Companies who wanted to raise money for developing their projects in the cryptoworld traditionally did so through Initial Coin Offerings. Now another trend has emerged for those wanting to do so – the hard fork
Not strictly a fork
A fork, in its strictest sense, implies a change in the protocol of a cryptocurrency resulting in an old version and a new version. Developers who fork a cryptocurrency have no real monetary advantage, as they only implement a change to the protocol. Holders of the original cryptocurrency (e.g. Bitcoin) retain coins on both branches and can spend them at their will.
This was true in the case of Bitcoin Cash – a true fork of Bitcoin with larger blocks. While the developers increased the block size, they did not benefit monetarily from the creation of Bitcoin Cash. However, other forks such as Bitcoin Gold have an element of premining included. The developers start with the Bitcoin blockchain at a particular point in time, but then mine a certain number of blocks for themselves.
Advantages – established user base
The advantages of doing a split of an existing cryptocurrency is that you inherit an established user base. The users do not have to do anything to claim their coins. This can be a two-edged sword if these users decide to dump their “free” coins. For developers interested in raising money through a combination of premine and fork, this can be a disaster. The price of their mined coins would go to zero. For ideological pure forks – this does not matter. The market determines the relative worth of their coins and they then proceed to promote it.
Regulators should have few problems
ICOs have come under attack from regulators across the world because they raise funds from investors without any safeguards in place. Given that hard forks are actually a free distribution of tokens, regulators should be more accommodating. Of course, investors can still lose money if they buy these coins at exchanges and then the prices crash.
Regulators would be more worried about fly-by-night operators raising money through ICOs and disappearing. The SEC has taken action against multiple ICOs, arguing their tokens constituted securities. Other countries like South Korea have also severely regulated ICOs, while leaving cryptocurrency trading alone.
The many faces of Bitcoin
When you have a choice to fork any cryptocurrency, it makes sense to fork the one with the largest user base and largest market capitalization. The success of Bitcoin Cash has sparked many new imitators – Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Silver, Bitcoin Diamond and Super Bitcoin. Imitation might be the best form of flattery, but Bitcoin certainly does not need so many forks. The problem will only worsen if Bitcoin’s price increases and imitators seek to benefit further from the “Bitcoin” brand.
Sol Lederer, Blockchain Director at LOOMIA, agrees:
“These forks are very bad for Bitcoin. We are looking at a possible fork on Oct. 25 with Bitcoin Gold and another one next month for SegWit2x. Saturating the market with different versions of Bitcoin is confusing to users and discredits the claim that there are a limited number of Bitcoins–since you can always fork it and double the supply.”