Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, underwent a hard fork in October known as the Byzantium fork.
The fork was the first phase of the Metropolis procedure, aimed at improving the scalability of the network. A hard fork is when the blockchain is updated to a new protocol. All nodes and mines must upgrade to the new protocol. If not, a split in the blockchain can occur.
Ethereum has gone through four hard forks and has only once created an alternative blockchain, Ethereum Classic. Ethereum Classic’s Github page describes it as “the classic version preserving untampered history; free from external interference and subjective tampering of transactions”.
The fork was planned to occur earlier but was delayed in September for further testing. The risks, understandably felt by many, were possible security vulnerabilities on the platform. With its billions worth of coin, the Ethereum platform is not something to mess around with.
While the fork went off without a hitch, some developers and investors alike were concerned about the implications of the fork, as the code underwent retraction due to bugs just days before the deadline. The Byzantium fork was planned as far back as 2015, with the intention of making the platform faster and better suited for decentralization applications. The next fork would be the Constantinople, though the latter has no formal release date.
The updated protocol pays miners two Ethereum less but increases transaction speed. Ethereum has always been about dapps or decentralized applications. This new protocol makes smart contracts better, more secure and enhances privacy. The Ethereum Foundation website lists the benefits of the Ethereum platform and blockchain as allowing you to do anything from “design and issue your own cryptocurrency” to “create an autonomous democratic organization.”
Ethereum went live in 2015, having been originally proposed in 2013 by a Russian programmer, Vitalik Buterin. Buterin leads the research team of the Swiss nonprofit, Ethereum Foundation.
While many were awaiting the fork, it happened at no set time, but rather at a specific block number (around 4,370,000). Singapore-based company ConTract released a countdown, showing how many blocks and time remained, albeit roughly. After the fork, Ethereum co-founder, Vitalik Buterin, posted a picture on Twitter with the caption, “Hard fork celebration.”
In the months following the fork, Ethereum price has reached all time high’s, many say because of the “CryptoKitties Effect” as put by Cryptocoinsnews. CryptoKitties is a game that allows you to “Collect and trade Crypto Kitties in one of the world’s first blockchain games. Breed your rarest cats to create the purrfect furry friend. The future is meow!”
The game is based on trading and breeding different kitties each with unique attributes, some seemingly more desirable than others. Some users have sold cats for as much as a hundred thousand dollars. While some users have lamented the game as being an attack on the network’s scalability, it shows the different uses for blockchain besides strict currency. Uses that the Byzantium hard fork seeks to make better, faster and more secure.