A popular term in open source software development, a fork in the context of a blockchain is when nodes on the network disagree and continue processing different blocks from one another. There are different types of forks caused by different reasons:

  1. Accidental Fork: when two nodes on the network produce a block at roughly the same time as one another. In bitcoin, the fork with the most hash power becomes the “official” blockchain and blocks on the other fork are orphaned.
  2. Software Fork: when node software is forked and re-launched with a different configuration.
  3. Soft Fork: a backwards compatible update to the node software
  4. Hard Fork: a non-backwards compatible update to the node software
  5. Contentious Fork: a disagreement between developers of the project leads to a hard fork with incompatible features and a new chain with a new coin all together

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