Cryptocurrency forks have traditionally fallen into a few categories: those conducted as planned maintenance (Ethereum’s Constantinople upgrade), those resulting from governance disputes (BCH via the BTC blocksize debates), and those arising as entrepreneurial modifications (DASH as a heavily modified Bitcoin codebase).
Yet a new category is emerging that’s seemingly peppered with a bit of all the above: so-called friendly forks.
The latest collegiate oncomer to the cryptoeconomy is Alternateth, a proposed sibling network to the Ethereum blockchain that is being spearheaded by Ethereum developer James Hancock and helped along by private supporters.
In new comments to CoinDesk, the developer argued that “for Ethereum to be sound money, it needs to be very conservative in making changes,” adding that Alternateth would serve as a kind of souped-up testnet for Ethereum “for some of these upcoming features and will support funding development for the mainchain […] Similar to the relationship between Litecoin and Bitcoin.”
Of course, Ethereum already has a handful of viable testnets in Goerli, Rinkeby, Ropsten, and Kovan, so Hancock and his backers have a bigger vision in mind than just a mere testnet.
And while he said no token offering was planned, Hancock will test out the ASIC-resistant ProgPOW consensus algorithm on Alternateth from the network’s very conception — a shift that will precede any similar shift by Ethereum, whose community has been considering ProgPOW for months.
Hancock also noted that a portion of every Alternateth block will be set aside for developers, with block rewards being another mechanism that Ethereum stakeholders have been racking their heads over in recent times.
What remains to be seen is how the Ethereum ecosystem will receive Alternateth, which is set to fork off in August 2019. In Dothereum, a copy of Ethereum hosted on the Polkadot Network, Ethereum and its backers have already had to look in the mirror, so to speak, and that gaze for some was a troubling one.
Alternateth Follows on the Heels of Ycash, a “Friendly Fork” of Zcash
Back in April, Ycash was announced as a friendly fork of the Zcash (ZEC) privacy cryptocurrency that would be splitting off from its parent chain on July 18th, 2019.
Unaffiliated with Zcash’s developers or founders, the fork is being headed up by Howard Loo, the chief executive officer of software company SwayLaw and the founder of the Ycash Foundation.
In the fork’s announcement, Loo said Ycash was going to cement a focus on “commodity hardware mining” and capping the crossover of the Zcash Founders Reward, which currently directs 20 percent of every ZEC block reward to developers, at 2.1 million coins:
“We believe that both mining on commodity hardware and maintaining the promised cap on the Founders Reward are essential to a fair distribution of coins. In turn, we believe that a fair distribution of coins is essential to ultimately achieving widespread adoption.”
With Ycash’s cordial arrival on the scene, some confusion has led to elements of the cryptoverse to thinking Zcash and Ycash are being coordinated. As such, Zcash co-founder Zooko Wilcox-O-Hearn clarified this week that he and his colleagues were on the outside looking in just like everyone else, though he was “enthusiastic” about the new peer project.
… That said, I'm enthusiastic about Friendly Forks as a concept (https://t.co/w1OaSl8tEX), and the founder of Ycash — Howard Loo — is a long-serving member of the Zcash community and he has always seemed to me to be an honest and reasonable person. …
— zooko (@zooko) June 18, 2019
Not Everything’s So Friendly
Indeed, Tezos is facing the possibility of a not-so-friendly fork.
This week, the Tezos Commons Foundation declared it had become aware that engineering firm OcamlPro was considering forking Tezos (XTZ) to create a new network, the Dune Protocol. The episode has arisen over a funding dispute between the foundation and the firm.
Whether the protocol will actually materialize is an open question for now, but the revelation of its possibility has seemingly made the Tezos community antsy: the XTZ price, presently $1.15 USD, is down six percent on the week.