Ethereum (ETH) has one of the most active blockchain communities in the world and it’s evident in the way it’s continuously being improved upon.
We thought it would be fun to take a stroll down memory lane and look at the most notable Ethereum hard forks. Additionally, we’ll be taking a look at the upcoming forks and what the crypto has in store. But before we do that, let’s quickly go over what a hard fork is.
A refresher on hard forks
You can generally think of hard forks as an update for an app on your phone that’ll bring cool new features. However, these updates may be subjective—what may be awesome to you might be awful to somebody else. This leads to people not updating their apps and sticking to the older version. Although they’re happy with their decision not to update, the people who stick to the older version probably won’t have the app’s full power.
This is essentially the same in the cryptocurrency space. Hard forks are permanent splits of the blockchain, meaning that the new chain’s transactions will no longer be accepted on the old chain. Let’s say there’s an update that changes block sizes from 2MB to 4MB, effectively creating a new cryptocurrency in the process. If a user tries to push a 3MB block on the old chain, it’ll probably get rejected.
The most prominent example of a hard fork is Bitcoin Cash (BCH), which happened in 2017. At that point, developers wanted to improve the scalability of Bitcoin (BTC), so they proposed to increase the block size. Many people disagreed with the update and stayed on the old chain—Bitcoin continues to run on the old chain while some flocked to the new BCH chain.
Most prominent Ethereum hard forks
Since Ethereum’s creation in mid-2015, there have been a couple of noteworthy hard forks:
Ethereum Classic (ETC)
Ethereum Classic is the very first fork that Ethereum went through. It also just so happens to be one of its most controversial.
In mid-2016, a vulnerability was discovered within the DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) contract. This led to approximately 3.6 million ETH being drained from the fund. Because of how the contract was designed, these funds were frozen for 28 days before transferring.
In this case, the hard fork occurred so that the development team could take swift action against the hack and get the money back. EIP 779 was then drawn up so that everyone could withdraw their ETH from the DAO contract. If no action had been taken, someone would have single-handedly owned 4.4% of the total ETH supply at the time.
The proposal, in turn, divided the Ethereum community into two camps. The first camp consisted of people that were happy that the development team took action. This meant that the developers learned their lesson and can be better prepared if an incident like this were to occur ever again.
The second camp, those that didn’t agree with the Ethereum fork, argued that the network’s updates compromised its decentralization. These people believed for a cryptocurrency to be truly decentralized, the development team would have to simply go with the flow. They thought that as soon as they started taking action, it would be the beginning of a series of ripple effects that would jeopardize the crypto’s future.
Eventually, the developers decided to go through with the hard fork, while the old blockchain became known as Ethereum Classic.
Ether Zero (ETZ)
Ether Zero, although it wasn’t as controversial as ETC, is another well-known hard fork.
According to their website, the project was started by a group of tech geeks looking to provide a better platform for creating decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contract deployment.
What sets ETZ apart from other forks is that other than aiming to speed up transaction rates, the development team was determined to make transactions completely free.
Ethereum Metropolis is the fork that’s happening right now, and just like ETZ, it plans to improve upon the foundation that ETH has already built.
To break it down, Metropolis consists of three stages: Byzantium (which has already been completed), Constantinople (the current phase), and then Serenity (more on this later).
Mainly, Constantinople aims to improve on two main features:
The first is a privacy overhaul. Don’t get us wrong, the current privacy settings and options of Ethereum aren’t bad at all. Still, these new features will be significant improvements on them. This will allow for greater privacy when making transactions.
The second key feature is a big one: the transition from a Proof of Work (PoW) system to a Proof of Stake (PoS) system. Although this isn’t meant to be completed during this phase, both Byzantium and Constantinople are considered the two main preparation phases for this gigantic next step.
A transition to the PoS system would eliminate the mining process as a whole, replacing it with a system that would allow you to stake some of your ETH coins for the ability to verify transactions on the network.
Often regarded as Ethereum 2.0, Ethereum Serenity is the last significant step in the crypto’s development. It has one goal and one goal only: to complete the transition from the PoW system to PoS.
Serenity is a huge milestone as it would change the entire landscape of Ethereum. According to their roadmap, “pure PoS” should be coming to Ethereum some time in 2021.
The horizon of Serenity
All Ethereum hard forks have played massive roles in making ETH what it is today; there’s no doubt about that. With the following updates bringing in a shiny new PoS system, the future certainly seems bright for Ethereum. However, we have no idea yet what this could mean for the cryptocurrency space as a whole.
As soon as Ethereum 2.0 comes into play, there’s no telling what’ll happen to the economy. There could be a massive mining equipment dump as PoS renders them obsolete. It’s probably going to take some time for people to get used to the new changes. Heck, people will probably be looking for loopholes—selling their mining rigs, starting new cryptocurrencies, or even forgetting Ethereum as a whole.
That last one may seem a little bleak, but this is exactly why Ethereum’s development teams have been preparing long and hard for this big transition. As for what happens when that update kicks in, only time will tell what kind of reception it’s going to receive—but we can’t wait to see what happens.
*Disclaimer: The content of this article is for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed here are not meant to be taken as financial, investment, or any other advice, nor do they express the opinion of Paxful.