I have been asked several times this year about forks. This is probably because we have seen several of them during 2017 on the bitcoin blockchain, I enumerate from memory: Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold, Segwit and others that are happening as I write these lines. You can get a more comprehensive list here [i] and here [ii]. What is exactly a fork, what do these forks mean, where do they come from, how come I get new coins out of nowhere? These are the type of questions that this article is trying to answer.
The consensus rules
One of the bitcoin characteristics that are more difficult for newcomers to get into terms with is the answer to “who creates new bitcoins”. You can talk about several computer programs running in parallel and that rush towards the resolution of a puzzle. The one that finds first the solution, gets rewarded with a specific number of bitcoins that get written into the blockchain. Then typically the following questions are “who decides which puzzle to solve?” or “who decides how many bitcoins does the winner get?” Well the answer to all these questions is that “These are the consensus rules today”.