To put it simply, a fork is when there is a change in the code. Some changes are abrupt while others are minor. The huge changes are called hard forks. That’s when the blockchain is split to create another coin. The first block to come out of Bitcoin was called the Genesis Block. This was the original code of Bitcoin. From there it split off into Litecoin, Zcash, Bitcoin Cash and many others. The hard forks of Bitcoin is essentially the same coin except with a different name and major changes. When hard forks happen, miners are left with the unsettling question of whether to continue to mine Bitcoin or its new chain. Nobody like hard forks because, people have to make tough decisions. It affects the price of both coins and confuses people. Some people are out to make a quick buck claiming they have a better version of Bitcoin only to disappoint coin holders thereafter.
A soft fork on the other hand is a more peaceful mediation. When soft forks happen, it happens almost unanimously. There is little to no debate on where to take the project. Many improvement that came from other forked coins have been adapted to Bitcoin for the greater good. These upgrades improved hashing rate, speed, and difficultly level to churn out new Bitcoins. Soft forks will continue to happen, lets just hope they aren’t hard forks.
Pay close attention to the media when you hear of an upcoming fork. If you possess the private keys prior to the splitting of the chain you are entitled to the newly created coins. Some might see this as free money, but in actuality it means one coin is stealing value from another coin.
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