2018’s Big Question: Can Bitcoin Forks Deliver Value?

Elly Zhang is a London-based global marketing professional who leads Asia growth initiatives for bitcoin and ether wallet startup Blockchain.

The following article is an exclusive contribution to CoinDesk’s 2017 in Review.

This year has been pivotal for digital assets like bitcoin and ether, resulting in unprecedented price increases, capital investment and general awareness.

But despite these successes, one of the fundamental properties of all cryptocurrencies – their decentralized nature – has been under attack in 2017.

With this in mind, it’s worth remembering that a core value proposition of blockchains is that there is no one central intermediary or organization that controls them. Instead, these protocols are used to enable the network to come to a consensus on the validity of transactions and data.

Bitcoin was the first digital payment system to function without a central repository, and the concept (fairly novel in 2009) is now widely accepted and becoming more ubiquitous. But the world’s first blockchain has evolved since its humble beginnings, and today there are variations on the original – most notably, bitcoin cash and bitcoin gold.

Forks have become so prevalent one might call the model an initial fork offering (IFO).

Not just bitcoin gold and bitcoin cash, but more bitcoin variations initiated by Chinese companies such as “super bitcoin,” “bitcoin diamond” and “bitcoin god” are on the way.

And while all may be finding a market, it’s worth asking the question, are these networks delivering on the promise of the technology? And should consumers care?

Framing the question

An argument can be made that the three cryptocurrency networks are all different in how well they encapsulate the vision of bitcoin as a decentralized network.

But it’s worth noting, too, that decentralization is frequently achieved by market economics.

When thinking about this, I’m reminded of the classic question asked by Soviet…

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