A popular term in open source software development, a fork in the context of a blockchain is when nodes on the network disagree and continue processing different blocks from one another. There are different types of forks caused by different reasons:
- Accidental Fork: when two nodes on the network produce a block at roughly the same time as one another. In bitcoin, the fork with the most hash power becomes the “official” blockchain and blocks on the other fork are orphaned.
- Software Fork: when node software is forked and re-launched with a different configuration.
- Soft Fork: a backwards compatible update to the node software
- Hard Fork: a non-backwards compatible update to the node software
- Contentious Fork: a disagreement between developers of the project leads to a hard fork with incompatible features and a new chain with a new coin all together
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