What is a fork?

You might have heard the term “fork” recently, especially since Ethereum is about to undergo such a “fork” to Ethereum 2.

But what does that actually mean?

Just like reaching a literal fork in a road, from which your path could go into two totally separate directions, a crypto fork splits a blockchain into two versions going forward - the original one and the new fork. This is necessary, because blockchain technology evolves, and sometimes does so to the extent that it is not backwards compatible anymore.

In the case of Ethereum 2, it switches to proof of stake, which is a different form of transaction validation. Any computer that validated the original Ethereum transactions will no longer be able to apply the same logic to Ethereum 2. The owners will have to decide whether to stick with the old, or move to the new.

When that fork happens in 2022, Ethereum 1 and 2 will coexist. They are, however, different blockchains at that point and the aspiration is to make Ethereum 2 the new standard and slowly reduce reliance on the old one

But forks don’t have to be that disruptive. There are many blockchains, like Celo for example, which started with the Ethereum open source code, forked it, improved it, and launched their own blockchain, and in doing so, brought innovation to the ecosystem.

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