From the beginning, the Bitcoin network created by Satoshi Nakamoto was designed to be improved on with time. This is the major reason why it was released as an open source code. This is also why, down the road, we have had several forks of the original Bitcoin code, giving us many new cryptocurrencies. The essence of carrying out a Bitcoin fork is usually to create something new that addresses certain issues that the original network may not cover adequately. Here is the history of all the BTC hard forks that have been carried out since the creation of Bitcoin.
What Is A Bitcoin Fork?
The term fork is commonly used in the cryptocurrency industry. It describes the process where changes are made to an existing blockchain. The reason for making such changes could vary. In some cases, it is implemented to protect against a hack, and in other cases it is used to enable some unique qualities.
There are two kinds of forks in the blockchain industry, soft fork and hard fork. These forks are individually defined by how they are executed and how much a blockchain is affected afterwards.
A soft fork involves the modification of an existing blockchain. It requires a consensus agreement from the majority of the participating nodes in the blockchain network. This implies that all the participating nodes will update their software to remain relevant. After a soft fork, the blockchain continues to record transactions on the same chain. Past history is retained and the new protocol continues.
A hard fork on the other hand creates a new blockchain altogether. Very often, this happens when the community of an existing network fails to agree on a particular proposal. Anybody or group can implement a hard fork. It does not require a consensus opinion, and there are several of such cases in existence today.
With this in mind, let us now take a look at the history of all the BTC hard forks.
This is the first notable hard fork of the Bitcoin blockchain. It was initiated by Mike Hearn in 2014 with the purpose of increasing the network transaction speed. The feature added by Hearn was to make Bitcoin more scalable. While the original blockchain has the capacity of executing 7 transactions per second, Bitcoin XT was proposed to perform up to 24 transactions per second.
To achieve this implementation the block size of Bitcoin XT was increased to 8MB, as opposed to Bitcoin’s 1MB. This fork gained some reasonable traction at the initial stage, but ran out of steam in a matter of months.
Not too long after Bitcoin XT went quiet, a part of the Bitcoin community came up with another fork with a similar aim. Bitcoin Classic was forked out of Bitcoin Core in early 2016. The difference between this fork and the defunct Bitcoin XT was in terms of block size. Bitcoin Classic proposed a smaller block size of 2MB in comparison to the 8MB of Bitcoin XT.
Just like the previous fork, after some early signs of success, Bitcoin Classic also faded in terms of popularity. The protocol still remains in existence, but with a diminished adoption level.
During the period in the life of Bitcoin when the scalability argument was at its peak, a number of options were thrown into the mill. Bitcoin Unlimited became one of those forks. It is a proposal that did not restrict miners to a particular block size. Rather they could decide the size of their blocks, up to 16MB.
This particular fork seemed to float in the background for a while without making any significant impact. It also sailed past without being significantly accepted.
Segregated Witness (SegWit)
In the history of all Bitcoin forks, it is important to note that almost all of the proposals revolve around making Bitcoin scalable and reducing transaction fees. These attributes are key towards Bitcoin and cryptocurrency becoming adopted in the mainstream.
Segregated Witness (SegWit) is a proposal that suggested the separation of transactions on the Bitcoin network from the actual data. This proposal would allow transactions to occur more quickly, and their data updated later when the block is filled.
SegWit was proposed as a soft fork, but the role that it played over the period when scalability was a big issue within the Bitcoin community, earns it a mention in this article. It led to other hard forks that followed.
After SegWit was proposed, a segment of the community that opposed the proposal came up with what is known today as Bitcoin Cash. This particular proposal, among other features, allowed the blocksize to be increased to 8MB. The rate of transaction was also increased to 60 transactions per second, as opposed to Bitcoin’s 7 transactions per second.
Bitcoin Cash remains the most successful fork of Bitcoin at the time of writing. It is also the 4th biggest cryptocurrency in terms of market capitalization. The Bitcoin Cash project is championed by Roger Ver (a.k.a the Bitcoin Jesus) and a number of developers.
Bitcoin has been criticized for becoming centralized. The main reason for this is because it has become extremely difficult for anyone to independently mine Bitcoins using a CPU or GPU. With specialized mining equipment, most miners pool assets together to form gigantic pools, with statistics showing that the majority of the pools are located in China.
Bitcoin Gold was forked out of the Bitcoin Core blockchain in 2017 to return the industry back to its perceived original structure. Another improvement in the Bitcoin Gold network is that transactions are confirmed in 2.5 minutes. Four times faster than Bitcoin which has a 10 minutes transaction confirmation time.
Bitcoin was created in 2009 as an alternative payment system. As stated in the beginning of this post, the original creator of Bitcoin did not insist that is was a finished product. Since then, the Bitcoin Core blockchain has experienced a couple of modifications, while many independent cryptocurrencies have been created.
The adjustments and new creations all point towards an improved system that will encourage peer-to-peer transactions that do not rely on third parties. What we have covered so far are the first generation forks of the Bitcoin Core blockchain.
There are second generation forks that have come to life from cryptocurrencies that were forked from Bitcoin Core. Examples are Bitcoin SV and Bitcoin ABC, both of which are forks of Bitcoin Cash. All of these forks and those of other unrelated blockchain can be purchased on trading platforms like Vertex.Market.
We expect to see more hard forks happen down the road to add to the history of all the BTC hard forks that we already have. All of this will either be in the attempt of improving the existing products or the creation of purpose specific cryptocurrencies that will serve the community.