



Cofounder of Zora

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store