Forks are splits done in the blockchain network and happens when there is a misalignment of the software of different miners. The miners or the people in that crypto community should decide which blockchain to continue using. If there is no consensus reached, it creates two versions of the same blockchain.
Forks work by introducing changes to the software protocol of the blockchain. They are often associated with the creation of new tokens. The main ways of creating new cryptocurrencies are to create them from scratch. Or, to ‘fork’ the existing cryptocurrency blockchain.
Creating new tokens from scratch is the most common method. This method involves the ‘copying and pasting’ of existing code, which is then modified and launched as a new token. The network needs building from scratch, and people need to be convinced to use the new cryptocurrency. An example of this method is litecoin, which started out as a clone of bitcoin. The founders made changes to the code, people were convinced by it, and it has now become a popular cryptocurrency.
The alternative method is to fork the existing blockchain. With this method, changes are made to the existing blockchain rather than starting from scratch. In this case, two versions of the blockchain are created as the network splits. An example of this can be seen with the creation of bitcoin cash. Differing opinions around the future of bitcoin led to the creation of a new cryptocurrency (bitcoin cash) from the original cryptocurrency (bitcoin).