Eric Raymond in “HomeSteading the NooSpehere” says “The most important characteristic of a fork is that it spawns competing projects that cannot later exchange code, splitting the potential developer community”.
This is what is unique – a split in the developer/adopter community for competing code will have consequences to the entire eco-system, something that has not been tested so far.
There are a few pressing questions with respect to the bitcoin hard fork.
1. Firstly, why should something like “digital money” which is open source and has huge network effects fork?
2. Secondly, Who decides about the fork?
3. Thirdly, Who maintains the fork?
4. Fourthly, Which one of the forks will eventually evolve to be the “standard”? and will the other one die?
5. Fifthly, will this lead to unlocking the value of the Bitcoin network overnight?
Forking of source code and maintaining separate source code trees is as old as the history of programming languages itself and probably was the first feature implemented in a version control system. However, this is probably the first instance where fungible value is associated with source code, the instance it forks. Today this value stands close to $20 Billion.
In the next – i.e. part 3 of this series of essays – I will try to answer some of these questions . The development models there are determined by a large single leader i.e. Linus Torvalds who controls the development process with his trusted developers. with Bitcoin though there is yet to evolve such a leader – other than Satoshi Nakomoto – who went incongnito after the first release.