Bitcoin is still the biggest cryptocurrency on the market – in fact, it's so popular that it's already 'forked' into various spinoffs. Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold are two prominent examples, with the former launching in August, and the latter making its debut this November.
There are some who would argue that these forks undermine the overall strength of the cryptocurrency by fracturing its usage. Others maintain that this is the best way to ensure Bitcoin's stability going forward.
“These different forks will have a life on their own, they will compete,” said Karthik Iyer, India’s ambassador to the P2P Foundation, the organization which hosted a 2009 paper that outlined Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision for Bitcoin, in an interview with Inverse. "A thousand flowers will bloom, and whichever system is efficient…I think it will take over.”
Iyer likens the situation to the Android operating system in which smartphone manufacturers are able to produce their own take on the OS. If they introduce features that are particularly well received, they're sometimes implemented in the core edition.
Each Bitcoin fork makes its own tweaks to the established formula. Bitcoin Cash increases the size of an individual block by eight times, which allows for faster transactions. Bitcoin Gold uses an algorithm that discourages the use of specialized mining hardware in an effort to make the currency more egalitarian.
Different forks might serve their own specific audiences who are looking for certain features. It's even possible that one of these forks might one day become more popular than Bitcoin itself – although, at present, the cryptocurrency seems rather unassailable.
Fork in the Road
2017 has been an exciting year for Bitcoin investors. The cryptocurrency has defied all predictions, with its value breaking the $6,000 mark in October and then exceeding $7,000 just a few weeks later.
Now, the only question is when and how this wild growth will stop. Recently, a high-ranking analyst at Goldman-Sachs projected that Bitcoin would consolidate at around $8,000 before rising even further. But some experts believe that the cryptocurrency could climb as high as $25,000 in years to come.
By all accounts, Bitcoin is thriving – but the same can't be said for all of its forks. Bitcoin Classic, a prior attempt to increase block size, was shut down this November and the controversial Segwit2x fork was suspended before it ever came to pass.
Forks like Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold could play a key role in shaping the cryptocurrency, but it remains to be seen whether they'll manage to carve out their own niche.