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    A Detailed Comparison of Soft Fork vs. Hard Fork

    Tanya Sharma
    Tanya Sharma
    Published on January 6, 2023 11:30 AM

    Updated on January 17, 2023 10:40 AM

    A fork is a modification to the protocol that governs a blockchain. Let's examine what a blockchain fork is and what makes a hard fork different from a soft fork.
    A Detailed Comparison of Soft Fork vs. Hard Fork
    Source: Unsplash

    Most software users are aware of the ongoing maintenance and upgrades needed to increase the effectiveness of their programmes thanks to the ongoing advancements in technology.

    Therefore, when the digital banking application on your device prompts you to update it, you apparently won't ignore it. On the other hand, it's possible that as soon as your smartphone connects to the internet, it automatically upgrades.

    Furthermore, if you don't download the program's upgraded version, you might experience functionality problems and run the risk of losing access to its services.

    The same mechanism for updates and improvements also underpins the blockchain platform. 

    However, centralised network operators can easily update their software with cutting-edge features at the touch of a button, whereas decentralised applications, such as cryptocurrencies on a blockchain platform, require a separate, more complex methodology.

    For instance, blockchains are decentralised, open-source systems that lack centralised control. Therefore, the decision to update the system requires the consent of all network users.

    A fork is regarded 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.

    Related: Blockchain Oracle: A critical component for Smart Contracts

    Understanding 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 outcomes in the blockchain being visualised as a straight road made of connected blocks. Each improvement to the system necessitates a change in the consensus across the blocks because the blocks are connected by an agreement that each block accepts.

    The chances of achieving such a consensus, however, are essentially nonexistent because the blocks are connected through a set of virtually unchangeable protocols.

    Forks are therefore frequently used to make changes to a blockchain instead of recreating each block. On the blockchain platform, a fork is a process by which the original programming is copied and the necessary changes are made.

    The new blockchain splits into two branches, creating a fork-like deflection from the main blockchain because two blockchain platforms cannot coexist.

    Also Read: How Blockchain can help businesses?

    Who Determines the Formation of a Fork?

    Blockchain experts claim that because there is no single entity in charge of managing the blockchain, it is up to the platform's users to choose a course of action and implement changes that improve the overall functionality and effectiveness of the system.

    Blockchains contain a variety of different components, ranging from miners and investors to full node developers. Who therefore has the final say over what system upgrades to implement?

    Additionally, because each subgroup significantly contributes to the system, some members have more clout in the electoral process than others.

    The integrity and popularity of the fork versions are likely to be determined by miners, for instance, who allocate computing resources to block validation in order to secure the system. Any fork version that the miners approve is likely to prevail because they will supply the computing power needed to maintain the system.

    The majority of open-source blockchains allow for task duplication, which results in shared control over the fork formation process.

    Another subset of jobs includes full node consumers, who act as the platform's core and auditors, validating and maintaining the blockchain's record, as well as developers, who create and optimise the underlying coding script for the blockchain technology.

    What is a Hard Fork?

    Forks are changes to the network algorithm of the blockchain that cause the main blockchain network to split. A fork on an old blockchain network that has cryptocurrency operating on it will result in the creation of a parallel token on the newly forked blockchain network.

    During a hard fork, the blockchain's rules are updated or changed, rendering the older blockchain and the newer blockchain incompatible.

    This implies that the older nodes will reject the recently upgraded blocks and that the newer blockchain will operate according to new rules that will perpetually reject blocks from the older blockchain. This methodology is referred to as a "backward-incompatible" software update.

    What is a Soft Fork?

    A soft fork is a rule modification that is forward-compatible as opposed to a hard fork, which is a blockchain upgrade that is backwards incompatible. Since the fork is a forward-compatible change, the old blockchain will continue to accept blocks from the new advanced blockchain platform even though the rules have changed as a result of the new upgrade.

    Generally speaking, a soft fork persuades the legacy blockchain network to accept the modified rules, enabling the simultaneous acceptance of both the upgraded and legacy blocks of transactions.

    A soft fork, as opposed to a hard fork, maintains the old blockchain by maintaining two lanes with distinct rules and standards. A soft fork was implemented successfully in 2015 with the introduction of the Segregated Witness Bitcoin protocol upgrade.

    Difference between Hard Fork and Soft Fork

    The communities for blockchain and cryptocurrencies disagree on the best way to fork blockchain networks.

    Even though each type of fork has benefits, communities are much more divided over the drawbacks due to their greater engagement.

    The milder of the two, soft forks have their own set of dangers. The most obvious threat from these risks is that dishonest people could 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 full node participants, the network's credibility may be in jeopardy.

    For instance, Bitcoin maintains its decentralised nature by having full-node users and miners who collaborate with one another and independently confirm the veracity of the ledger. 

    This strengthens fundamental economic principles like the prohibition of double spending and the inflation formula in 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 failure. 

    Blockchain platforms have therefore made an effort to lower this risk by ensuring that all soft forks are available to the public.

    Which is better for you, a soft fork or a hard fork?

    Hard and soft forks, according to cryptocurrency exchanges and other business networks, serve different purposes. Intelligent and well-planned hard forks may lead to software changes that everyone can agree on, even though contentious ones can split the community.

    Soft forks are used in place of hard ones because they are kinder and more diplomatic. There is no need to worry about fragmentation if the modifications are written so that they do not conflict with existing regulations.

    Blockchains' transformation

    It is obvious that a lot of work needs to be done to enable a seamless transfer of blockchain maintenance and upgrades, regardless of the split method used. Hard forks are preferred by the majority of blockchain miners and traders because they lessen the risk of approving or mining invalid blocks.

    Hard forks ensure that blockchain users, such as miners and traders, are not left behind or duped, especially while they are in use. However, hard forks use a lot of computing power and are thought to be detrimental to the development of digital currencies.

    In spite of the growing uncertainty, soft forks offer a vastly faster alternative to blockchain software updates without using up additional processing power. Soft forks are frequently praised for their capacity to introduce improvements without causing a rift in society.

    Conclusion

    Every blockchain network, like every programme or piece of software, needs updates in order to continue serving ever-larger goals. 

    We can make decentralised software changes without a centralised authority's interference thanks to hard forks and soft forks. Networks wouldn't be able to adopt new features without forks, which would force the use of a centralised system for total control.

    Soft fork vs hard fork FAQs

    What distinguishes a soft fork from a hard fork?

    With a soft fork, as users accept the update, only one blockchain will continue to be valid. In contrast, when there is a hard fork, the two blockchains coexist.

    Do hard forks benefit Crypto?

    A hard fork effectively invalidates the previous iteration of the blockchain protocol.

    What Does a Soft Fork Do?

    In a soft fork, only previously valid transaction blocks are rendered invalid in the software protocol. Soft forks can be retroactively used.

    Is a new coin produced by a hard fork?

    Since a hard fork permanently diverges from the prior version of the blockchain, it effectively creates a brand-new currency.