Learn Cryptocurrency
1 Mar 2022

Hard Fork vs. Hard Merge vs. Hard Spoon – Explained

Ananda Banerjee

Blockchain technology is “hard”. Not the difficult kind of “hard”. But “hard” in another sense, which we will learn about through this discussion. While life isn’t “hard” in the same way as blockchains, there is a parallel from it that will help us understand blockchains better:

Imagine a scenario involving two people working together on something groundbreaking. It may end in one of the three following ways.

  1. They argue and go their separate ways.
  2.  They bring in a brighter mind, join hands, and make the project bigger together.
  3.  One copies the other and still gives them credit (if the other person is lucky.)

Blockchains too interact similarly. Read on to find out what we mean.

Key Takeaways

  • A hard fork is an argumentative and ideological protocol upgrade within an existing Blockchain
  • A hard merge focuses on bringing two separate crypto projects as a mutually beneficial amalgamation
  • Hard spoon is all about copying the good parts of a popular crypto project and using it one a new platform to drive adoption
  • While Hard Fork aims at creating a divide, Hard Merge and Hard Spoon are more collaborative in nature

How blockchains interact or can interact in the future depends on how they want their protocols to develop over time.

In theory, participants within a decentralized ecosystem can argue about the features and go their separate ways via what is known as a Hard Fork. The second option is that two separate blockchains can come together to empower a new ecosystem through a Hard Merge. The third thing that can be done is to replicate one blockchain on another ecosystem, increasing collaboration, and that’s a Hard Spoon.

These scenarios or “protocol developments” are what we will be discussing, throughout the subsequent discussions. 

Hard Fork

A hard fork is a large-scale protocol change within an existing decentralized ecosystem, which ends up creating two separate and independently functioning blockchains.

Hard forks break a chain’s forward compatibility. Once a fresh protocol emanates from the existing one, transactions listed on the older blockchain aren’t reflected on the new and dissociated version. The second blockchain is as independent as a new one. And yes, participants incentivize it by coining a native token.

Key Characteristics of Hard Fork

  • It has a contentious arrangement, which produces a split;
  • Takes place at the protocol level;
  • Brings about an elementary change;
  • Produces a split blockchain, with mutually exclusive branches; and
  • It can sometimes be accidental, courtesy of a blockchain bug.

Participants on the newly created chain need to install fresh mining software modules. Upon shifting to a new network, participants are promptly compensated as per their existing holdings.

In case you are interested in knowing more about a crypto hard fork, do check out this post for in-depth insights.

Bitcoin evangelists stuck in a Mexican Standoff over whether to increase the network’s block size from 1MB to 8MB triggered a hard fork in 2017. Designed to reflect openness to increasing the block size, a new blockchain, Bitcoin Cash or BCH, was thus launched.

Differences between fork merge and spoon

Hard Merge

Unlike a hard fork, where one blockchain splits into two bickering branches, a hard merge is more like a collaborative association of two disparate ecosystems.

In a hard merge, one unified protocol that can handle work and standard transactions relevant to each network is conceptualized. Simply put, it is about two blockchains joining hands and creating a unified ecosystem. Replete with nodes/participants and processing power, hard merged blockchains are more decentralized, secure, and scalable.

If adopted on a wider scale, a hard merge can be the answer to a key impending issue: Blockchain Scaling Trilemma.

The idea of a hard merge is the next step in the journey toward blockchain consolidation. It propagates the “one blockchain for all” concept.

Key Characteristics of Hard Merge

  • Both projects tend to benefit from the collaboration.
  • The primary aim is to increase the size and efficiency of both networks.
  • The new protocol is dependent on the existing ones.
  • Tokens relevant to each blockchain still hold their value.
  • Still a makeshift arrangement, so existing protocols can be decoupled if the experiment doesn’t work.

After a hard merge, the new network participants can use any relevant token to stake, validate, or transact.

NuCypher and Keep Network, Ethereum-based encryption projects, have decided to hard merge their protocols to integrate communities, functions, and capabilities. The new project, KeaNu, will continue to support existing Keep and NU tokens for staking and other activities. 

The hard-merged KeaNu blockchain will function as a DAO and offer ‘T’ tokens to willing network participants. These ‘T’ tokens will have their use in staking, governance, liquidity pools, and other ecosystem-specific activities.

Hard Spoon

Hard Spoon is one of the newest additions to the crypto vernacular and is analogous to an outsourced protocol upgrade. Here, a blockchain network tries to fulfill its commitment to offer broader access to its users by copying some aspects of a more popular network. It incorporates the user balance and token structure of the original network after throwing in a few more features, but it gives the parent network full credit for the inspiration.

A crypto hard spoon isn’t a quarrelsome arrangement. A hard spoon is just like copying the good things like transaction prowess, and account balances of a more popular blockchain. But the focus is on increasing the reach of a network and improving facilitation. It has a singular aim in mind—i.e., to attract the developers and users of the popular ecosystem.

Key Characteristics of Hard Spoon

  • A hard spoon is used by a new and less popular blockchain to draw the crowd.
  • The popular blockchain that is being copied remains unaffected.
  • There is no competition between the two blockchains.
  • It’s like a meta-protocol integration on top of a blockchain’s existing protocol.
  • There can be multiple hard spoons.
  • The concept works more like wrapping the tokens of the popular blockchain for platform-specific use.
  • Differs from Soft Spoon, where all relevant ecosystem details are copied within the blockchain, as a branched protocol.

The Cosmos-specific Tendermint team’s hard spoon led us to Ethermint. Still a Proof-of-Stake blockchain protocol, Ethermint is more of a Cosmos-compatible version of Ethereum. And it’s even EVM compatible. Simply put, Etherment is Cosmos’s way of offering Ethereum-like capabilities to its users, including Smart Contracts, development tools, and more.

Confusion between the Terms

It must be clear by now that Hard Fork, Hard Merge, and Hard Spoon seem to be mutually exclusive terminologies. So why are the terms confusing to some?

The decentralized world is still in its infancy. Every move, every initiative, and every protocol change is first approached with skepticism. So the nature of these radical blockchain innovations is perceived as confusing by people, who often end up comparing a hard fork with a hard spoon, or a hard spoon with a hard merge.

Projections and uncertainties aside, here is how these terms stack up against each other, across the following parameters:

Hard Fork vs. Hard Merge vs. Hard Spoon

Parameters Hard Fork Hard Merge Hard Spoon
Nature of protocol change Argumentative Collaborative  Inspired and collaborative
Principle Single Blockchain split into two Separate blockchains fused together at the network level Blockchain info copied to another ecosystem
Process Irreversible Reversible Reversible and inclusive
Impact on the original blockchain Decreased network capacity until new nodes join in Increased network capacity No impact

Wrap-Up

Each of these crypto terms signifies a new kind of development. Good, bad, or neutral depends on the elementary requirements of the network participants. Each protocol change, as mentioned above, introduces a slew of modifications to the existing blockchain(s).

Overall, every crypto terminology prefixed with “hard” aims to bring about a paradigm shift, with a view to make the ecosystem usable, fast, scalable, secure, and more accommodative.

Interested in other fun crypto concepts and willing to learn more! Read more at CoinSwitch and make giant strides in the crypto space.

Disclaimer : Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. The information provided in this post is not to be considered as investment/financial advice from CoinSwitch. Any action taken upon the information shall be at user's own risk.

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Ananda Banerjee

Content Writer

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