A blockchain fork is an important upgrade to the network and can either represent a radical change or a minor one and can be initiated by developers or community members.
Hard forks and soft forks are the two different kinds of blockchain forks. In the prior post, we reviewed the Hard fork, and in this article, we will examine the Soft fork and how it functions.
What Is a Soft Fork?
A soft fork is a modification to a blockchain’s software protocol that is backward compatible with older nodes, allowing them to continue to accept new blocks as genuine.
A soft fork can occur at any point in time. Miners can still complete their transactions even if they don’t update to the newest software. This is so that the old client can continue to accept the latest soft fork blocks, which are all based on the old rules.
It is possible to reverse soft forks. However, the only way to do so is to undertake a hard fork, which is a more drastic and permanent shift in a blockchain protocol.
Understanding Soft Forks Usage
Soft forks are frequently used to introduce new transaction types, with just the participants (such as the sender and recipient) and miners needing to be aware of the change.
This is accomplished by making the new transaction look to older clients as a “pay-to-anybody” transaction (of a certain type) and convincing the miners to agree to reject blocks containing these transactions unless the transaction verifies according to the new rules. Pay-to-script-hash (P2SH) was included in bitcoin in this manner.
A momentary divergence in the blockchain caused by miners using non-updated nodes who break a new consensus rule that their nodes are unaware of might also occasionally result in a soft fork.
Soft forks don’t require any nodes to update in order to preserve consensus because all blocks containing the newly introduced rules also adhere to the earlier ones, making them acceptable to older clients. Since soft forks by definition only let the set of valid blocks be a correct subset of what was valid prior to the fork, they cannot be undone without a hard fork.
If consumers upgraded to a post-soft fork client and for some reason, the majority of miners went back to the pre-soft fork client, the post-soft fork client users would disturb consensus as soon as a block arrived that didn’t follow their clients’ new rules.
A majority of the mining power must be running a client that recognizes the fork for a soft fork to succeed. The network is more secure after the fork the more miners that accept the new rules. A quarter of the blocks generated aren’t guaranteed to match the new rules if just 3/4 of miners are aware of the fork. Old nodes that are unaware of the new rules will still be able to use these 1/4 blocks, but new nodes will disregard them.
Soft forks have been used on the bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains, among others, to implement new and upgraded functionalities that are backward compatible.
Difference between hard forks and soft forks
The software powering a cryptocurrency can be updated in other ways other through hard forks. Contrarily, soft forks are viewed as a more secure option that is backward compatible, ensuring that nodes that do not update to newer versions will still regard the chain as legitimate.
A soft fork can be used to offer new features and capabilities without altering the requirements that a blockchain must adhere to. To incorporate new features at the programming level, soft forks are frequently employed.
A simple operating system upgrade on a computer or a mobile device can be compared to the distinction between hard forks and soft forks. All of the device’s applications will continue to function with the upgraded operating system after the upgrade. In this case, a hard fork would mean switching entirely to a new operating system.
Hard forks and soft forks are crucial to the long-term success of blockchain networks. They allow us to make changes and upgrades in decentralized systems, despite the lack of a central authority.
Forks make it possible for blockchains and cryptocurrencies to integrate new features as they’re developed. Without these mechanisms, we’d need a centralized system with top-down control. Otherwise, we’d be stuck with the exact same rules for the lifetime of the protocol.