Hard and Soft forks in crypto - what are they?

Hard and Soft forks in crypto - what are they?
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The same process for upgrades and enhancements also underpins the blockchain platform. However, centralized network operators may easily update their software with cutting-edge features at the touch of a button, but decentralized applications, such as cryptocurrency on a blockchain platform, require a distinct, more sophisticated technique.

For instance, blockchains are decentralized, open-source systems that lack centralized control. Therefore, the decision to upgrade the system requires the consent of all network users. A fork is seen as a special way to update or enhance a blockchain. Forks are divided into two groups based on how they are used: soft forks and hard forks.

But first, let’s discuss what a blockchain fork is and what makes a hard fork different from a soft fork.

What actually are Blockchain Forks

A blockchain, at its most basic level, is a group of data blocks connected by secure cryptographic keys to form a chain of blocks going all the way back to the first one.

As a result, it results in the blockchain being seen as a straight road made of linked blocks. Each improvement to the system needs a change in the consensus across the blocks since the blocks are connected by an agreement that each block accepts. The prospects of achieving such a consensus, however, are essentially nonexistent because the blocks are connected by a set of virtually unchangeable protocols.

Forks are therefore commonly used to make changes to a blockchain instead of rewriting each block. On the blockchain platform, a fork is a process through which the original programming is replicated and the necessary changes are done. The new blockchain splits into two branches, creating a fork-like deviation from the main blockchain since two blockchain platforms cannot coexist.

Read also: What is a “smart contract?”

What is a Hard fork?

Software upgrades with hard forks are incompatible with earlier versions. These frequently happen when nodes introduce new rules in a way that is incompatible with the rules of previous nodes. Only other nodes running the latest version can communicate with new nodes. As a result, the blockchain separates into two distinct networks: one that adheres to the previous regulations and one that does not.

As a result, two networks are currently active simultaneously. Although they are no longer operating on the same blockchain, they will both continue to propagate blocks and transactions. Prior to the fork, all nodes shared a single blockchain, and that history is still available. However, moving forward, each node will have its own set of blocks and transactions.

You will wind up with coins on both networks if you had them before to the fork because of the common history. Let’s say you have 5 Eth at the time of Block 600,000 forking. These 5 coins might be spent in Block 600,001 of the old blockchain, but they haven’t been spent in Block 600,001 of the new blockchain. Your private keys still contain five coins on the branched network if the cryptography hasn’t changed.

A larger block size necessitates changing the regulations. Nodes would only accept blocks smaller than 1MB at that time since SegWit had not yet undergone a soft fork (more on that in a moment). Other nodes would still reject a 2MB block that you generated even though it was otherwise legitimate.

Only nodes whose software had been modified to accept blocks bigger than 1MB could accept those blocks. Naturally, that would make them incompatible with the earlier version, preventing communication between nodes without the same protocol updates.

Check also: What are dApps?

What is a Soft fork?

A soft fork is an update that is backward-compatible, allowing upgraded nodes to continue to connect with unupgraded ones. A soft fork often involves the insertion of a new rule that doesn’t conflict with the existing ones.

For instance, soft-forking can be used to execute a block size reduction. Let’s use Bitcoin as an example to show that while there is a cap on the size of a block, there is no cap on how little it may be. Simply reject larger blocks if you only want to accept blocks that are less than a specified size.

You won’t immediately lose connection to the network if you do this, though. You still exchange information with nodes that aren’t adhering to certain criteria, but you filter out some of it.

Read also: What is a DAO in the Crypto world?

Which fork is better

The communities supporting blockchain and cryptocurrencies disagree on the best way to fork blockchain networks. Even while each type of fork has benefits, communities are significantly more divided about the drawbacks due to their greater engagement.

The lighter of the two, soft forks have their own set of dangers. The most obvious threat from these risks is that dishonest people may use a soft fork to trick full-node users and miners into confirming illegal transactions.

By maintaining a complete copy of the blockchain network at all times, full-node consumers act as the blockchain network’s auditors. They are in charge of making sure that every new block complies with the rules of the previous blockchain network. If a group of users on the Blockchain tries to impose new rules without informing the platform’s complete node participants, the network’s credibility may be at risk.

For instance, Bitcoin maintains its decentralized nature by having full-node users and miners who collaborate with one another and independently confirm the accuracy of the ledger. This strengthens fundamental economic principles like the prohibition of double spending and the inflation formula on the Blockchain. However, if dishonest operators are successful in persuading full-node users and miners to approve blocks that violate the rules, the blockchain may start accepting false blocks, which would lead to the platform’s downfall. Blockchain platforms have thus made an effort to lower this risk by ensuring that all soft forks are available to the public.

Hard forks also result in their own areas of worry, aside from this. First of all, it is well recognized that hard forks separate communities. This is so because a hard fork lacks a midway position in contrast to a soft fork. Second, many contend that hard forks are bad because they divide the platform’s hashing power, lowering the site’s overall reliability and processing capacity.