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A list of Bitcoin forks and how they have changed the network

A list of Bitcoin forks and how they have changed the network

A list of Bitcoin forks and how they have changed the network
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By Apr 29, 2022 12:04:33 PM IST (Published)

Bitcoin forks have had a major impact on the way this blockchain functions today. While soft forks, which are backwards compatible allow users with the new protocol to interact with users of the old protocol, hard forks are much larger changes wherein users of the newer version can no longer accept the older version of the protocol

A Bitcoin fork is a radical change in the protocol of a blockchain. It’s like a fork in the road, resulting in two branches of the protocol. They are separate versions of the blockchain with a shared history.

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Forks are of two kinds -- hard and soft. Soft forks are backwards compatible, meaning users with the new protocol can still interact with users of the old protocol. Hard forks, on the other hand, are much larger changes wherein users of the newer version no longer accept the older version of the protocol.
Bitcoin is the oldest cryptocurrency and it has had several forks in its history. Some of these forks have had a major impact on the way this blockchain functions today. They have even resulted in newer versions of the cryptocurrency. So, tag along as we round up some of the most noteworthy forks in Bitcoin history.
List of the major Bitcoin forks
Bitcoin XT: This was the first notable hard fork to Bitcoin’s software and was launched in late 2014 by Mike Hearn. Bitcoin XT aimed to increase transactions per second from 7 to 24. While the fork was initially a success, users eventually lost interest in the project and abandoned it.
Bitcoin Classic: Bitcoin Classic was launched for the same reason as Bitcoin XT after the latter was abandoned. It was a hard fork that increased the block size by 2 MB instead of the 8 MB proposed by Hearn. The project is still alive; however, most of the community has moved on to other forks.
Bitcoin Unlimited: Bitcoin Unlimited was released in early 2016, but its developers never specified which type of fork it would require. It allows miners to decide the size of their blocks but limits it to 16 megabytes. Though it had gained some interest, it failed to gain acceptance.
Segregated Witness (SegWit): It aimed to reduce the size of every bitcoin transaction so more transactions could take place simultaneously. It also aimed to reduce transaction malleability – ensuring that rogue nodes were no longer able to change transaction details. Segregated Witness was more of a software upgrade (a soft fork), but it may have prompted some of Bitcoin’s hard forks.
Bitcoin Cash: Some Bitcoin users and developers wanted to avoid the upgrades that SegWit brought about. Hence, they created a hard fork called Bitcoin Cash. The fork was split from the main blockchain in August of 2017. It is one of the most successful forks, backed by many prominent figures. Bitcoin Cash, the cryptocurrency, is now the 25th-largest crypto by market cap, trading above $300.
Bitcoin Gold: Bitcoin Gold was created in October 2017, shortly after the Bitcoin Cash fork. This hard fork aimed to ease the mining process by using only the basic hardware. While people could earlier mine bitcoin using even personal computers, the growing mining difficulty led to the creation of some specialised mining hardware. The Bitcoin Gold fork aimed to make mining accessible by tweaking the hardware requirements. So, Bitcoin Gold is mined on a standard graphics processing unit, whereas Bitcoin is mined using specialised application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs).
Bitcoin SV: Bitcoin SV was hard forked from Bitcoin Cash in November 2018. Originally described as a ‘civil war’, the split was again for block size. While proponents of Bitcoin Cash insisted on upgrading to Bitcoin ABC to maintain the block size at 32 MB, the second camp – composed of Craig Steven Wright, self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto – insisted on increasing the block size to 128 MB. They touted it as the ‘Bitcoin Satoshi Vision’. Bitcoin SV currently is the 60th-largest coin by market cap, trading at $85. It is the largest of all Bitcoin forks, with a size exceeding 2.5 TB.
Taproot: Taproot is a soft fork that went live on 12 November 2021, after block Block 709632 was mined. It was first major update since SegWit in 2017 and implemented 3 blockchain improvement proposals - BIP340, BIP341, and BIP342. These BIPs were Schnorr signatures, MAST, and Tapscript respectively. The updates are a bit complex, but they basically improved scalability, increased privacy, and facilitated enhanced smart-contract functions of the Bitcoin blockchain.
Other forks: These were just some of the main forks Bitcoin has undergone. However, several other minor forks have taken place over the years. In 2017 alone there were three forks, Bitcoin Diamond, Bitcore, and Super Bitcoin. There were four more in 2018, including Bitcoin Private, Bitcoin Atom, Bitcoin Zero, and Bitcoin Post-Quantum. And there should be plenty more in the future as well, especially as the blockchain develops to meet the growing needs of crypto investors worldwide.
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