Bitcoin gold was a hard fork of the original open source cryptocurrency which took place on October 24, 2017. While hard forks take place for a number of reasons – including for the purposes of scaling as a cryptocurrency customer base grows, or because of developer conflict and differences of goals – bitcoin gold’s stated purpose has been to “make bitcoin decentralized again.”
On the surface, the idea of “making bitcoin decentralized again” may seem counterintuitive. Bitcoin, like all other cryptocurrencies, is designed to be decentralized already; it is not linked with any central bank, particularly country, or government body.
One of the major issues with bitcoin which prompted the development of bitcoin gold, however, was not related to the question of central issuance at all. Rather, it had to do with the mining process. Bitcoin gold developers believed that by adopting a new algorithm for the mining process (in this case, a so-called proof-of-work algorithm called Equihash), the new branch of the world’s most popular cryptocurrency by market cap would not disproportionally favor major mining operations.Bitcoin mining is a lucrative but resource-intensive process. The most profitable mining ventures are often those which pool together a large number of mining rigs, each of which requires expensive, special equipment. (See more: How Does Bitcoin Mining Work?)
Individuals attempting to mine for bitcoin on their own either have to invest a huge amount of money and time into creating their own rigs, or they get passed by in the process, as their computers are unable to compete with the professional rig systems.
One of the primary goals of bitcoin gold has been to change the algorithm by which the cryptocurrency itself is mined, meaning that the mining process cannot be run faster on specialized equipment than it can on standard computer systems.
Bitcoin gold was not the first major hard fork of bitcoin. Bitcoin cash forked off from the primary cryptocurrency in August of 2017.
In 2018, bitcoin is anticipating several additional hard forks, prompting some to speculate that there may be diminishing returns in terms of investor interest as more offshoots of bitcoin reach the market. (See more: Bitcoin vs. Bitcoin Cash: What’s the Difference?)