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What is a fork and TPS (Transactions per second) in crypto

What is a Fork?

A fork in the blockchain happens for one of two reasons:

  1. Due to a change in the design of the technology.

  2. If changes are initiated by the software developers.

The design of the blockchain technology at times causes temporary forks. These are referred to as soft forks, whereas a permanent fork is referred to as a hard fork.

Forks are created by full nodes and occur when:

  • The consensus protocol is updated (soft fork and hard fork)
  • Two miner nodes create a new block at roughly the same time (soft fork)
Read also: What are Smart Contracts and how do they work?

When changes are made to the consensus protocol a soft fork might occur while all the full nodes are updating, but will correct once all the full nodes are following the same consensus rules again. If for whatever reason some full nodes cannot be updated to follow the new consensus rules a hard fork might happen, and the full nodes will then divide and continue to build on one fork that follows the old rules and another that follows the new rules. However, this can resolve itself if the majority of the miners are creating blocks that follow the new rules. This chain will eventually become the longer chain and thereby prompt full nodes that follow the old rules to accept it as the valid chain.

How a hard fork is created
How a hard fork is created

At times it happens that two miner nodes create a new block at nearly the same time, and the blocks are then added to the chain simultaneously. What happens is that full node one adds the block from miner node one, and full node two adds the block from miner node two. This causes a temporary fork which is resolved when the next block is created and added to either chain. Whichever chain the block was added to will now be the longest chain and accepted as the valid chain by all full nodes.

As per the blockchain design, full nodes always choose the chain that is the most difficult to recreate i.e. longest, as the valid chain. In the two scenarios described a potential hard fork turns into a soft fork as it is no longer a permanent fork.

Read also: Blockchain definition – what you need to know

A fork that has been initiated by software developers is called a split, and for cryptocurrency, this means a secondary coin is issued and is tied to the new blockchain the original coin will stay on the original blockchain. The most common reason for a split is to address shortcomings in the current blockchain, but can also be due to a newly developed cryptocurrency wanting to leverage the same blockchain source code and its miner node resources. Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, and Litecoin are the results of such a split.

What is TPS (Transactions Per Second)?

Transactions Per Second or TPS refers to the number of transactions a certain blockchain can process. When the various alt-chain originators talk about scalability they refer to how they can scale up the number of transactions they can process in their blockchain.

The lower the TPS the longer it will take for a transaction to settle and vice versa. At the lower end of the spectrum, you find Bitcoin which can process up to 7 TPS. At the higher end you find Ripple that can process 1500 TPS, and supposedly scale up to 50.000 TPS, according to Ripple.

Note there can be a variety of reasons why a blockchain does not process a higher TPS than it does, but that does not necessarily mean that it cannot be configured to run at a higher TPS.

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