Coming to a fork in the road has taken on new meaning in the cryptocurrency era. Bitcoin forks are a growing peripheral phenomenon, exacerbated by the current global drive to accumulate the coin.
A fork is often a point reached by the project developers where protocols are amended, and the project continues. Two channels now, with one shared history. It’s a resolution of issues faced and an answer, a successful continuing.
Forks can just as often be third party adaptations of a cryptocurrency project, where other developers release targeted or otherwise improved versions of Bitcoin that do not come from the original developers.
Forks grew organically out of the novel and unknown territory of cryptocurrency. As more users on boarded, projects like Bitcoin had to adapt (fork) their technology in order to keep the currency rolling out into the world for easy application and use. Now, however, 2018 looks set to be the year in which less welcome but still usable forks appear set to proliferate astoundingly.
Spinoffs that may have value
Forks legitimize their existence in several ways; the first kind, where the developers are trying to resolve an issue and keep the project going, needs little explanation. Looking at a fork, we see where developers got together and resolved an issue to everyone’s relief.
The other value (normally third party) developed forks exude, is that they tailor the platform for a certain segment of users. These offers are cloned Bitcoin constructs that seek to service a niche big or small, but with the aim of user onboarding and revenue rolling in.
A total of 19 Bitcoin forks appeared in 2017, but this is the tip of the iceberg according to Lex Sokolin, Autonomous Research’s global director, fintech strategy. At least 50 Bitcoin forks are predicted for 2018 and, to complicate matters further, there’s Forkgen, a site where even limited coding capability can result in a developer launching a “new” coin on a cloned Bitcoin platform.
“Both BTC and BCH will continue to hard fork and >10% of the value of each (if held today) will reside in new offshoots.”
Forks result from differing motives. While some developers are genuinely concerned with improving a project, many are simply seeking to capitalize on Bitcoin’s name and generate some initial cash in the process.
Considerations of intrinsic value and long-term feasibility seem secondary in these cases. The fork market is a caricature of the broader crypto market, with many forks having negligible value, at least in terms of global application.
The CEO of Coinmi, George Kimionis, made the following statement on Bitcoin’s forks:
“Unfortunately, most fork-based projects we see today are more of a sheer money grab,” he said. This statement is far closer to the truth for many forks developed outside of the nominated Bitcoin stable.
“Looking back a few years from now we might realize that they were just mutations fostered by investors blinded by numerical price increases, rather than honest attempts to contribute to the blockchain ecosystem.”
Kimionis went on to say that in a market experiencing some funder fatigue after the cryptocurrrency sector raised around $3.7 billion in 2017, forking may well become an alternative to the typical ICO (initial coin offering) very shortly.
Rather than issue an offering as a “new thing” from a brand point of view, a forked coin comes with a known name and enhanced performance. That’s the idea anyway. This seems likely to come true, as smaller offerings haven’t enjoyed the kind of funding they expected lately.
Follow the Fork and see Where it goes
A developer on the new and upcoming Bitcoin Private project, Rhett Creighton, added, “Bitcoin forks are kind of the new altcoin. We are going to see now a bunch of Bitcoin forks. And they are going to start replacing some of the top hundred altcoins.”
In China, where ICOs have been banned, forked offerings may well prove to be a route around this. As for the longer-term value of all of the current forked offerings, only 2018 knows what’s in store.