At the core of Bitcoin is special software with open source. Each user with the appropriate technical skills can access and modify it, including creating their own projects.
Modifications to the source code are called branches, or «forks».
If we speak in an understandable language, the fork is a process of changing the initial set of rules that the Blockchain library works on and its originality is identified.
What is the fork
It is customary to distinguish two types of forks:
- Softfork – a soft form of its manifestation;
- Hardforks – a more rigid and cardinal change in the source code.
Let’s consider each species in more detail.
What happens during a softfork
The softfork is not accompanied by mandatory software updates to enforce the new rules. Even if some nodes from the common network cannot be changed, this will not prevent them from interacting with other nodes that have accepted the rules.
You can give a similar example with languages. If all the nodes in the network before the introduction of the fork understood English of the American type, and after the introduction of new rules it is necessary to switch to the British type, then all “Americans” will be able to interact comfortably with the “British”, and vice versa.
It can be summarized that softfork is a reversible code modification, which does not violate the essence of the protocol.
What is the essence of hardfork?
Now let’s look at the concept of hardfork.
Here everything is not so simple, and the entered changes will contradict the old ones, so the nodes with the source code cannot correctly handle the work of the nodes that work in the new mode.
Again, referring to the example with languages, the old nodes are given English, and the new ones – Chinese. In the case of hardfork changes the essence of the protocol, so the network is divided into two parts, each of which will work independently. This phenomenon is explained by the fact that the original blocks of one direction will not be identified by those in the fork.
Fork for cryptocurrency
If you design a branching process for the cryptocurrency, then for the fork, you mean changing the rules of the code with the need to change the protocol. This makes Bitcoin safer and more reliable.
Consequences of hardfork
After introducing new rules of hard type, one of the new chains can simply die out, although there is a chance that it will continue to exist. Here, the hashing power factor for each direction already matters. The more power, the more likely to survive.
A striking example of what happened is the Ethereum network, when last summer’s changes were made to the protocol and a new ETH chain appeared, which exists in parallel with the original version of Ethereum Classic.
Are all cryptocurrencies the forks of Bitcoin?
Taking into account the above information, the fork of the source code of a separate cryptocurrency project can become the basis of another, new cryptocurrency.
If you take Bitcoin’s source code and create your own product based on it, then, in fact, even with minimal changes, it will be a separate project of cryptocurrency. For it to be recognized and successful, invite friends and acquaintances into the project, ensure the issue of order in a million coins, and who knows, maybe, indeed, you will become the founder of a serious project.
How to distinguish the original from the fork?
Not all cryptocurrency projects are actually forks, because there are still colored coins, metacoins and other complex tokens that do not belong to the branch group or altcoins.
What is altcoin?
Altcoin is any other digital currency except Bitcoin. But do not confuse it with the clone, because it is not. These are two completely different concepts that can even be applied to one project, but independently of each other.
How to understand the difference?
Altcoins include cryptocurrencies, which are fundamentally different from other projects. This is the same Etherium, NXT, Dash or MaidSafe. The forks are the Dogecoin, being a branch of Litecoin, Expanse – fork of Ethereum, Stellar as a branch of the Ripple cryptocurrency.