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Bitcoin Forks Explained, Which Ones Are Worth Claiming?

Bitcoin has been split dozens of times, a few of which could make you several hundred dollars richer, if claimed.

Bitcoin Forks Explained, Which Ones Are Worth Claiming?

Key Takeaways

  • Bitcoin has been forked many times.
  • Bitcoin Cash is the highest-profile and most contentious hard fork.
  • Bitcoin (BTC) remains by far the most dominant chain.

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There have been a number of Bitcoin forks over the years. But how many? The total is staggering, with over 50 forks on record.

What Is a Bitcoin Fork?

A Bitcoin fork is a cryptocurrency that split away from Bitcoin at a certain block height. Transaction histories are shared up until the time of the fork, with the new coin then splitting off onto its own blockchain.

There are two kinds of forks: soft forks and hard forks. A soft fork is backwards compatible, meaning it is a software update that is compatible with earlier versions of the blockchain. A hard fork is not backward compatible. Any blocks following a hard fork need to follow the new rules to be considered valid.

The Bitcoin network itself has undergone a number of soft forks, with software updates including preventing duplicate identification hashes and introducing lock times for individual transaction outputs.

Namecoin, created in 2011, was the first fork of the Bitcoin software. Bitcoin XT and Bitcoin Classic (BXC) were earlier forks of the Bitcoin network reference client, released in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Most cryptocurrency projects that are well-known off-shoots of Bitcoin often followed contentious debates around the direction of the code. Bitcoin Cash was the first high-profile hard fork of Bitcoin and was created in mid-2017. It is regarded as a contentious fork, meaning it occurred because there were competing visions about the future development of the network.

A List of Bitcoin Forks

Most hard forks of Bitcoin occurred between late 2017 and early 2018. The period was remarkable because it coincided with the ICO frenzy. The rate at which new tokens were created made it difficult to keep up with the changes.

Bitcoin saw its first four hard forks on the same day of Aug. 1, 2017.

The Bitcoin Cash Fork

Bitcoin Cash (BCH) came into existence at block height 478,559. It was a divisive and contentious split, led by those who believed in increased block sizes. The new protocol increased block sizes to 8MB. Technically, Bitcoin Clashic and Bytether were created a block before it. Following at block height 498,888 on the same day, Oil BTC was created.

The Bitcoin Gold Fork

Bitcoin Gold (BTG) was the next high-profile project to fork from Bitcoin. The coin split away at block height 491,407 on Oct. 10, 2017. The aim of Bitcoin Gold was to create a new version of Bitcoin that would “democratize” mining by changing Bitcoin’s proof-of-work algorithm.

The next month, Bitcore (BTX) and Bitcoin Diamond (BCD) were created. Bitcoin Diamond was designed to build a network more resistant to attacks and to enhance network capacity.

December 2017 Bitcoin Hard Forks

In the month of December of 2017, almost 20 new coins were created through hard forks from Bitcoin:

  • Bitcoin Silver (BTSI)
  • Bitcoin Nano (BTN)
  • BitcoinX (BCX)
  • Super Bitcoin (SBTC)
  • Bitcoin Hot (BTH)
  • UnitedBitcoin (UB)
  • Bitcoin World (BTW)
  • Bitcoin Stake (BTCS)
  • Lightning Bitcoin (LBTC)
  • Bitcoin Faith (BTF)
  • Bitcoin New (BTN)
  • Bitcoin Top (BTT)
  • Bitcoin File (BIFI)
  • Bitcoin God (GOD)
  • Quantum Bitcoin (QBTC)
  • Bitcoin SegWit2X x11 (B2X)
  • Bitcoin Uranium (BUM)
  • BitcoinBoy (BCB)
  • Bitcoin Ore (BCO)

Many of these late 2017 coins are no longer in circulation and some were considered a scam at the time of their creation. However, projects like Super Bitcoin remain trading on 12 active markets.

Bitcoin Forks of Early 2018

As the heat cooled on crypto markets in the beginning of 2018, forks continued. In the first few months of the 2018 bear market:

  • Bitcoin All (BTA)
  • Bitcoin Private (BTCP)
  • Bitcoin Pizza (BPA)
  • Bitcoin Rhodium (BTR)
  • Bitcoin Smart (BCS)
  • BitVote (BTV)
  • Bitcoin Interest (BCI)
  • Bitcoin Atom (BCA)
  • Bitcoin Lite (BTCL) were created.

Bitcoin Private was forked from ZClassic and Bitcoin. It supports zk-SNARKs, masking the details of the sender and recipient of a transaction.

This list is not exhaustive. As Bitcoin is open source code, any developer can fork it and create a new cryptocurrency. According to research from BitMEX, there were a total of 44 forks in the mid-2017 to early-2018 period. Only Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Diamond, Bitcoin Gold, and Bitcoin Private saw significant trading volume.

Forks of Forks

A number of Bitcoin forks have undergone another subsequent fork. The highest profile of these was Bitcoin SV (Satoshi’s Vision). BSV forked from BCH at the end of 2018, creating listings of BCHABC and BCHSV, Both sides battled in the hash wars to determine which coin would dominate.

The Bitcoin Cash split was also over the issue of block size, with the SV team favoring even larger blocks. Bitcoin SV claims to be the closest Bitcoin-named blockchain to Satoshi’s “original vision” of peer-to-peer electronic cash, or so its creators claim.

Bitcoin has forked a number of times. Sometimes it has arisen from genuine ideological or technological differences. Other times, it has been rather uncontentious, with a group of developers seeking the marketing power of the Bitcoin name.

Which Forks are Worth Claiming?

All told, there have likely been over 50 Bitcoin forks. More could still be created over time. Today, there is a total of nine Bitcoin forks that see any trading volume at all. The forks worth claiming, at current prices:

  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH): $219
  • Bitcoin SV (BSV): $166
  • Bitcoin Gold (BTG): $7.2
  • Bitcoin HD (BHD): $5.1
  • Bitcoin Rhodium (XRC): $4.1

Of those, only Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin SV, Bitcoin Gold, and Bitcoin Diamond see significant trading volume.

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