At block height 478558 the bitcoin blockchain network hard forked into 2 networks. Bitcoin, and bitcoin cash. The hard fork occurred because some miners wanted a change in the bitcoin software to make the network faster. (This is not the only reason). Enabling an increased volume of bitcoin transactions per block. (Increased bitcoin transactions per second.)
During peak demands on the bitcoin network when many thousands of transactions are being requested there is a delay of sometimes a few hours. One way to speed up your transaction is to increase the fee that you elect to pay the miner for processing your transaction, so taking priority over other transaction requests. Miners are rewarded with fees paid in transactions to enable them to keep mining, and update the blockchain. Many believe that the bitcoin network should be fast, decentralised, secure, and cheap! So increasing your payment to speed up the transaction just does not make sense. So ammending the bitcoin software became the next step.
The block size is measured in megabytes. When the block is full, no more transactions can be processed in that time frame by the miners, so they must wait in a queue untill a block is free. This creates a delay in the time it takes to process your transaction.
Block Size Limit
Bitcoin has a block size limit of 1Mb. While bitcoin cash has a default block size of 8Mb that is adjustable. So there is a sizeable difference in the volume of transactions that can be carried in 1 block. In summary, because bitcoin cash block size is larger, and adjustable, it’s network is faster, it can complete transactions faster, and more cheaply than the bitcoin network can.
Some of the additional features that bitcoin cash offers are reply protection, improved wallet security, and elimination of quadratic hashing problem. A new difficulty adjustment algorithm (DAA) that protects against hash rate fluctuations allowing miners to change back to legacy bitcoin mining.
1 Bitcoin = 1 Bitcoin Cash
When the network hard forked every wallet that had bitcoin, was given the same amount in bitcoin cash for free! Some bitcoin exchanges credited your account with bitcoin cash, and others had to claim bitcoin cash manually. A snap shot was taken of all the bitcoin wallets on the Blockchain to verify this, and added to the beginning of the bitcoin cash block chain as a starting point.
Many people decided to attempt cashing in on this just by simply buying and holding bitcoin in order to receive the bitcoin cash automatically without buying bitcoin cash. And selling them when they became tradable on exchanges. At the time of writing bitcoin is priced at $11,450, and bitcoin cash at $1,242 per coin. A brand new market was created almost out of thin air with a market cap of $21 billion.
If you thought that this hard fork seemed a tad excessive, then you might be interested to learn that even more hard forks have been created. Bitcoin gold, now valued at $109, and bitcoin diamond at $5.46, and even more forks. Each of the forks picking what they like the most from bitcoin software and making it into their own.
Disclaimer: Bitcoin, and crypto currencies are highly volatile, and risky!