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What is the difference between hard and soft fork?

What is the difference between hard and soft fork?

March 5, 2019 11:02 am,

Blockchain is the technology upon which the cryptocurrency functions. The encrypted information is stored as blocks within the blockchain. Sometimes, there occurs a change in existing protocols and there will be a split between the old and new nodes. This results in a soft fork or a hard fork. Even though these two have significant differences, the source of origin is the same. The change in protocol or rule may be to increase the security of transactions or even increase the speed. Whatever be the reason, every node has to update to the latest version to avail the benefits.  The extent of split and reversibility decides whether it is a hard or a soft fork.

Soft fork

A soft fork occurs when there is a change in the protocol within the bitcoin platform and the old nodes are made invalid. The new protocol can be accepted by the nodes and can update by themselves. The old nodes also update soon, making the whole system follow new rules and updation. Because of this reason, a soft fork is backward compatible. The changes that occur within the soft fork are all permanent. The changes that occur are either a change in a rule in the protocol or maybe add any new features to increase security. A prominent example of Bitcoin soft fork is the Bitcoin Improvement Protocol 66 which was for the signature validation of Bitcoin.

Hard fork

A hard fork can be understood as the forking that makes a clear split in the network into new and old version. Once a rule is changed or added to the protocol, the old network cannot upgrade or adopt the changes. Only the new network can be included in the next phase. This results in the clear fork of the network into old and new version.  For the old version to get to the new one, the users of the old version have to upgrade themselves.  It can be either a planned or a contentious hard fork. The planned one is where the developers already inform the users about the imminent change. The latter one happens due to a conflict or disagreement.

Hard fork vs Soft fork

A hard fork is more hard and risky when compared to a soft fork. Hard fork requires the users to desert one version and choose the other. Soft forks cause small changes within the network which mostly leads to the betterment of the network. Hard fork may have negative effect on the system as the new and old version may exist parallel to each other, causing unnecessary rift and a split in the market share. The main examples of hard fork are the split of bitcoin into Bitcoin and Bitcoin cash. The split of ethereum into ethereum classic is also a prominent example.

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