What Is a Blockchain Soft Fork? Exploring the Basics of This Important Process

Blockchain technology is making waves around the world and has proven to be revolutionary in the field of distributed systems. One significant concept in blockchain technology is the fork. A fork is a change or update in the protocol of a blockchain network. In this article, we will be discussing an essential element of blockchain forks - the soft fork. We will explore the basics of this crucial process, its types, and reasons for implementation. We will also delve into some prominent examples of soft forks and the process of initiating a soft fork.

Understanding Blockchain Forks

Before we dive into soft forks, it's important to understand what a blockchain fork is. A fork is a process of creating divergence in the blockchain network, where the software or the protocol is updated. Forks can be classified into two types - hard fork and soft fork.

What is a Blockchain Fork?

A blockchain fork is a type of software update that changes the protocol's rules. Forks can occur due to various reasons, including security issues, improvements in the network's performance, or new features. Forks can lead to divergent blockchain networks, which become separate entities from their original blockchain.

Blockchain forks are an essential part of the evolution of blockchain technology. They allow for the implementation of new features and improvements to the network. However, forks can also lead to a split in the community, with some participants choosing to support the original blockchain and others supporting the new forked network.

It's important to note that not all forks are successful. Some forks fail to gain traction, and their network becomes obsolete. The success of a fork depends on various factors, including the community's support, the quality of the new features, and the network's security.

Types of Blockchain Forks: Soft Fork vs. Hard Fork

Two types of forks exist in the blockchain - soft forks and hard forks. Soft forks are backward-compatible software updates that comply with the existing network rules. In contrast, hard forks are not backward-compatible and require all network participants to update the software to remain compatible with the new rules.

Soft forks are implemented when the network needs to be updated without disrupting the existing blockchain's operations. Soft forks are usually minor updates that do not require significant changes to the network's infrastructure. Soft forks are designed to ensure that the network remains secure and efficient.

Hard forks, on the other hand, are significant updates that can result in a split in the blockchain network. Hard forks require all network participants to update their software to remain compatible with the new rules. Hard forks are usually implemented to introduce major upgrades to the network, such as new features or improved security measures.

One of the most famous hard forks in the history of blockchain technology is the Ethereum hard fork. The Ethereum network was hard forked in 2016 to reverse the effects of a hack that resulted in the loss of millions of dollars worth of Ether. The hard fork was successful in recovering the lost funds and improving the network's security.

In conclusion, blockchain forks are a necessary part of the evolution of blockchain technology. They allow for the implementation of new features and improvements to the network. Soft forks and hard forks are two types of forks that can occur in the blockchain network, each with their own unique characteristics and implications for the network.

The Concept of a Soft Fork

Defining a Blockchain Soft Fork

A soft fork is a backward-compatible software update that is used to implement new features, optimize performance, or resolve security issues. Unlike hard forks, network participants do not need to update their software to remain compatible with the network. Instead, soft forks only require the majority of miners and nodes to update their software to endorse the new protocol update.

How Soft Forks Differ from Hard Forks

Soft forks are different from hard forks because, in soft forks, the new rules are backward-compatible. As a result, network participants who haven't updated their software will still be able to send and receive transactions. In other words, soft forks do not create a new blockchain network separate from the old one.

The Role of Consensus in Soft Forks

Soft forks only require a majority of the miners and nodes that validate transactions on the blockchain network to adopt the new rules. This requirement makes it easier to implement soft forks as there is less need for a network-wide consensus than in hard forks.

Reasons for Implementing a Soft Fork

Upgrading the Blockchain Protocol

The blockchain network's protocol may require an update to support new features, improve performance, or add security measures without causing conflict with previous protocol versions. Soft forks are an ideal solution to achieve these outcomes, as they are backward-compatible, and all network participants may not necessarily need to update their software.

Fixing Security Vulnerabilities

Soft forks can be used to resolve security vulnerabilities in the existing blockchain protocol. These updates often improve the network's security, which is crucial in protecting against cyber-attacks and maintaining user privacy on the blockchain network.

Introducing New Features

Soft forks can be used to introduce new features to the blockchain network. For example, Bitcoin's Segregated Witness (SegWit) soft fork introduced a new transaction format that significantly improved the network's scalability and reduced transaction fees.

Examples of Notable Soft Forks

Bitcoin's Segregated Witness (SegWit)

In 2017, Bitcoin underwent a soft fork to implement Segregated Witness (SegWit). SegWit enabled the network to process more transactions and solved transaction malleability issues that previously allowed attackers to alter transaction information. SegWit also paved the way for the implementation of the Lightning network, which allowed faster and cheaper transactions on the Bitcoin network.

Ethereum's Gas Reprice Fork

In December 2019, Ethereum underwent a soft fork to improve the gas pricing method used in the network. This update improved the efficiency of the network and reduced the spam transactions that were clogging the network.

The Process of Initiating a Soft Fork

Proposal and Development

A proposal for a soft fork is submitted to the blockchain community outlining the changes and the reason for the update. A team of developers works on updating the protocol, testing the new software, and developing a consensus plan.

Gaining Community Support

After development, a soft fork proposal is put to the network participants for voting. Network participants can either vote for or against the proposal. If the majority of miners and nodes conform to the new rules, the soft fork is enacted.

Activation and Implementation

Once the soft fork is activated, the network is updated to adopt the new rules. Soft fork updates typically occur during a designated block height, allowing all miners and nodes to update their software for the change to be implemented.


In conclusion, soft forks play a crucial role in updating blockchain protocols without disrupting network compatibility. They are useful for introducing new features, resolving security vulnerabilities, and optimizing network performance. With these significant advantages, it is clear that soft forks will continue to be an important process in blockchain technology's future.

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