If you are familiar with cryptocurrency world then you should know the term “Fork”, so first, you have to understand what is fork means, usually, fork means to split into two, same here in cryptocurrency world.
Here in a crypto world Fork had a wider meaning than the normal fork, so let’s look into what is actually “Fork” is in crypto world.
The term cryptocurrency was developed as the coins themselves are encrypted sections of the public ledger commonly known as the “blockchain”. This ledger contains all cryptocurrency transactions so that each user can verify the validity of each transaction using his or her computer. Each transaction must carry digital signatures and sending addresses to be considered authentic. Anyone can add a new page to the ledger when they have the right solution to the mathematical equation contained with the coin’s programming code.
Just like any other computer program, the code of a specific coin can be upgraded and altered to help the coin flourish. These changes must be made very carefully to keep new coins compatible with older coins. Applications accessing and altering blockchain must all be able to read and write the data correctly and consistently.
Those changes or upgradations are called as “Fork”.
Mainly there are 2 types of Forks in a crypto world they are called as Hard Fork and Soft Fork, so let’s look into what is Hard and Soft Forks.
Hard Fork and Soft Fork
If any specific coin is upgraded entirely to a new one is called as the Hard fork, remember hard fork is nothing but a creating a new parallel universe with own and new identity in the blockchain, here blockchain is split into two and new blockchain is entirely different from the old one.
For example, when 2017 Bitcoin hard forked and split into two, old blockchain remain as Bitcoin (BTC) and new one named as Bitcoin Cash (BCH), for the higher transactions speed and better performance.
For the better understanding lets look at some real-world example.
If there was one driver who lived in Newyork and had a Jeep – then now there is an additional “Driver Cash,” who lives in “Newyork Cash” and has “Jeep Cash.” So, both drivers live separate lives in separate universes. But Newyork Cash driver will never be able to visit his doppelganger or apply for a job in Newyork – there is no portal between the realities. Sounds like a “Black Mirror” plot.
In a hard fork, blockchain split into two here also old blocks exist and if user and miner want to continue with the old blockchain they are still able to continue with the old one and also they do not have any connection or relations with new blockchain.
If any specific coin releases their new update in the blockchain it is called as a Soft fork, here it is not creating a parallel universe within the blockchain it is just updated blockchain, it is just like if any app releases their new update for better performance and user experience.
For example, when 2017 Bitcoin Soft Forked and that fork called as SegWit, here it is just the update of the Bitcoin blockchain for increasing block size limit.
If you are confused just look at some real-world example for this.
I’ll take traffic rules as an example (it is actually pretty similar). Say, the US had a rule, where minimum highway speed should be 30 miles and maximum 60 miles. One day, the government decides that, from now on, it will be a minimum of 40 and a maximum of 70. What will happen? For most of the drivers, who drive with an average speed of 55 miles – nothing will change. They are still eligible to drive and are not violating the new low. But if you were driving 30 miles – you have to speed up.
In the same way, you don’t have to immediately upgrade your Blockchain version to the soft fork one, and you can work exactly as you did before, unless you want to do something against the new protocol.
So let’s talk about why we need these Forks.
- To fix important security risks found in older versions.`
In regular paper currency how we manage to increase security level by adding new paper layers, color, fonts and many more measures taken to better implementation of regulator currency, here in cryptocurrency it will take some time to find all the cryptocurrency security risks and fix them.
- To add new functionality.
The fact we have Windows 10 today basically means, that the first Windows required some improvement. Lots of improvements. The Blockchain code is also upgraded from year to year. Since it is an open source development, developers work on it worldwide and propose their improvements to the community. If a feature is good enough, it will be added to the next version.
- To reverse transactions.
Remember the fake currency? The government could put the rogue in jail but hardly could refund all the people who took it as real money. Too bad. In the crypto world, you can actually minimize the harm. Once the community finds out they have a security breach, they can proclaim all the transactions made from a specified date as not existing. Like, never happened. Did you ever want to go back in time? Here you go, enjoy. For the good guys, such a reverse process means that we just need to make the transactions again. For the “bad” – it will be harder to steal. Not impossible, though.
Hard forks and soft forks are essentially the same things in that when a cryptocurrency’s existing code is changed, an old version remains while a new version is created. However, with a soft fork, only one blockchain will remain valid as users adopt the update. Both forks create a split, but a hard fork creates two blockchains, and a soft fork is meant to result in one.