Do you want to know what forks thrived amidst the chaos and which ones are still waiting to gain the necessary momentum before launch? For those that have had a chance to read our first hard forks chronology article, as well as the hard fork genesis article, you probably already have a decent understanding of how hard forks work, what measures are needed to implement them, and when they usually occur. For the most part, many hard forks are still currently in circulation. So let’s start with a quick check-up of the past forks.
The Current State of Past Forks
Before Ethereum Classic existed, there was just one chain for Ethereum called “Ethereum.” The split occurred in 2016 after a fund built on Ethereum called the “DAO” was hacked. The team had a choice between either accepting the hack and continuing forward, or implementing a “hard fork” in order to “wipe” the transaction and stop the hackers from getting away with the money.
However, there was a solid segment of the community that did not agree with this approach under the philosophy that the Ethereum blockchain should remain immutable. So, when Ethereum did commence with the hard fork to a different network, many were left behind, and because their chain possessed less hash power, they were not able to retain the Ethereum name.
Thus, Ethereum Classic was born.
One of the major reasons that Ethereum Classic is still used today is due to the promotional efforts of Barry Silbert, who apparently owns a significant stake of Ethereum Classic. He has a lot of influence in the cryptocurrency community in general, and he owns Digital Currency Group, an organization that has invested a substantial amount of money into different areas of cryptocurrency.
Some theorize that Barry has merely used his influence to promote the token in order to “pump and dump,” an illegal scheme in which one artificially boosts the price of a security/stock by over exaggerating its potential returns/benefits in order to garner more investors and make more personal profit.
The main goal of Ethereum Classic was to preserve the philosophy of an immutable blockchain. They believed that implementing a hard fork in order to restore the stolen funds from the DAO would undermine this principle entirely. So by refusing to cooperate with the rest of the network, they wanted to take a stand for their principles. Essentially, one could consider Ethereum Classic to be an ongoing legacy of that fundamental protest.
In general, Ethereum Classic was received with mixed emotions from the community as it was split on the issue. There were plenty of members in the community that respected and commended those that refused to cooperate with the hard fork that Ethereum instituted in order to restore the funds to the individuals who had been hacked from the DAO.
However, there was a segment of the Ethereum community that did not feel favorably about the refusal of the Ethereum Classic community to cooperate with the wishes of the greater community.
In 2017, the impending launch of SegWit had created a great deal of ire in the community between those that felt that the block size should be adjusted. This friction in the community led to the New York Agreement. This agreement, which would’ve been a hard fork to SegWit2x, was supposed to be a compromise between the two opposing sides of Bitcoin. The miners on the network agreed to cooperate with the SegWit implementation under the condition that the block size would at least be increased to 2 MB.
However, this did not happen. One reason is due to the fact that the core team rejected the New York proposal. Also, two huge mining pools (ViaBTC and Bitmain) felt that it would be in their best interest to help propel the creation of a hard fork that would have the bigger block sizes already built within it and would not contain any SegWit implementation.
Here is a press release from Bitmain about the hard fork.
Profits vs. Bitcoin
For miners, the profits between Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin oscillate. At first, Bitcoin Cash was substantially more profitable due to a flaw in its Proof of Work difficulty-adjustment algorithm. However, that was changed in November 2017, and the profitability between the two cryptocurrencies are now largely negligible most of the time.
The Bitcoin Gold hard fork was initiated on October 10th, 2017, and it occurred on October 24th that same month. Similar to all other Bitcoin hard forks, Bitcoin Gold was received by all those that held their Bitcoin in a private wallet and not an exchange.
The coin was deemed necessary by the community and developers responsible for creating it because it was modified to include an ASIC-resistant property that does not exist in Bitcoin. Essentially, the developers wanted to ensure that GPUs could once again be the predominant method for mining the coin rather than the complex, expensive, and technologically advanced ASIC miners that had been developed prior.
However, due to multiple issues between the miners and the developer, as well as the controversy surrounding the implementation of the hard fork itself, it had failed to garner any substantial traction in the Bitcoin community.
As mentioned under the Bitcoin Cash review, SegWit2x is the product of the New York Agreement that was inked in 2017 that never happened. The premise of the coin was meant to be a compromise between the core community’s desires to implement SegWit and the “block-increaser’s” desires to increase the size of the blocks that are mined for Bitcoin.
Thus, SegWit2x was supposed to be a planned hard fork of Bitcoin that resulted in an increase of the block size from 1 MB to 2 MB while still allowing SegWit implementation.
Many in the Bitcoin community, however, were diametrically opposed to the premise of SegWit2x because they felt that the meeting between the miners was “shady” and that it more closely resembled a backroom deal than an open-community arrangement.
This sentiment crippled support for the measure to the extent that it was never able to formally launch.
However, all was not for naught in this situation. In our previous article, we theoretized on how the implementation of SegWit would not have occurred if it had not been for the proposition of the New York Agreement.
Bitcoin ABC is informally known in the community as the node software for the Bitcoin Cash network. If you visit their main website, it makes its support of Bitcoin Cash very evident.
According to the website, Bitcoin ABC is “…a full node implementation of the Bitcoin Cash protocol. With a future roadmap of massive scaling, Bitcoin ABC allows an immediate block size increase with a simple, sensible, adjustable blocksize cap.”
This is important to note because it means that the nodes essentially allow miners to mine blocks of varying sizes. Below is a screenshot taken from the website:
Most Forked Blockchains
It should come as no surprise that the two of the most forked blockchains in the cryptocurrency sphere are also two of the oldest ones in existence: Ethereum and Bitcoin. Due to their vast user networks, name recognition, unique features, and familiarity among those in the development community, both of these chains have remained a fan favorite among crypto-enthusiasts over the last year. As we explained in our hard fork genesis article, many of the hard forks that we see today are a product of the idea that manifested from the dichotomy laden within the Bitcoin community circa 2015.
[bctt tweet=”Due to their vast user networks, name recognition, unique features, and familiarity, Ethereum and Bitcoin are the most forked blockchains”]
Known as the “godfather” of all blockchain technology and the long-standing market leader among all cryptocurrencies since its inception, it is no surprise that Bitcoin is the most common choice for developers wishing to fork the protocol.
According to its press releases, Bitcoin Diamond is a hard fork of Bitcoin that was designed to address the inherent privacy issues laden within Bitcoin by implementing an innovative encryption process that is designed to mask the passage of transactions from one party (wallet) to another. This fork was released at the block height of 495,866, which occurred on November 24th, 2017. However, there have been massive criticisms of the Bitcoin Diamond concept, design, and efficacy of their proposed offering. One of the biggest criticisms was the fact that the coin did not have any GitHub entries before launch. This claim was not debunked unfortunately, but the coin’s dev team did make sure to add in the necessary information within the repositories at a later date.
The coin is, however, on a substantial number of exchanges at this point and pretty easy to purchase. Currently, the coin is listed on: Binance, YoBit, Gate.io, and many others!
As you can see above, the price (USD) of the coin has depreciated substantially since its initial launch on November 24th, 2017. Given the fact that there are several other coins available that currently address the privacy issues that Bitcoin Diamond claims to address, there doesn’t seem to be a niche being fulfilled by the cryptocurrency that wasn’t being served previously by those alternatives (ZClassic or Monero).
The supply of Bitcoin Diamond coins stands at 210 million or a 10:1 Bitcoin Diamond to Bitcoin ratio. Since Bitcoin’s supply is fixed at approximately 21 million coins, Bitcoin Diamond’s ratio of 1:10 coins seems to be an effort to give investors a comparable number of coins in order to maintain this proportion between their supply and the legacy chain’s supply.
This hard fork was initiated at block height 498,888 of the Bitcoin protocol, which occurred on December 14th, 2017. This coin is currently available at OKEx, Gate.io, Huobi, Exx, YoBit, Bibox, HitBTC, Aex, and Bigone. The prices and volume of trade vary substantially at the time of writing.
BTCC and F2Pool, two major mining pools for Bitcoin are the two major creators of Super Bitcoin. The “Super Bitcoin Foundation” did also pre-mine the currency.
According to the developers, Super Bitcoin includes:
- Lightning Network compatibility (whenever that will be released)
- Bigger block sizes
- “Zero-Knowledge” Proofs
The value laden within these technological innovations cannot be understated. SegWit and Lightning Network, which have both been praised ad nauseum by the Bitcoin community would no doubt be of great interest for those that value these projects on the legacy Bitcoin chain. In addition, for those that believe that increasing the block size is a viable method of increasing scalability, then this coin also provides a much welcome upgrade as well. As noted in our blockchain genesis article, there is a substantial portion of the community that feels that one of the best and most direct methods of scaling the Bitcoin protocol is by increasing block sizes.
Out of all hard forks, this might be the one that has been received the best by the Bitcoin community and the crypto-community at large based on the lack of negative opinions that have been leveled toward this coin specifically. Below is just a brief excerpt of one of the main features of this coin:
What’s most notable about BitCore is:
- The fact that it has a brand new ASIC-resistant mining algorithm (Timetravel 10).
- The block sizes have been decreased by 75% (2.5 minutes) from the 10 minute block time that Bitcoin was forced to operate under.
- The block size has been increased from 1 MB to 10 MB.
- It still has SegWit enabled on the chain, which means that it can adopt the Lightning Network as well.
- In addition, it has implemented bloom filters, which allow for compression of the chain so that it only takes up 200 MB of space instead of several GB like the other hard forks of Bitcoin. This may be one of the most major upgrades that this chain offers.
- The network estimates that it has the ability to handle approximately 17.6 billion transactions per year!
The innovative nature of this coin cannot be understated.
The coin itself was created by the same individuals that were responsible for the Bitsend development team. It was created on April 28th and was released at block 463619. There are weekly airdrops that occur every Monday and the percentage of increase for the airdrop goes up by 1% for every month that goes by.
Perhaps one of the biggest innovations of the BitCore coin is that it found a way to appropriately condense all of the transactions so that there is not as much stress on the network. In addition, its removal of the ASIC exploit (the one that has given birth to the super miners in the Bitcoin industry currently) mitigates the issue of environmental harm if the coin were to ever achieve widespread adoption.
The Bitcoin Private hard fork is quite recent – it took place on February, 28, 2018. It had a good start with BTCP price fluctuating around $50 USD in March. Though the price is really unstable, the hard fork received more popularity than initially expected, any that is why we decided to give you a more detailed overview of it.
What’s peculiar about Bitcoin Private is that it’s a fork of another fork. Bitcoin Private is a fork of ZClassic, which in turn is a fork of ZCash. The creator of Bitcoin Private, Rhett Creightonn (who also created ZClassic), suggested Bitcoin Private as a way to “revitalize” ZClassic (which used to be not very popular with a price around $2 before BTCP was announced) by making it a fork-merge of both Bitcoin and ZClassic.
Unlike other hard forks of Bitcoin, BTCP has nothing to do with changing the size of the blocks or SegWit. Its main “advantage” over BTC, as its name suggests, is privacy. Bitcoin Private uses zk-Snarks, a privacy-enhancing feature, the algorithm of which is based on zero-knowledge proofs that are characteristic of the Z-coins family, including ZCash and ZClassic.
Owners of BTC and ZClassic are eligible for Bitcoin Private at a 1:1 ratio. As both Bitcoin and Zclassic holders got free BTCP coins, ZClassic got very attractive just after BTCP was announced. All in all, 20 million coins are expected to be created.
The announcement of BTCP caused the price of ZClassic to rise tenfold back in December. Now, however, Bitcoin Private might be ZClassic’s biggest rival as it is not clear what is the point in ZClassic after the launch of BTCP.
Bitcoin Private has had a really promising start, but its future remains vague. Perhaps the biggest question is whether the privacy feature of BTCP will make it strong enough to successfully compete with BTC.
Bitcoin Minor Forks
While there have been a number of major forks that have occurred, there are also a substantial number of ‘minor’ forks that have occurred over the last year as well. These forks typically are initiated by much smaller teams and take up way less, if any, hasing power (PoW) from the network that the forks are related to.
- BitcoinX (BCX)
- LiteBitcoin (LBTC)
- Bitcoin Platinum (BTP)
- Bitcoin God (GOD)
- Bitcoin Cash Plus (BCP)
- Bitcoin Uranium (BUM)
- Bitcoin Atom (BCA)
- Bitcoin Scrypt (BTCS)
- United Bitcoin (UBC)
- Bitcoin Oil (OBTC)
- Bitcoin White (BTW)
- Bitcoin Silver (BTCS)
- Bitcoin Faith (BTF)
- Bitcoin Top (BTT)
- Bitcoin File (BIFI)
- Bitcoin Segwit2X X11 (B2X)
- Bitcoin Pizza (BPA)
- Bitcoin Smart (BCS)
- Bitcoin Interest (BCI)
- Quantum Bitcoin (QBTC)
- Bitcoin LITE (BTCL)
- Bitcoin Ore (BCO)
For those unfamiliar with the Ethereum, there are numerous reasons for why it now exists as a heavily forked cryptocurrency. One reason is the malleability of the Ethereum blockchain. When we say malleability, we mean that the chain is much easier for developers to work with as opposed to Bitcoin. Unlike Bitcoin, developers are able to build their own applications on top of the chain and power the transactions with “gas.” In addition, since this network also works via Proof of Work, it possesses a consensus algorithm that gives the underlying protocol substantial strength and resilience to network attacks or other attack vectors. Thus, using the Ethereum chain as a sort of baseline by which to develop their chain via hard forking, is a concept that is favorable for many individuals. However, only two projects have managed to successfully bridge from the basic Ethereum blockchain without failure.
[bctt tweet=”Only two projects have managed to successfully bridge from the basic Ethereum blockchain without failure”]
The EtherZero block was launched on block 4936270, which occurred on January 20th, 2018. According to its website, it still does not possess a block explorer, which is a bit disconcerting for any cryptocurrency in this space that wishes to receive any level of legitimacy or widespread adoption.
These are the purported features according to its website:
- Two-Layer Network System – For those who do not know; Ethereum allows individuals to power their transactions via the gas that is supplied to the network. EtherZero eliminates this system and instead has opted to add another layer to the protocol as a means of facilitating transactions that take place on the chain through the DApps.
- 0 TX Fee – This purported bonus feature speaks for itself!
- Instant Payments – “Instant” is always subjective in the crypto world, and we won’t be able to assess the quickness of the payments of the network until it has been 100% released.
- High Scalability – See “Instant Payments” ^
- Autonomous Community Governance System – Rather than having a centralized authority that is able to settle disputes or make overarching decisions about the future direction of the chain, there is a governance system that has a democratized means of implementing solutions.
- Masternode System – Becoming increasingly popular in the cryptoworld is the implementation of a Proof of Stake consensus algorithm that is contingent upon masternodes, or voters that approve the blocks on the chain that are chosen based on how large their stake is in the cryptocurrency’s ecosystem.
It thrives on an initial supply of 194 million EtherZero tokens, which is a quantity of 100 million more of its units than what Ethereum holds, and it also utilizes the PoW consensus algorithm similar to Ethereum. The difficulty adjustment is dynamic, and one must use GPU hardware in order to mine blocks on its network.
According to its website, it can also scale to 10,000+ transactions per second as well.
Based on their roadmap, they have not manifested any of the tech necessary to truly evaluate its efficacy as a currency, let alone one that is a fork of Ethereum.
As you most likely observed with the Bitcoin hard forks, the purpose of most forks is to provide some sort of inherent utility that the legacy chain did not possess and refused to do or could not implement.
The primary feature that it boasts is that individuals will be able to make instant payments to one another without needing to receive any sort of fee or compensation. This design means that the miners must rely on the block reward exclusively. There are pros and cons to such a PoW blockchain consensus structure that EtherZero will have to navigate through in the near future.
This is actually a planned hard fork, unlike the others that have been discussed within this article. For those that are unfamiliar with Ethereum’s Metropolis update, it is actually the name of this phase of development for the network that focuses more on the scalability of the coin than anything else. There are four stages in total for the Ethereum network that were planned from the very beginning.
With the Metropolis network, there are a number of features associated with its implementation:
The proposed features of the network are as follows:
- Zk-Snarks – This refers to the feature that individuals have seen in coins like ZClassic which allow for greater privacy in transactions between users.
- PoS – This refers to “Proof of Stake,” which is a consensus algorithm. In Bitcoin, miners on the network all race to solve an algorithm in order to create the next block. Based on one’s speed in these calculations, they are allowed to create the block. The computer processing power that is necessitated in order to mine the next block is what qualifies as “Proof of Work.” Conversely, Proof of Stake relies on individuals in the community being selected to approve the block based on their holding (or stake) of that particular cryptocurrency at that point in time. There are many different Proof of Stake formulas that are available at present, but all of them are contingent upon that fundamental precept.
- Smart Contract Upgrades – Smart contracts refer to the escrow-like protections that blockchains can grant users that seek to make agreements with other users of the network. Typically, smart contracts are mini-contracts that operate off of the principle of “When conditions A and B are met, C will happen.” The purpose of smart contracts are to provide a decentralized means of distributing payment to individuals based on the fulfillment of certain conditions that were previously agreed to between the two or more parties engaging in the transaction.
- Account Abstraction – On the Ethereum network, there are two types of accounts that users can hold on the network. The first type of account is the classic account that many individuals are familiar with – holding a wallet with a private key attached to it. The second type of account is one that is operated/powered via a smart contract. The goal of account abstraction is to provide an equal level of programming/development malleability and flexibility to both types of accounts so that there is no discernible gap between the two.
Each facet of this upgrade of the Ethereum network comes with its own pros and cons and the technical understanding/summary of each is extensive in nature.
Two concepts within this upgrade that we want to delve into a bit more, however, are “Byzantium” and “Constantinople.”
In the Ethereum network, both of these city names correspond to different phases of the Metropolis implementation.
This first phase of the hard fork/protocol upgrade process is currently finished. According to those that are a bit more familiar with the technical nature of the upgrades that were included within this portion of the Ethereum hard fork, the consensus appears to be that the technical upgrades were of a nature that don’t introduce a discernible change in the protocol for the non-tech savvy user. However, there were a total of nine different improvement protocols that were initiated within this hard fork. The overall goal of Byzantium and Constantinople are to improve the scalability and functionality of the Ethereum chain itself.
The second phase of the protocol upgrade, Constantinople, is designed to be final half of the protocol upgrade that is supposed to ensure that Ethereum has the capacity to make the smooth transition from a Proof of Work consensus algorithm to Proof of Stake. Thus, there are several tweaks that must be made to the code in order to upgrade it and expand the current consensus rules that allow for a smooth transition without compromising the chain itself.
So far, there is no definitive date/block height time for the release of Constantinople yet, but it is expected that this will occur sometime within the next year from the time of this writing. However, once this is completed, the Ethereum blockchain will be ready for the long-anticipated implementation of “Serenity,” which is a protocol upgrade that will finally switch the consensus algorithm on the chain from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake using the Casper consensus algorithm.
Ethereum Minor Forks
Similar to Bitcoin Minor Forks, there are a number of insignificant forks that have occurred on the Ethereum network as well. These forks are deemed to be minor or insubstantial due to the fact that the networks have a fraction of the strength of their legacy networks and do not appear to be sustainable or viable projects in the long term.
As discussed in the hard forks genesis article, there are a number of risks that present themselves when dealing with hard forks, particularly contentious ones. The most immediate risk is to the blockchain/network where the hard fork occurred, which leads to a tertiary impact on those that use that blockchain. Even in situations where a hard fork reaches unanimous approval by all participants on a blockchain, the implementation process may not go smoothly due to sheer laziness on behalf of some members of the protocol that take excess time in upgrading the version of the client that they’re running. When there are unplanned and contentious hard forks, more chaos can erupt if there are a substantial portion of miners and nodes that choose to flee the network. In some cases, this could even lead to a blockchain reorganization, which would result in the loss of funds for all those that are on the reorganized chain. Therefore, the risks associated with a hard fork are monumental for all those involved.
[bctt tweet=”The risks associated with a hard fork are monumental for all those involved”]
What About Free Coins?
In the hard fork genesis article, it’s also discussed how hard forks are sometimes embraced by the community because of the distribution of “free” coins that occur because the network resulting from the hard fork essentially takes all of the information that was contained on the legacy network in terms of coin distributions and snapshots the network. There are several methods of obtaining these forked coins which include but are not limited to: receiving them via airdrops, pointing one’s respective node toward the new forked network then transferring the coins, or even distributing the private keys to the new network.
Are There Any Risks Associated With This Process?
One of the inherent, yet ambiguous risks associated with this is the fact that the community is relatively new to the concept of hard forks, so there are a fair number of unknowns regarding the long-term systemic impact of so many hard forks on the network, especially if the network is using a Proof of Work consensus algorithm. There has been a substantial amount of studies written on this issue that go into more depth about the inherent risks of there being such a substantial increase in the number of contentious hard forks taking place on a given network.
Overall, hard forks are an inevitable aspect of cryptocurrency at this point. Some projects have been good, while others have been outright scams. However, we must respect the right of the community to develop such projects if we are to stay in-line with the principles of decentralization and open-source code; how Satoshi released the Bitcoin code. Ultimately, if one understands the principle of contentious hard forks, they should realize that it is really the community’s responsibility to audit itself – which means that this is perhaps the vision that Satoshi ultimately had as he was building Bitcoin before he disappeared.
Since the crypto space is new, however, there is plenty of misinformation and misconceptions that has been spread about hard forks, as well as their nature, implementation, and acquisition by coin holders. This has created a great deal of ire and cynicism within the larger community toward such projects. However, it is important to remember that some projects are very legitimate and, in some cases, even enhance the original software that was released by the developers.
[bctt tweet=”Hard forks are the community’s way of ensuring that they’ll always have a voice”]
Personally, I feel as though hard forks are beneficial to the crypto community. They’re the community’s way of ensuring that they’ll always have a voice because it gives investors and miners recourse in the instance that they come to a disagreement with the coin development team. While there will always be individuals in the community and supporters of the legacy chain that despise any and all hard forks and take the move to be a form of betrayal, we must all remember that we are essentially knock-offs of the original idea posited by Satoshi when he created Bitcoin. And even in that instance, Satoshi owes many of his ideas, including Proof of Work, to the innovations of prior developers that had explored the creation of a decentralized currency.