Nerd Business


Ethereum Hard Fork, Hard Lesson

Ethereum is a big idea in motion: and is illustrating just how uncontrollable & unpredictable such a big idea can be. From breaking crowdfunding records, to a multi-million dollar heist, to a hard fork that and subsequent conflict in the community - the entertainment is far from over. The more interesting development is happening right now as the market decides what to do next.

With the original chain rising from the dead it is clear to me that there is a secondary dimension of the fork process the pro forkers and Ethereum foundation developers did not anticipate. And actually is a good lesson in how not to fork a cryptocurrency; as well as serving as a great example of the power of the will of the market.

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It's not just a majority vote from existing stakeholders that you require to initiate a hard fork (whom they apparently convinced, planned with and executed based on), but you also need to convince the entire potential market as well - which includes everyone on the outside looking in. Because anyone of these outside, non-vested persons has the potential to make an impact on the winner or loser with just a simple buying decision; by merely voting with their dollar (or Bitcoin as the case may be).

If enough of these new participants (or major players) declare their preference for the original fork by trading for crypto on said fork then it creates a signal to the rest of the market that there is a revolt of sorts; one that can pickup enough velocity to shake confidence in the new fork. Causing not only another wave of new participants but a conversion of previously pro forkers who are now second guessing and converting their holdings back on to the original chain.

If you wanted to get specific about this particular case, the key turning point seemed to be when the major exchanges, Poloniex and subsequently other exchanges, decided to list ETC "Ethereum Classic", making the original chain available for the masses to acquire once again.

You can see their original reasoning here as originally posted on

"Despite repeated assurances from representatives of the Ethereum foundation that the community had little to no interest in Ether on the unforked chain (ETC), demand for a market grew rapidly, as did over-the-counter trading between private sellers and buyers."

This put the original alongside the new fork; giving it serious and likely unforeseen but totally fair competition. Now we will see the true consensus.

This is the harsh yet beautiful reality of a decentralized, open source, and free market currency: insiders, developers, exchanges, and traders are free to do whatever they want. There's no one forcing them to adopt a new fork or bad policy.

So when your fork defies the original intent and fundamental principals established during the inception of the very thing you built - you might be able to convince a majority short term to go along with your new plan, but in the mid to long term it would seem the decision is out of your control.

Who knows just how long it will take for everything to play out. And regardless of outcome, this is great for the end user - because now developers, on both sides, have more incentive than ever to innovate, make a better product and win the battle for patronage in this exciting new arena.