Before we get into the specifics of the hardforks we are going to cover (including Bytecoin’s own fork), I think it is worthwhile to establish what exactly a hardfork is and why hardforks are enacted. To do that we have to start at the beginning with the way a blockchain works.
A blockchain is a distributed ledger that grows in size as it processes transactions, measured in blocks. In order for a blockchain to process a transaction, participants on the chain have to agree to validate it. To establish validation, a set of rules are created that layout a protocol for block validation.
Generally, a hardfork is a fundamental restructuring of a protocol that was in place for block validation, which precipitates the reconfiguration of the block validation procedure. Put simply, what worked before the hardfork will no longer work the same afterwards.
The changes brought about by a hardfork mark a permanent departure from that which preceded it, and the nodes that run software tied to any previous versions of a platform have to be altered to continue their operations after the fork.
Hardforks got their name from the fact that when they happen they fork the path of a blockchain, dividing a platform into two camps: the new and the old. The new camp breaks with the old blockchain and forges its own path, updating its structure and incorporating modifications in the process, while the old camp continues straight on the path laid out before the fork.
The nature of the division between old and new camps depends upon what developers are attempting to achieve with their hardfork. When a hardfork is initiated with the purpose of improving a platform and all developers are onboard with it, the fork is non contentious and the division just represents the transition of a platform from one stage to another. As a result, the outcome of this kind of fork is understood before it is enacted, and it involves very little risk.
However, there have been a few hardforks that have resulted from irreconcilable differences among developers pertaining to their respective visions of the future of their projects. The most often cited example of a contentious hardfork is the Bitcoin Cash fork that happened back in November of last year. In this case, Bitcoin Cash was split into two subsequent currencies—Bitcoin ABC and Bitcoin SV—following an acrimonious and prolonged dispute among developers.
The Bitcoin Cash case is not unique but it is hardly the norm as becomes apparent when looking at some recent and upcoming hardforks in the crypto space.
Helmed by Yanislav Malahov, who has nicknamed himself “the godfather of Ethereum,” the Aeternity platform is a decentralized open source digital-asset platform that operates via P2P technology. The platform’s corresponding cryptocurrency is AE, a token with a total supply of 273.6 million. One of the distinctive features of Aeternity is its use of a hybrid Proof-of Work/Proof-of-Stake verification protocol.
This month Aeternity is scheduled to undergo what their team has titled their “Fortuna” hardfork. The Fortuna fork is a scheduled upgrade that the team has been mapping out since at least February. The upgrade is expected to feature improvements to the system’s virtual machine, its smart contracts, and also its state channels.
Along with the system improvements, the upgrade is supposed to introduce tools that will facilitate thorough monitoring of the Aeternity network’s performance.
Zcash is a fairly well-known cryptocurrency, created in 2016. Describing itself as “privacy-protecting,” Zcash offers users shielded transactions which it claims keeps user data completely confidential. The currency made a splash in the headlines when it partnered with JPMorgan to add functionality to the bank’s Quorum blockchain.
This July there will be a fork off of the Zcash currency resulting in a new currency called Ycash. The hardfork is being performed by the Ycash team in order to “restore a goal,” according to the company’s Medium account. The goal they have in mind? Mining on commodity hardware — a means of validation that the Ycash developers feel has been abandoned by the Zcash developers.
The new project’s developers have also said that they think the hardfork is necessary because it will ensure that the Zcash Founders Reward will be forever capped at 2.1 million coins, a limit they think the Zcash team will fail to honor.
The developers of Ycash are not affiliated with the Zcash developers, rather they claim to be an outside party that values the privacy features of Zcash but wants to improve the platform and ensure a fair distribution of coins and believes that hardware mining is essential to achieve this. As Ycash will be forking off of Zcash, holders of Zcash will be given substantial amounts of the new currency when it is launched.
Saving the best for last, as I mentioned above, Bytecoin completed a successful hardfork last week which has set the stage for a few improvements to the platform that I think will help it better distinguish itself among the privacy coins on the market.
Most of the changes to the platform were announced with the release of the Amethyst software update from a couple of months ago. Two features that I want to zero in on here are HD wallets and unlinkable addresses.
With HD wallets Bytecoin has implemented Bitcoin’s solution to the perilous nature of wallet files. Now users can back up their wallet files with a mnemonic phrase which will ensure that even if you forget your keys, if you enter your valid mnemonic, you will be able to access your funds.
Unlinkable addresses constitute another wrinkle in Bytecoin’s formidable cryptographic topography. Now, in addition to ring signatures obfuscating sending and receiving addresses, users can collate all of their addresses with a single view key without having to sacrifice their anonymity.
The Bytecoin devs were able to develop a means of cryptographically shielding addresses in a way that has made it infeasible for outside parties to gauge whether any two or more addresses share common keys.
This most recent fork was long-planned and uncontested. It would not have happened without the long nights put in by our development team and the support of our community. On behalf of the team, I would like to thank the Bytecoin community and all of its integrators for their help in getting this across the line.