You have probably have heard of forks, ways of making upgrades or changes to cryptos, with the most common ones being soft and hard. Now researchers have identified a new type that might revolutionize crypto forking. Although Velvet is associated with nobleness not in the crypto space, it is the name given to a new way of upgrading blockchain software with minimal controversy.
Getting Around the Disruptions Caused by Major Code Changes
The hype behind velvet forks has some high profile crypto enthusiasts intrigued. In a paper addressed to the Financial Crypto 2018 conference in Curacao, Zamyatin says that a velvet fork allows developers to add new rules to a blockchain without the full support of the whole ecosystem.
We think the most interesting part is the idea that you can introduce some new concepts to permissionless blockchains without necessarily having a majority of consensus participants agree to do so,
-Said Imperial College London research assistant Alexei Zamyatin.
Zamyatin’s statement cuts to the core of why other crypto enthusiasts believe velvet will be beneficial. While soft forks are seen as less disruptive in that they’re backwards-compatible, they can still be controversial when used to initiate changes which not all cryptocurrency users agree with. Furthermore, hard forks are generally seen in a negative light since they can split a blockchain in two if not all users decide to update to the new rules. However, with velvet forks, researchers are optimistic that they will be able to get around various disruptive politics that come with major code changes.
Velvet at Work
Forks are often used in the crypto world as changes in different blockchains are common. However, these changes come with a myriad of challenges and controversies, and this is why velvet is gaining lots of traction from crypto enthusiasts.
Though it hasn’t been widely used as a way of software upgrading yet, velvet forks exist today in different forms. Researchers argue that the lack of an official name was the reason why they haven’t previously been given much attention.
For instance, P2pool, a decentralized mining pool, regularly uses a velvet fork of sorts. Since there is no single entity (replacing that with code instead) that controls the payments dispersed to the miners of the pool for their work, the pool created a second blockchain with an easier difficulty, which only miners part of the pool can contribute to. This blockchain is used to gauge how much computing power each miner is contributing, so the protocol can pay them proportionally. Even though the blocks generated by P2pool use these extra rules, miners who don’t play by these same rules, still accept P2pool’s blocks.
As such, P2pool is an example of a “velvet fork” because the blocks (from both their proprietary blockchain and the Bitcoin blockchain) live side-by-side in harmony, without causing a split.
The new fork is poised to open new doors in the crypto industry and scientists say more research will be helpful. Talking to CoinDesk, Professor Gun Sirer said that he was exploring ways he could use a velvet fork to add the long-stalled Bitcoin-NG protocol.
While [the paper is] short on the details, the overall idea of adding new functionality without incurring the risks and complication of either a soft or a hard fork is quite compelling,
-Sirer told CoinDesk.
Do you think velvet forks will help calm the controversies involved with forking? Share your thoughts in the comments section.