Understanding Forks in Blockchain Technology
A “fork” in blockchain technology refers to changing the underlying protocol.
As blockchain networks are open source, individuals can contribute to enhancing and modifying the code, resulting in updates to the blockchain.
Forks can also be conducted to introduce new features, fix bugs, or address the consequences of significant security breaches, as was the case with Ethereum.
Divergence in Software Updates
One common reason for a fork is when there is a divergence in the software updates adopted by miners.
In such instances, the mining community must decide which path the blockchain should follow.
If a consensus cannot be reached or if the community remains divided, two distinct versions of the blockchain will coexist.
The extent of changes introduced to the blockchain depends on whether a hard fork or a soft fork occurs.
Introducing New Rules to the Blockchain Protocol
A soft fork involves adding new rules to the protocol that remain compatible with the older rules, ensuring backward compatibility.
This means that upgraded nodes can still communicate with non-upgraded nodes. In other words, old nodes will still recognize new blocks as valid, resulting in a less disruptive change.