Bitcoin is far from perfect: the history of its forks

Bitcoin is far from perfect: the history of its forks

Key facts:
  • At one time, all existing bitcoins could be spent from any wallet.

  • The Bitcoin nodes have agreed to resolve the failures that have been generated.

Bitcoin is without a doubt the most secure network in the world, which has never been hacked, offline, or stopped working for 1 second since its launch in 2009.

However, the history of its development is far from perfect, without that means it has been unsuccessful or that has generated serious problems for its users.

Research firm and also exchange BitMex published a detailed report about the soft and hard forks (soft forks Y hard forksin English) that has passed through the Bitcoin software.

Forking: In computing, it is a different version of software that is created from the original version. As for cryptocurrencies, it is an alternative version of the blockchain to the current one. It can be originated maliciously if a miner gets too much computing power, accidentally in case of a system error, or intentionally if a protocol modification is introduced. However, for a blockchain fork to continue in existence it needs to be supported by enough users.

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As it is known in the bitcoiner ecosystem, the forks can be of the soft fork type or hard fork. A soft fork is defined by BitMex as an adjustment on the consensus rules where some previous blocks can be considered invalid, but the nodes do not need to be updated to remain part of the same chain or blockchain.

On the other hand, the hard fork is defined as an update where some blocks may become invalid, but where the nodes need to be updated to continue in the chain.

The Hidden History of Bitcoin Forks

Total, BitMex counts 21 forks (soft and hard) in the history of Bitcoin, some that have been intentional and others accidental; some that have been driven by users to improve Bitcoin and others that have posed risks that were soon fixed.

One of the earliest, and also most serious, occurred on July 28, 2010, in version 0.3.5 of the Bitcoin Core software, where a command called “OP_RETURN” it allowed any user to spend any bitcoin available on the network.

Removing this command or script did not cause any other negative consequences. Subsequently, on July 31 and August 1, 2010, other software updates were released that fixed some persistent bugs.

At the end of this saga, on August 15, 2010, a user was able to spend the amount of 184.5 billion bitcoins (BTC) in a single transactionthus contradicting the maximum emission limit that this cryptocurrency has, which is 21 million units.

Bitcoin is far from perfect: the history of its forks
A hard fork splits Bitcoin’s transaction history in two. Composition by CriptoNoticias. Source: wikipedia.org / cryptonaute.fr / oxinoxi / stock.adobe.com.

At that time, the chain forked at block height 74,368 and some nodes were left on the “bad chain”, where up to 51 blocks were allegedly mined. 5 hours after this incident, Bitmex points out, version 0.3.10 of Bitcoin Core was released, which disables some features that caused this unusual problem.

After that moment, several similar situations occurred, including another fork that also arose from a conflict between two versions of Bitcoin, after an update. This generated the same cost in each of the chains created on March 11, 2013. However, the miners agreed to continue mining only one of the versions of Bitcoin.

Expanding horizons and capabilities to Bitcoin

On December 14, 2015, at the height of block 388,380, a new functionality was introduced for the first time in the history of Bitcoin, and it is the one defined by the Bitcoin Improvement Proposal or Bitcoin Improvement Proposal number 65 (BIP-65), which summarizes the Check Lock Time Verify command, which allows you to block the spending of bitcoins until a certain time in the future.

After that, some minor updates were made, until reaching one of the most important: SegWit, or segregated witness (segregated witnesses). This made it possible to save memory space in the transaction blocks, and also generated the so-called Blocksize War, which gave rise to hard forks that were marketed as Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Satoshi’s Vision (BSV).

Notably, SegWit made it possible to implement the lightning networkBitcoin’s second layer solution that has grown tremendously in terms of liquidity, capacity and payment volume so far, as we have reported.

The Recent History of Bitcoin Forks

The most recent Bitcoin update was entirely planned, and it goes by the name of Taproot. As on previous occasions, CriptoNoticias was on the front line to follow up, and explain to our audience what benefits it brought and what its activation process was.

Taproot was activated on November 14, 2021 and introduced some commands that allow users to make their transactions more private and lighter for the network. Also, this update added the Schnorr cryptographic signaturesa new method that strengthens the security of users by allowing them to create stronger and lighter signatures.

More recently, a controversy arose in the Bitcoin ecosystem over the proposal of BIP-119 or OP_CTV, which added advanced features to Bitcoin such as the ability to automate transactions and create vaults between multiple users.

This controversy had its peak since the end of April and the beginning of May 2022, but its activation has finally been rejected by a majority of developers for technical and political reasons. However, the proposal is still under discussion and development and it is not ruled out that it may take place in the future and become part of Bitcoin.

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