Divi Beta Notes: Forks & Sporks & Splits, Oh My!

in #cryptocurrency5 years ago

As blockchains and cryptocurrencies  thrive and die by market share and network effects, a blockchain split  is the worst thing that can happen (short of a hostile takeover).  The progress and growth of both Bitcoin and Ethereum have been severely  hampered by large parts of their networks deciding that short-term  profits or academic principles were more important than community – and “forking” one blockchain into two. As a result, many current and prospective cryptocurrency investors inaccurately associate “fork” with  FUD – when in reality, forks signify advancement. 

The vast majority of blockchains constantly fork as part of their  standard operation. Any time more than one miner quickly solves the  puzzle in proof of work or more than one block producer is chosen in  proof of stake, the blockchain forks. But one side of the fork quickly  gains more converts and grows much faster and, thus, everyone quickly  joins that side and a single blockchain continues on. 

Bitcoin constantly forks and the number of confirmations required for  a transaction are simply the amount of time necessary for the fork to  be pretty much guaranteed to have rejoined. Steem and other small-pool  delegated proof of stake networks are the exceptions that prove the rule  since their processes do not allow more than one block producer to be  chosen at a time. 

The other major cause of forks is software changes or upgrades (with  retroactive blockchain changes being a problematic third cause). Every  blockchain NEEDS to change and upgrade to remain relevant. The  critical thing is to be able to do so without risking splitting the  network. Bitcoin and other proof of work miners are driven by short-term  profit and not the long-term health of a given blockchain or  cryptocurrency. There are tremendous profits to be reaped in the split  of a network (stripped from the coffers of those on the losing side). 

An unwise and unhelpful distinction has arisen between so-called  “hard forks” and “soft forks” – whether the blocks from non-upgraded  producers are allowed in the blockchain. Note that “allowed” is  an important distinction in PIVX, Divi and other proof of stake  networks. Many people believe that hard forks are only caused when the  format of blockchain entries changes. Proof of stake blockchains need to  agree upon the same rules for consensus and anyone not upgrading to the  newest rules must be dropped. A “soft fork” just allows miners to not upgrade if they personally benefit from refusing to do so – always at a cost to the community in the long run – and networks really should always make forks hard if at all possible. 

Note also that there is absolutely no reason why software upgrades  should be at all painful – except in the case of proof of work miners  who have rewritten and optimized their software and will have to do so  again (and temporarily lose any competitive advantage while they do so).  Software can easily be written to automatically change behavior  starting with a specific block and the exact number of that specific  block not even needed to be determined until just before it is desired.  PIVX’s “sporks” are just software upgrades that are triggered by the  receipt of a message telling each masternode when the change should take  effect. 

Divi is innovating the masternode software so that it downloads  automatically. This not only furthers our goal to keep our masternodes  on the cutting edge of blockchain technology, but also ensures that  there is absolutely no incentive for a network split. Indeed, it is a  severe disincentive to splitting because anyone who blocks upgrading  will quickly fall behind (and won’t be part of consensus and the  community in any event). We will offer the same for wallets – but it  won’t be mandatory (unless the wallets want the newest features). 

Steemit and a few other blockchains celebrate hard forks because they  always mean new “goodies.” Divi wants our community to feel the same,  except we're making forks less apparent – something you can watch if  you’re interested and ignore otherwise. So, there's no need to dread  hard forks. Instead, consider them as indications of the exciting updates to come. 

 This post is being co-published simultaneously here on the Divi blog   

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