On Crypto Forks

The differences and reasons of hard and soft forks.

N. R. Crowningshield
Kaspa Currency
Published in
5 min readMar 5, 2024

--

Crypto Forks

Do you ever wonder what a fork actually is in cryptocurrency? What is the difference between a hard and a soft fork, and why does it matter? Why do people make such a big deal over a fork in the road? Imagine standing at the edge of a vast, digital city, where the streets and intersections beneath your feet are the possible paths a network could travel. Now, envision this gridiron intersecting with these countless routes, turns, and junctions, each representing a potential direction for a network. Forks, in this context, are junctures where the community decides which path to take, shaping the future of the network.

This article was created based on insights from a thread posted by Shai Deshe Wyborski on X/Twitter.

Deciphering Forks

At its essence, a fork represents a divergence in the network, a moment of decision that can alter the network’s trajectory. But not all forks are created equal; they come in different forms, namely ‘soft’ and ‘hard,’ each with its own implications and outcomes.

The Subtlety of Soft Forks

Soft forks in crypto can be likened to software updates on your smartphone — they roll out new functionalities or corrections without interfering with your current applications or data. When applied to a network, a soft fork narrows the criteria for a valid block, ensuring the network can function smoothly without mandating an update from every node.

An excellent example of a soft fork is the Taproot update in Bitcoin, designed to augment privacy and efficiency without necessitating an upgrade from all participants in the network. Soft forks achieve this through backward-compatible changes, meaning the network remains operational even as some nodes operate on legacy versions. The Taproot enhancements, for instance, aimed at optimizing block space utilization and boosting privacy for intricate transactions, were deliberately engineered so that nodes yet to be updated could still validate and relay transactions. They would, however, not benefit from the new Taproot features. The uninterrupted functionality of the network following such an update is contingent upon a substantial majority of miners embracing the latest rules. This consensus among miners helps solidify the new rules as the standard, ensuring network coherence and sidestepping possible short-lived forks. The broad acceptance of the Taproot update by the mining sector and the broader user base exemplifies the communal collaboration pivotal to the triumph of soft fork integrations.

The Power of Hard Forks

On the other hand, hard forks are the equivalent of opting for a whole new operating system. They introduce changes that make new blocks incompatible with the old rules, necessitating a unanimous update across all nodes to prevent a split in the network. This is where the network can truly fork, creating parallel chains if not everyone agrees to the update. Hard forks can be deliberate, aiming to add significant new features or address fundamental issues, or they can be contentious, leading to a split in the community and the birth of a new cryptocurrency.

The creation of Ethereum Classic from Ethereum, following a dispute over how to handle the DAO hack, and the birth of Bitcoin Cash from Bitcoin due to disagreements over block size and Segwit2X are evidence of the profound impact hard forks can have. These events are major technical updates and can be pivotal moments for a community to reflect on deeper philosophical and strategic divides.

New Coins?

The emergence of new cryptocurrencies from hard forks is a phenomenon fueled by disagreement. When a significant portion of the community — miners, developers, or users — chooses not to adopt the new rules, the network can split into two distinct paths: one that follows the old rules and one that embarks on a new direction with the updated protocol. This is how new coins are born, carrying with them the legacy of their origin chain but diverging in vision and functionality.

The Effects of Forks

The implications of forks extend far beyond the technical, influencing everything from market dynamics to community trust and regulatory perspectives. They can lead to uncertainty and volatility in the short term as stakeholders adjust to the new status quo. However, they also embody the decentralized, democratic essence of crypto technology, where the community has the power to shape its future.

Navigating the Forked Roads

Regarding Kaspa’s evolutionary path, the emphasis is on proactive hard forks — thoughtful, anticipated, well-planned upgrades designed to enhance the network’s capabilities, security, and efficiency. These are not emergency measures or divisive decisions but more like the regular updates you’d expect from any evolving software system. Proactive hard forks are the project’s commitment to innovation and continuous improvement, ensuring that the network remains cutting-edge and can adapt to the ever-changing demands of decentralized finance.

The key to navigating these updates smoothly lies in the preparation and communication strategies employed by the Kaspa community, volunteers, and developers. The network ensures seamless transitions by keeping all stakeholders informed and engaged — miners, developers, and users alike. This collaborative approach minimizes disruptions and reinforces the community’s trust and action in the project’s direction.

Moreover, proactive hard forks offer an opportunity to introduce new features and optimizations that can significantly enhance the network’s performance and user experience. These can range from scalability improvements and increased transaction speeds to more robust security measures, all of which contribute to the overall health and competitiveness of Kaspa. i.e., Rust rewrite!

These planned hard forks should be viewed not with apprehension but as milestones in Kaspa’s ongoing development. They are clear indicators of a dynamic, forward-thinking project that is not content with the status quo but is constantly striving for excellence. This proactive stance on network upgrades is a positive signal for the community and users alike, showcasing Kaspa’s dedication to enabling a resilient, innovative, and future-proof ecosystem.

Tip: Always stay informed and actively participate in your crypto community’s discussions to better understand and navigate the impacts of forks and the network’s future.

KASPA | KASPA WIKI | MEDIUM | TELETYPE | DISCORD | TELEGRAM

TWITTER | GITHUB | N. R. Crowningshield | Bubblegum Lightning

--

--