Tag Archives: Crypto Currency

This Happens to Your Coins During a Bitcoin Hard Fork and Possible Blockchain Split

This Happens to Your Coins During a Bitcoin Hard Fork and Possible Blockchain Split

 

Over the past two weeks, the bitcoin community has been discussing the possibility of a hard fork in the near future. Furthermore many industry exchanges and bitcoin-based businesses are already making preparations for such an event. A couple of questions bitcoin holders are asking are — Whether or not their bitcoins will be safe and what they should do during a blockchain split.

Also Read: Popular Bitcoin Exchanges Reveal Controversial Hard Fork Contingency Plan

 

Bitcoins You Possess Will Be Safe

The first and foremost piece of information all bitcoin holders should know is that in the event of a hard fork that splits the blockchain, bitcoins you possess will be perfectly safe.

Over the past year or so hard forks have gotten a bad reputation for political reasons, but in actuality, most types of forks are merely protocol upgrades. A blockchain split occurs during a hard fork which in turn branches the chain into two parts. If this happens, there is nothing a bitcoin holder has to do but wait and watch the fork unfold.

The folks at the subreddit r/btc have compiled a very well written frequently asked questions post concerning protocol upgrades and how users are affected. The thread gives details about the hard fork process and what to expect.

When the blockchain branches into two, there will be two digital assets immediately after the hard fork. Bitcoin holders who possess their private keys will have access to assets on both chains after the split event occurs. So, if you “keep your money” in a local wallet on your computer or on your phone you can just stay put and watch the fork happen.

If you hold money on a bitcoin exchange, then it will be up to the exchange’s discretion on how they choose to disperse both token assets to customers. Most of the well-known industry exchanges have already pledged to support both assets if a blockchain split event takes place.

 

Storing Bitcoin On Exchanges 

Users should remember that holding cryptocurrency on an exchange is not recommended even during non-eventful times. As explained above, after a blockchain split customers storing bitcoin on an exchange will have to succumb to the rules of that specific trading platform. For instance, it’s highly possible that exchanges will pause withdrawals for 24-48 hours during and after the fork. Most reputable exchanges should and will likely disperse both assets to their customers sometime after the event, but users should expect a waiting period while the businesses assesses the situation.

STANDARD EXCHANGES

The bitcoin exchange Coinbase explains the company’s current contingency plan to its customers concerning a hard fork and possible blockchain split which includes pausing deposits and withdrawals;

“Ensuring the safety of customer funds is our top priority,” explains the San Francisco-based exchange. “In the event of a hard fork of the Bitcoin protocol, it is likely that Coinbase will temporarily suspend the deposit and withdrawal of bitcoin from the platform pending our assessment of the technical risks posed by any fork, such as the possibility of replay attacks, network instability, or other factors. Customers should take note that they will not be able to withdraw bitcoin from or deposit bitcoin to Coinbase for a period of up to 24 hours or more following the fork. In the event of a hard fork of the Bitcoin protocol, Coinbase may suspend the ability to buy or sell on our platform during this time.”

The other twenty or so well-known bitcoin exchanges that revealed their hard fork contingency plans last week will also list both digital assets (creating another account for their customers, for the “new” forked coin). Yet it is safe to assume these exchanges will also pause deposits and withdrawals during a split event. Customers will have to follow the rules of the exchange they store their funds with, and each business will have different guidelines.

 

Individuals Who Possess Their Keys

Users holding the private keys to their funds will have access to both chains after a split occurs. Depending on where the user stores their bitcoins they will have the means to access both digital assets by either waiting for wallet support or moving their funds to a different wallet platform that support both chains. For instance, the hardware wallet manufacturer Ledger explains what happens to people who possess their private keys using a cold storage device; 

"First of all, it is very important to understand that hardware wallet users control their private keys. So whatever happens, you will always have the possibility to export your keys and use your bitcoins on any software running on any chain or fork. Whatever happens, you do not need to move your funds prior to a fork, nor do you risk losing access to your coins on any side of the split."

This logic applies to every user utilizing an application that allows exclusive bitcoin key possession. There is no risk of losing bitcoins during a hard fork, and over a period of time after a blockchain split, users will be able to access both chains.

 

Control Your Private Keys and Stay Informed

Forks are a part of most open source software protocols that mature, and many people believe bitcoin will experience a number of them in the future. Users should always consider possessing their own private keys at all times, so they have the ability to use their funds when they want instead of having to follow the guidelines of an exchange.

There is plenty of material online for people to research what will happen during this type of event and many Bitcoin businesses have detailed their hard fork plans. Bitcoin developer, Gavin Andresen, has also written an informative blog post in regards to what may happen to a majority and minority chain. Andresen speculates what may happen within the market as far as price value, but also assures bitcoin holders their assets will be safe in the event of a blockchain split.

Credit given to Jamie Redman, the writer of this very informative article.

 

Judy Curtis,  
Contributor

What’s in a Name? From Bitcoin to Blockchain to Distributed Ledgers

What’s in a Name? From Bitcoin to Blockchain to Distributed Ledgers

(@nelsonmrosario) | Published on February 11, 2017 at 15:42 GMT

Opinion
 

Nelson M Rosario is an intellectual property attorney working as an associate at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun in Chicago. He has years of experience working on patent prosecution matters in bitcoin/blockchain and fintech, as well as other areas.

In this CoinDesk opinion piece, Rosario ponders why we have developed so many terms for what is effectively the same technology – bitcoin.

“What’s in a name? That which we call an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust by any other name would smell as sweet.”

– William 'Satoshi' Shakespeare (probably)

In the beginning, there was 'bitcoin', and it was good. But, bitcoin would end up bearing a nomenclature fruit salad that tests mortal comprehension. Perhaps, that is the natural way of things.

As a new technology develops, the number of people exposed to that new technology increases, and the language used to describe the new technology evolves.

Initially, the language was limited to bitcoin. Now a person is liable to see any of the following words or phrases that theoretically all mean different things: bitcoin, Bitcoin, block chain, blockchain, Blockchain, private blockchain, public blockchain, distributed ledger technology, distributed asset ledgers, decentralized ledger technology, shared ledgers, et al.

Further confusing the matter, the term bitcoin may not always mean the same thing to different people. What happened? Why the change in language?

First, bitcoin has the word 'coin' right in it. This naturally makes people think of currency. Not surprisingly, bitcoin use as a currency is far and away the most successful iteration of bitcoin. The applications for bitcoin are not, however, limited to currency.

This is where much of the confusion arises. Intuitively, the currency implementation for bitcoin (with the word coin in it) makes sense. Trying to convince someone that bitcoin can also be used for purposes as diverse as asset transfers, escrow services, or logistics management is not so straightforward.

Bitcoin also suffers from an image problem. The early publicity surrounding bitcoin included scandals, thefts, a euphoria akin to the Tulip bubble, and in general, bad press. 'Fake internet money', as some people called bitcoin, did not inspire confidence amongst the masses.

Additionally, the main advocates for the new technology were unpolished and unproven. Often if someone had heard of bitcoin they had heard of the failed Mt Gox exchange, or they assumed bitcoin was something a person used to buy illicit drugs or hire a hitman. The reality was not that far off.

How do you get people to forget about the failed exchanges, drugs, and hitmen? Get them to focus on 'the technology underlying bitcoin', and get them to think about the other potential implementations. Once the conversation moved beyond currency, people started searching for a new word. That search led them to the blockchain.

The rise of the blockchain

Negative publicity and conceptual confusion laid the groundwork for people to begin to refer to the blockchain as the real innovation to come out of the bitcoin phenomenon.

The blockchain is a chain of transactions that makes bitcoin possible. The term refers to a collection of bitcoin transactions grouped together into blocks and linked through cryptography. This linkage is part of what makes it virtually impossible to fake bitcoin transactions.

In a sense, the blockchain provides true decentralized trust and distributed consensus, but the rebranding, or reorienting of people’s attention, to the blockchain and away from bitcoin may be just a clever marketing trick.

Many people argue that you cannot separate the blockchain from bitcoin. The thinking is that you cannot break up bitcoin into its component parts because the parts by themselves will not work the same way independent of each other. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Regardless of whether this is correct, that is precisely what people have done.

Once the power of bitcoin became apparent, we started to see article after article touting the 'real innovation' behind bitcoin. Respectable and well-established firms began developing blockchain solutions to their problems.

People consistently discredited bitcoin as boring, while extolling the virtues of the multifaceted blockchain. Large banks, financial exchanges, and the 'Big Four' consultancies all rushed to publish reports on blockchain technology. The hype train that left the station heading to Bitcoinland was diverted to Blockchainville.

There are now hundreds of blockchain startups. Problems related to back end services for large institutions, digital identity, asset transfer, escrow, and logistics, are all being tackled by blockchain solutions. Even tracking pork along a blockchain has been proposed. These companies are doing truly innovative work.

However, to many observers the term 'blockchain' is still conceptually associated with bitcoin. So, if a company describes an innovation that leverages a type of blockchain they have to distinguish it from bitcoin and the bitcoin blockchain. How do blockchain companies talk about what they are doing without referencing bitcoin, or other blockchains? The solution is to talk about ledgers.

The arrival of distributed ledger technology

A ledger can record transactions between multiple parties. The ledger concept is a main building block of bitcoin and any blockchain. Ledgers also benefit from the fact that they are commonly thought of as boring, safe, and dependable tools in an accountant’s toolbox, as opposed to the technological innovation that makes bitcoin possible.

What better way to put thoughts of bitcoin and blockchain out of people’s minds than insisting that you are only talking about ledger technology? Thus, the conceptual chain to bitcoin was broken.

However, there remains considerable debate over whether this is feasible or even desirable. To early adopters, bitcoin is a monolith that cannot exist without distributed trust, consensus, and immutability, but many new industry entrants view the technology as an a la carte buffet. They are free to decide between many concepts including: permissioned vs permissionless, public vs private, tokenized vs no token, etc.

Today any institution or organization that refers to ledgers is free to discuss bitcoin or blockchain related concepts, without the supposed taint of bitcoin. Even the Federal Reserve Board (of Federal Reserve Bank fame), has touted ledgers in their recent report on “Distributed Ledger Technology.”

Over the past two years, hundreds of new blockchains and ledgers have been created. They all draw on the root concepts of bitcoin, but their purposes and the lingo used to describe them have diverged widely. This conceptual repackaging, and public relations approved language replacement, is likely to continue for some time.

What does it all mean?

This story has gone from bitcoin to blockchain to distributed ledger technology. There are companies that operate in all of these spaces, or only one of them.

Outside observers are forgiven if they struggle to keep up with all the different terms. Yet, through all of this evolution and upheaval, bitcoin has remained central to the discussion. Whether bitcoin, the blockchain, and distributed ledgers will be adopted and thrive or consigned to the ash heap of history remains to be seen.

The fact that bitcoin has undergone repeated repackaging is a testament to the strength of the technology. Other blockchains or related technologies may rise and fall, but bitcoin’s inertia and first-mover advantage will continue to make it the most relevant cryptocurrency, blockchain, and ledger.

Evolution image via Shutterstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.

 

Credit is given to Nelson M Rosario for this informative article.

 

Judy Curtis,
Contributor