Ethereum and Ethereum Classic are a result of what is called a hard fork. To understand the story and difference between these blockchains, you must first understand the basics of a hard fork in blockchain.
What is a Hard Fork?
Simply put, a fork in the technology realm refers to a diversion from the traditionally accepted software code and its operation process. But that does not fully explain a hard fork in blockchains.
Blockchains operate without a central entity. This means any governance decision related to a blockchain is finalized through a community vote. If someone wants to make major changes to the blockchain protocol, they can propose an update (a fork) and take a vote of all others to reach a consensus.
However, if network participants possess strictly opposite ideologies, they have the right to choose the older version of the blockchain.
When that happens, the blockchain nodes that favor the fork update their software to abide by the new changes whereas the others continue using the same software to operate the older version of the network. This creates a network split, resulting in two blockchains from one.
This process of non-backward splitting of blockchain from the older version is called a hard fork.
Hard forks are common in the blockchain space, and they may be initiated by any network participant for numerous reasons. That is why we see so many versions of Bitcoin, such as Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, and Bitcoin SV, Litecoin, and so on.
Ethereum has three major hard forks — Ethereum Classic, Ether Zero, and Metropolis. But we are here to talk about Ethereum Classic.
The Classic Battle of Ideologies
Ethics and ideologies. These two words perfectly define the reason for the Ethereum hard fork that gave rise to Ethereum Classic.
Ethereum launched in 2015, two years after its co-founder Vitalik Buterin proposed to bring self-executing digital contracts called smart contracts to blockchain. The blockchain platform aimed to enable the development of decentralized applications (dApps) and platforms to expand blockchain use cases beyond payments.
The founders of Ethereum then created The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) — a decentralized, community-funded venture capital of sorts that intended to fund the development of dApps. The idea behind The DAO was that the Ethereum community would add funds to the DAO and then vote on white-listed dApps to choose which applications should get funding from the DAO. In less than a month, DAO had $150 million locked in its smart contract.
Long story short, things went south for the DAO as a hacker or group of hackers exploited a loophole in the DAO code. They drained one-third ($50 million) of all funds stored in the DAO smart contract. But as per the rules of the DAO, the extracted funds were moved to a Child DAO and locked there for the next 28 days. The hackers could only withdraw the funds after the 28 days lock-in period.
At that time, the Ethereum community went into panic mode as it looked for measures to set things right. A part of the community wanted to move on and keep intact the ethics and ideologies of the platform as they believed the hack was unethical but valid. They opined that reversing the $50 million transactions would be against the very motto of decentralization through blockchain.
Contrarily, more than 87% of the community members agreed to a hard fork that would recover the stolen funds from the Child DAO.
This conflict resulted in the split of the Ethereum network. The hard fork supporters attained a majority and made changes to the network to recover the funds. The modified version of the Ethereum network continued to be called Ethereum.
Around 13% of the community that did not agree to the hard fork kept operating the older version of the network and renamed it as Ethereum Classic. Its native currency was named ETC.
Ethereum vs. Ethereum Classic: The Battle
Before the hard fork of 2016, Ethereum Classic was Ethereum. This says for itself that Ethereum and Ethereum Classic have more technical similarities than differences. Yet, there are some notable differences. Let’s take a look.
At launch, Ethereum intended to eventually move the network from the proof-of-work (PoW) consensus protocol to the proof-of-stake (PoS) protocol. This was because PoS could offer greater scalability, speed, and security to the network. Ethereum initiated this transition from PoW to PoS in December 2020 while Ethereum Classic has dropped the plan to move to PoS.
Adoption and Usage
When it comes to developing dApps or investing in cryptocurrencies, most people prefer Ethereum over Ethereum Classic. This is why Ethereum’s native currency Ether (ETH) has a market capitalization of $206 billion while that of Ethereum Classic’s ETC is nearly $1.42 billion as of February 2021. Also, a majority of decentralized applications today are deployed on the Ethereum network.
Furthermore, Ethereum handles more than 1.2 million daily transactions while Ethereum Classic only processes close to 35,000 daily transactions.
Ethereum Classic has a small community and a small number of blockchain nodes that operate the network. This led to three 51% attacks on the Ethereum Classic network in August 2020. Due to the lack of security of the network, many crypto exchanges even announced plans to delist ETC from their platform.
In contrast with that, there have been no serious threats to the Ethereum network itself, meaning the Ethereum network is considerably safer than Ethereum Classic.
When the founders of Ethereum along with 87% of the Ethereum community voted in favor of the hard fork, it was evident that Ethereum would achieve greater success than Ethereum Classic. And it did. Ethereum is today the largest smart contract and dApps platform and is also the second-largest blockchain network, second only to Bitcoin. Ethereum Classic, on the other hand, has only attained 1/100th of Ethereum.