What is a Hard Fork

If you’ve been doing your research on cryptocurrencies, you might’ve read about the great debate on bitcoin forks.

Bitcoin as we all know, is an open source software which means that the code is available for all to utilize. Those who are willing to participate in the Bitcoin network can be a bitcoin miner, node operator, or wallet administrator. These people are updating and maintaining current versions of the Bitcoin software code.

The blockchain – the technology underlying Bitcoin, is continuously growing. Since Bitcoin is a decentralized network, participants in the network need to agree on a common set of rules to achieve consensus. This, therefore, results in a single chain of verified data that everyone agrees is correct, or a single truth.


A fork is a change to the software of the digital currency that creates two separate versions of the blockchain. These are merely protocol upgrades. It can either be temporary or a permanent split in the network creating two separate versions of the blockchain, creating two different digital currencies.

A fork occurs when the single blockchain splits into two either due to a split in consensus or a change in protocol rules.

And a change in the underlying rules of the protocol is generally classified into 3 categories: Soft Forks, Hard Forks and Spin-off Coins


A soft fork is where updated versions of the protocol are backwards compatible with previous versions. It is easier to implement this since only most participants need to upgrade the software and all others, whether they’ve updated or not will continue to maintain compatibility with the network.

A hard fork on the other hand can be complicated. This is a change of the Bitcoin protocol that is not backwards compatible with the older versions. All participants must upgrade to continue participating and validating new transactions. Those who didn’t upgrade, would be separated from the network and cannot participate in new transactions. This results in a permanent deviation in the blockchain. However, as long as there is support in both chains, these will simultaneously exist.

The most well-known hard fork is Bitcoin Cash, which was designed to process transaction quickly and cheaply. It took the one MB block size that bitcoin has and increased it to eight MB. It was first launched back in August 2017 and is still alive today BUT there have been many arguments regarding this. For one, they basically copied the program of bitcoin and people are speculating if the people behind bitcoin cash just wants to take over the system. Secondly, it is pretty new and untested. Unlike bitcoin who’s been around for many years and has many websites and merchants that support it. Lastly, people are arguing that it is simply a scam into tricking consumers that they are getting bitcoins for a lower price.

Forks can be confusing, but the bottom line and most important thing is that you understand who, where, and why the fork is happening, so you can decide whether or not you support the change. Through this, you can help the ever-growing bitcoin community.

What do you think of bitcoin forks? Have you ever supported or opposed one? Let us know in the comment section below.