All About the Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork

Bitcoin Cash (BCH), the 24th largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization as of year-end 2021 and the most prominent of the dozens of different bitcoin forks, had its own split on Nov. 15, 2018, into Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV.

Through the process of hard forking, the original cryptocurrency, Bitcoin Cash, remained in place and continued to follow its previous protocols. At the same time, a second currency, Bitcoin SV, was generated according to an updated set of protocols. The two token systems will continue to develop simultaneously and on parallel tracks.

The original bitcoin cash touted the software version Bitcoin ABC, while the new version will be referred to as Bitcoin SV, with SV standing for "Satoshi's Vision," a reference to bitcoin developer Satoshi Nakamoto.

Key Takeaways

  • In the world of cryptocurrencies, a "hard fork" occurs when an existing blockchain splits into two.
  • The original fork maintains the original protocol and ledger while the new fork implements certain policy changes, upgrades, or technical differences.
  • After a blockchain forks, any wallet that had the original cryptocurrency will have equal amounts on both networks.
  • Bitcoin Cash was originally a hard fork off of Bitcoin.
  • Bitcoin Cash subsequently underwent its own hard forks, creating Bitcoin SV and Bitcoin ABC.

Understanding the Bitcoin Cash (BCH) Hard Fork

Typically, a hard fork takes place when groups of miners and developers can't agree on updates to the software governing a particular digital token. As a result, one group continues to operate under the same rules, while the other branches off and generates a new blockchain with an updated software setup. In the process, a second digital currency is generated.

In the case of Bitcoin Cash, the hard fork is the result of building tensions among developers. When BCH developer Amaury Sechet proposed an upgrade that modified the ordering of transactions on the blockchain, a schism occurred and has only become more fraught.

As tensions rose, developers and miners within the BCH community increasingly moved toward the support of one or the other of two major personalities in the digital currency world, Roger Ver and Craig Wright. Ver and Wright are both known as strong supporters of digital currencies in general and Bitcoin Cash in particular, but they have been unable to reach an agreement about how to proceed in this case.

The hard fork to create Bitcoin SV was motivated by the desire to increase the block size limit from 32 MB to 128 MB.

People Involved in the Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork

Roger Ver, known as "Bitcoin Jesus" for his early and outspoken evangelism on behalf of the leading digital currency, has taken a position in support of the new software upgrade. In this case, this means that Ver supports the current Bitcoin Cash, rather than the proposed hard fork currency.

On the other hand, Wright, who has claimed to be the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto on various occasions, believes that the BCH software should expand the maximum block size from 32MB to 128MB. Wright argues that this change would be more in keeping with Satoshi's original idea for bitcoin; thus, the nickname "Satoshi's Vision" was born.

How Bitcoin Cash Split

Miners will determine which of the two currencies will receive their hash power, the computing energy needed to mine tokens. Generally, miners tend to dedicate their hash power to the coin promising a higher profit as the mining process is completed. On the day of the split, analysts forecasted that Bitcoin ABC (retaining the original name Bitcoin Cash) will likely prevail, receiving up to 60% of total hash power.

On the day of the split, Bitcoin Cash traded at about $289 while Bitcoin SV traded at about $96.50, down from the un-split cryptocurrency's price.

Never send Bitcoin to a Bitcoin Cash address or vice versa. You could lose your coins, and they cannot be recovered.

Many of the world's top digital currency exchanges became involved in the process if only to state their support of the fork. This meant that users of exchanges like Coinbase or Binance were eligible to receive one new token for each old token they owned at the time of the fork. BitMEX stands apart from other major exchanges for taking sides ahead of the fork; it announced via blog post that its contracts "will settle at a price on the Bitcoin ABC side of any split and will not include the value of Bitcoin SV."

Still, other exchanges allowed customers to pre-trade both of the potential new coins, a move that is largely unprecedented. One potential reason for this maneuver is to allow the larger digital currency community a chance to voice its support for one coin option over the other by its trading actions.

As of March 16, 2022, Bitcoin Cash is trading for around $289 with a market cap of $3.5 billion while Bitcoin SV has a $137 million market cap and traded for $75.

When Was the Bitcoin Cash Hard Fork?

The first Bitcoin fork occurred on August 1, 2017, resulting in a split between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. Bitcoin Cash later went through another fork, when Bitcoin SV split off on November 15, 2018.

Why Did Bitcoin Fork to Bitcoin Cash?

The original split between Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash was motivated by philosophical and technical disagreements on the most effective way to increase the currency's transaction limits. Bitcoin Cash proponents, including Jihan Wu, Craig Wright, and Roger Ver, argued that the easiest way to scale upwards would be to increase the size of a block–thereby allowing faster and cheaper transactions, but increasing the storage costs for network nodes.

On the opposite side, small block proponents like Blockstream advocated for smaller blocks, with small transactions handled in off-chain solutions like the Lightning Network. Since the two sides could not come to an agreement, the large-block side used a hard fork to create their own, separate version of bitcoin, although they failed to attract a majority of the original network's nodes or miners.

What Does a Hard Fork Mean in Crypto?

A hard fork is a protocol upgrade to a blockchain network that is incompatible with older versions of the software. This is different from a soft fork, where older versions are able to interact with the new protocol.

Since a hard fork rejects any block that still uses the old rules, a hard fork effectively creates a new network with a separate cryptocurrency. Any wallet address with a balance at the date of the fork will later have equal amounts of cryptocurrency on both networks.

How Should I Have Received Coins From the BCH Hard Fork?

During a hard fork, new coins are assigned to any wallet address that had a balance at the date of the fork, even if the wallet software is not capable of recognizing them. The easiest way to claim new coins is by importing your private keys to a wallet that is compatible with both cryptocurrencies. As always, users should take utmost care to avoid phishing attacks and ensure that their software is genuine and reputable.

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author does not own cryptocurrency.

Article Sources
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  1. CoinMarketCap. "Today's Cryptocurrency Prices by Market Cap."

  2. Bloomberg. "Bitcoin Cash Wars End With No Relief for Biggest Cryptocurrency." Accessed Dec. 31, 2021.

  3. MarketWatch. "What you need to know about the Bitcoin Cash ‘hard fork’."

  4. Bloomberg. "Bitcoin Cash Fork Hits Investors' Pocketbooks as Two Coins Slip."

  5. BitMEX. "Bitcoin Cash Hardfork Policy and Impact on BCHZ18."

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