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Ethereum, Bitcoin; Hard Fork, Soft Fork: How Decentralized Change Is Made

While Ethereum's chosen the hard fork option and the "difficulty bomb," Bitcoin's gone with the UASF.

August 21, 2021

Ethereum’s London hard fork, also known as EIP 1559, took place on Aug. 5. The backwards-incompatible upgrade reignited community debate over hard forks, soft forks and the best methods – most foolproof, least polarizing – to bring about change to a network.

Join hosts Adam B. Levine, Jonathan Mohan and Andreas M. Antonopoulos as they explore the various ways in which consensus has been reached recently across the two largest protocols. The differences in technology and underlying philosophy means some solutions are more enticing to Ethereum and others to Bitcoin.

Ethereum maintains a so-called “difficulty bomb,” whose fuse is lengthened with every upgrade. If it ever goes off, miners would face exponentially harder work and proportionally diminished rewards, forcing them to switch from the pre-fork chain to the upgraded one. Bitcoin’s equivalent to the difficulty bomb, the User Activated Soft Fork (UASF), accomplishes the same thing by other means. Are these mechanisms the proverbial "Chekhov’s Gun," inevitably to be used in some later act, or simply empty threats to coerce miners into compliance?

Listen to this episode of “Speaking of Bitcoin” for an in-depth explainer of how wide-spread change occurs across decentralized networks and what changes might be in store for the future.


This episode featured Adam B. Levine, Andreas M. Antonopoulos and Jonathan Mohan. It was edited by Jonas, our theme song comes courtesy of Jared Rubens and todays music during the break was Sloth Beats by Gurty Beats. Today's album art features a photo by Anita Jankovic/Unsplash, modified by Speaking of Bitcoin.

Have any questions or comments? Send Adam an email at