Home » Blockchain » Blockchain Forks: Understanding Hard Forks and Soft Forks

Blockchain Forks: Understanding Hard Forks and Soft Forks

In the world of blockchain, forks are a big deal. They’re like the road signs showing the way for the development of blockchain networks. A fork happens when a new update is made to the basic rules of a blockchain network.

As blockchain technology grows, developers often need to make changes to improve it or fix problems. But not all changes are the same. Some fit right into the existing setup, while others need a whole new path. This is where we get two main types of forks: soft forks and hard forks.

Soft forks are like adding new features that still work smoothly with what’s already there. They’re like upgrades that everyone can use without causing any big disruptions.

On the other hand, hard forks are more drastic. They bring in changes that don’t match up with the current system. When a hard fork happens, it can split the blockchain into two separate paths, each following its own set of rules.

Diagram of blockchain forks, showing differences between hard forks and soft forks in blockchain technology.
Source: Coinbackyard

Let’s break down the main differences between a soft and hard fork:

Soft Fork
Hard Fork
ImpactMinor changesSignificant changes
Network SplitNo network splitResults in a network split
RulesNew rules are within the existing rulesIntroduces new rules diverging from existing protocol
AdoptionRequires less network-wide adoptionRequires widespread adoption to continue participation
ExampleAdding new features, bug fixesRolling back transactions, major upgrades

What is a Soft Fork?

A soft fork happens when developers make a change to the blockchain that still works with the old rules. Unlike hard forks, which split the blockchain into two, soft forks keep everything running smoothly with the existing setup. This means that even if some users haven’t updated their software, they can still keep using the blockchain without any problems.

After a soft fork, transactions and blocks follow the new rules but still fit in with the old ones. Soft forks are usually used for small changes, like fixing bugs or making things run faster. They’re nice because they don’t break the chain into two separate parts.

What is a Hard Fork?

A hard fork is a big change to the blockchain that doesn’t work with the old rules. This kind of change makes major adjustments to how the blockchain works, so the new version doesn’t match up with the old one anymore. When developers bring in a hard fork, they’re introducing new rules for the blockchain that go in a different direction from the ones everyone was using before. This creates a split in the network.

After a hard fork, the network splits into two separate blockchains. One keeps following the old rules, while the other starts following the new ones. These two branches of the blockchain work on their own, with transactions being valid only on the branch they belong to.

Hard forks are used when big changes are needed, like adding new features, making things more secure, or fixing important problems. But they come with a catch: everyone on the network has to switch to the new version to keep using it. This means nodes and developers have to update their software to join the new branch of the blockchain.

Examples of Hard Fork Issues In the Past

  1. Issue: The Ethereum network faced a significant problem known as the DAO hack in 2016.
  2. Hack Details: Hackers stole a substantial amount of Ether, Ethereum’s cryptocurrency, valued at millions of dollars.
  3. Developer Response: Developers proposed a solution to fix the issue by implementing a hard fork.
  4. Community Division: Not all members of the Ethereum community agreed with the proposed hard fork.
  5. Split in Community: The disagreement over the hard fork led to a division within the Ethereum community.
  6. Result: The Ethereum network split into two separate blockchains:
    • Ethereum (ETH): Implemented the hard fork to roll back the transactions associated with the hack.
    • Ethereum Classic (ETC): Maintained the original blockchain, including the hacked transactions.
  7. Impact: This event demonstrated how hard forks can lead to significant changes in blockchain networks, creating divergent paths for their future development.
  8. Importance of Understanding Forks: Understanding the differences between hard and soft forks is crucial for the development and growth of blockchain networks. It helps stakeholders navigate the complexities of blockchain technology, akin to finding directions on a map.

April 21, 2024 at 05:00 am

Updated April 21, 2024 at 05:00 am


Remember, investing in cryptocurrencies involves risks, and it’s important to conduct thorough research and seek professional advice before making any financial decisions. (Please keep in mind that this post is solely for informative purposes and should not be construed as financial or investment advice.)


A blockchain fork occurs when there are changes or updates to the protocol of a blockchain network, leading to two versions—one that follows the old rules and one that follows the new ones.

A hard fork is a change that is not compatible with the existing blockchain system, leading to a permanent divergence in the blockchain. A soft fork is a backward-compatible change that allows old and new network nodes to interact.

Forks are significant because they reflect the decentralized nature of blockchain technology, where changes need broad consensus but can lead to innovations or improvements in the network.

Yes, forks can influence cryptocurrency values as they may affect user and investor confidence and can lead to the creation of new cryptocurrencies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top