Forking within the crypto ecosystem is often controversial subject. Many crypto-enthusiasts loathe it, taking particular exception to the so-called “contentious hard fork.” They believe hard-forking damages a cryptocurrency, and say it should be avoided at all costs. They also believe forking is detrimental to the market and represents a financial burden. However, this view is limited and narrow-minded.
Forking for Good, Forking for Bad
Contentious hard-forking is how the community manages its systemic health, prevents bad actors from gumming up the infrastructure, and aligns the protocol in accordance with group principles. Forking is thus more than a way to upgrade a protocol. In reality, forking is a way to maintain self-care in governance without resorting to violence. It is about group dynamics and cooperating to discover peaceful solutions. It is as much psychological as technological.
Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum’s creator, agrees. In a cogent article called “Hard Forks, Soft Forks, Defaults and Coercion,” he said:
“Proponents of hard forks are often derided as trying to effect a “hostile take over” of a network, and “force” users to go along with them. Additionally, the risk of chain splits is often used to bill hard forks as “unsafe”. It is my personal viewpoint that these criticisms are wrong, and furthermore in many cases completely backwards.”
Definition of a Cryptocurrency Fork
A cryptocurrency hard fork equates to a network chain split. It means stakeholders decide to divide a preexisting cryptocurrency into two competing chains. Both chains share the same transactional history, but become two unique coins that follow different paths.
In essence, these splits are how decentralized communities resolve disputes and come to terms with technological and philosophical differences.