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Blockchain Forks: A Comprehensive Lecture by Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär

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In the video titled “Blockchain Forks: A Comprehensive Lecture by Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär,” Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär from the Center for Innovative Finance at the University of Basel dives into the topic of blockchain forks. This informative lecture aims to provide a thorough understanding of forks in the blockchain world. Prof. Schär, along with his team at the Center for Innovative Finance, explores the different types of forks, such as soft forks, hard forks, and force forks. The lecture emphasizes the importance of consensus mechanisms in determining the most recent state of a blockchain and highlights the implications and potential strengths of forks. The video encourages viewer engagement and feedback, maintaining an open learning atmosphere while ensuring that the platform is not used for advertising.

Blockchain Forks: A Comprehensive Lecture by Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär

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In the world of blockchain technology, a fork is a term that is frequently used. But what exactly does it mean? In simple terms, a blockchain fork refers to a situation where a single blockchain splits into two separate chains, each following a different set of rules. This can happen for various reasons, and depending on the type of fork, it can have different implications for the blockchain network and its participants.

Definition of Blockchain Forks

A blockchain fork occurs when the codebase of a blockchain diverges, resulting in two separate chains with a common history up until the point of the fork. This means that there are two versions of the blockchain, sometimes referred to as the “original chain” and the “forked chain.” Each version continues to be maintained and developed separately, and they might have different features, rules, or even block histories.

Types of Forks

There are two main types of forks in the blockchain world: process-based forks and protocol-based forks. Let’s explore each of them in more detail.

Process-based Forks

Process-based forks are temporary in nature and generally occur due to a software bug or a disagreement among the participants on how to proceed with certain transactions. These forks are usually unintentional and are resolved once the issue causing the fork is resolved.

Protocol-based Forks

On the other hand, protocol-based forks are more significant and have a persistent nature. They are intentional and occur when there is a fundamental disagreement within the blockchain community regarding the rules and protocols of the network. This type of fork leads to the creation of two competing blockchains.

Process-based Forks

Process-based forks, as mentioned earlier, are temporary in nature. They are usually caused by issues such as bugs in the software or compatibility problems between different versions of the blockchain protocol. When a process-based fork occurs, it creates a temporary divergence in the blockchain’s transaction history. Once the issue causing the fork is resolved, the blockchain can revert to a single chain with a consistent transaction history.

The resolution of process-based forks primarily involves identifying and fixing the issue that caused the fork in the first place. This can be done by releasing a software update, patching the bug, or resolving any compatibility conflicts. Once the fix is implemented and adopted by the majority of the network participants, the blockchain can return to a unified state.

Blockchain Forks: A Comprehensive Lecture by Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär

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Protocol-based Forks

Unlike process-based forks, protocol-based forks are persistent in nature and result in the creation of two separate blockchains, each following a different set of rules. This type of fork occurs when there is a fundamental disagreement among the stakeholders of the blockchain network, typically related to the rules or protocols governing the network’s operation.

When a protocol-based fork occurs, the blockchain splits into two separate chains, each with its own set of participants and transaction history. This can happen due to differences in opinions on issues such as scalability, consensus mechanisms, or governance structures. The participants in the network then have to choose which version of the blockchain they want to support, potentially leading to a division within the community.

Types of Protocol-based Forks

Within the category of protocol-based forks, there are different subtypes that can occur. They include soft forks, hard forks, and force forks.

Soft Forks

A soft fork is a type of protocol-based fork that is backward compatible. It means that the new rules introduced through the fork are still compatible with the old rules. Soft forks maintain a single blockchain history, but they introduce new rules that are more restrictive, making some previously valid transactions invalid. In a soft fork, the majority of the network’s participants agree to adopt the new rules, while the minority continues to follow the old rules.

Hard Forks

Unlike soft forks, hard forks are not backward compatible. They introduce new rules that are not compatible with the previous versions, leading to a divergence in the transaction history. Hard forks create two separate chains with their own histories, and the participants are required to choose which chain to support. This decision can have significant implications for the network, as it can result in the creation of new cryptocurrencies or the end of support for the old chain.

Force Forks

Force forks are a type of protocol-based fork that occurs when a group of participants forcefully splits from the original chain, often due to disagreements about the blockchain’s governance or development direction. These forks are usually contentious and can lead to disputes and conflicts among the participants. Force forks are often seen as a last resort when consensus cannot be reached through normal decision-making processes.

Blockchain Forks: A Comprehensive Lecture by Prof. Dr. Fabian Schär

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Factors Determining Persistence of Forks

The persistence of a fork, whether process-based or protocol-based, depends on several factors. Two important factors determining the longevity of a fork are the dominance of computational resources and the compatibility of rules.

Dominance of Computational Resources

In the case of protocol-based forks, the dominance of computational resources plays a crucial role in determining which chain becomes the dominant and widely accepted version. If the majority of miners and participants decide to support one chain over the other, it is more likely to become the dominant chain. The chain with more computational power behind it is generally considered to be more secure and reliable.

Compatibility of Rules

Compatibility of rules is another important factor in determining the persistence of forks. If the new set of rules introduced through a fork is compatible with the existing rules and the majority of participants agree to adopt them, the fork is more likely to persist. However, if the new rules are too restrictive or controversial, it can lead to a division within the community and a shorter lifespan for the fork.

Implications of Forks

Forks in blockchain networks can have various implications for the participants and the overall ecosystem. Some of the most prominent implications include uncertainty, confusion, and cost implications.


Forks create a sense of uncertainty among participants as they must decide which version of the blockchain to support. This uncertainty can lead to hesitation, delays in decision-making, and even conflicts within the community. Participants need to carefully evaluate the implications, risks, and potential benefits associated with each chain before making their decision.


Forks can also cause confusion among users and stakeholders who may not fully understand the implications of the fork or the differences between the two chains. This confusion can result in mistakes, misunderstandings, and potentially even financial losses. It is essential for participants to stay informed and seek clarity from trusted sources to navigate the complexities of a fork.

Cost Implications

Forks can have cost implications for various stakeholders, especially miners and developers. Miners need to invest in computational resources to support a specific chain, which can be costly. Developers may have to update their software or even develop entirely new solutions to accommodate the changes introduced by the fork. These costs can impact the profitability and viability of participating in the blockchain network.

Strengths of Forks

While forks can create uncertainty and confusion, they also have some strengths that contribute to the overall stability and consensus within blockchain networks.

Enforcing Stability

Forks can help enforce stability in blockchain networks by allowing participants to choose the set of rules and protocols they believe are most suitable. This process of divergence and subsequent competition between the chains can lead to the identification and adoption of more robust and reliable solutions. As a result, the network as a whole becomes more stable and resistant to vulnerabilities and attacks.

Enforcing Consensus

Forks provide a mechanism for the participants to express their opinions and disagreements regarding the rules and governance of the blockchain network. Through the process of forking, consensus can be achieved by allowing participants to choose the version that aligns with their vision and preferences. This consensus-building process ultimately strengthens the community and the overall ecosystem.


Forks are a significant aspect of blockchain technology, embodying the decentralized nature and governance of these networks. Whether they are process-based or protocol-based, forks create temporary or persistent divergences within the blockchain, leading to the emergence of new versions and potential opportunities for innovation. However, forks also bring uncertainty, confusion, and cost implications that need to be carefully considered by participants. Understanding the types, factors, and implications of forks is crucial for navigating the evolving landscape of blockchain technology.

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