Zcash ‘Overwinter’ Hard Fork: The Good And Risks To Watch Out For

Zcash will conduct it’s first-ever network upgrade, dubbed Overwinter, which will pave the way for a much bigger network upgrade in October. The purpose of the hard fork is to fortify the existing protocol and will result in the introduction of block 347,500.

The update requires all current users of the Zcash blockchain to upgrade to the new software. Those who refuse to upgrade to the latest software may end up forming a rival cryptocurrency something that is common in the space.  However, it is highly unlikely that there will be dissent given that it is a small system upgrade.

A total of 12 cryptocurrency exchanges, mining pools as well as startups have echoed their support for the upcoming upgrade that will affect $800 million worth of Zcash.

Overwinter is a low impact hard fork that will prepare the network for a ‘Sapling’ upgrade in October. The upcoming upgrade is designed to protect the network and position it to be in a position to handle system wide upgrades in future.

Some of the changes that users should expect include a new form of expiry that cancels payments if they are not processed after a certain period. Overwinter will also do away with the hashing bug that has been found to make certain transactions heavier.  The software update will also help improve performance for transparent transactions involving many inputs.

However, there are also inherent risks with the upgrade. The addition of a string a features all designed to protect users from any harm could cause problems, should a chain split occur during overwintering.

“The Overwinter network upgrade is specifically intended to make future network upgrades safer, so by definition, there is more risk during its rollout than for future network upgrades since some of the features it introduces can't be leveraged for itself,” said Zcash engineer Jack Grigg.

A safe mode mechanism is to be relayed across all nodes running on pre-Overwinter software that people can use to minimize some of the risks associated with the upgrade. The feature will shield users from losing money, once the new software comes into being, on transacting using the old versions of the software.  Zcash code also comes with a feature dubbed auto-senescence or ‘EOS Halt’ that disables older software iterations

The October upgrade is of great importance as it will eliminate the weight of the protocol transaction types, which will allow the blockchain to scale to more users.