The Chain is not the Community

Fred Ehrsam wrote an article "Accelerating Evolution Through Forking" where he examines "forking [as] a second critical evolutionary mechanism for blockchains".

Unlike Web 2.0 companies, forking a blockchain is possible because the current code and state of a blockchain can be freely copied.

This is a great article in trying to explain forking in the context of blockchains.

But today, the chain itself is not the entire community. If changes are made to the chain, then various applications – many of which are NOT open source – need to decide to support this new chain.

I think we’ll have thousands or millions of chains (depending on whether you think of them as databases). Orders of magnitude more tokens that are defined on top of these chains. There are various use cases that lead to unique super nodes or mining, but many token situations are better served by living on top of a base chain, without mining.

Perhaps some thoughts on what forking means with respect to miner choice. I’m already seeing wallets and others struggling to run, host, and query the nodes they need to. Across the top 6 chains, that’s already 18 servers for minimum redundancy. Re-centralization at this node layer is problematic as well.

I really like the concept of using the existing ownership and having a different distribution post fork. But ownership, control, and participation are only loosely related to the base chain.

Update May 9, 2018:

Naval posted about copying blockchains and what the barrier might be, and used some terminology that was new to me.

I thought about this wording and have decided to adopt it, using the term "cloning" when referring to copying the code of a blockchain, and reserve "fork" for running a competing blockchain network.


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Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash