Ethereum Classic is the 3rd release of the Ethereum software and the first release that was called ‘production ready’ by the Ethereum founders and developers.
Then the Ethereum foundation recommended a new software update or hard fork with the single purpose of refunding investors in the DAO investment vehicle , which had its software exploited or hacked by an attacker.
This caused outrage in some parts of the crypto currency community as one of the key selling points for the DAO were that the code was essentially the terms and conditions and when the code did not function as expected they effectively decided to change the terms of conditions by implementing and recommending an extreme software update or hard fork. This update was just to add code to the Ethereum software so DAO investors could claim a refund. Thus denying the code exploiter or hacker / attacker the funds he had acquired by exploiting the code. (Funds meaning DAO tokens , which are transferable to the currency ETH underpinning the Ethereum software)
This created demand for some to not want to upgrade to the new Ethereum DAO refund software and meant Ethereum Classic was born . It was felt this software upgrade was going against the very founding principles of the whole Ethereum network itself. The Ethereum foundation promoted it’s platform as immutable and devoid of censorship but when faced with an issue with this they felt the need to renege on these promises in order to ensure their friends and investors got their money back. This is not what Ethereum was meant to be about and angered many. However the lead Ethereum developers ignoreed most of this feedback and did their best to convince miners to upgrade their software to the new DAO Hack refund software and all assumed would be ok and smooth.
People generally assumed that the miners controlled the network and essentially decided on whether software upgrades were successful or not. This proved not to be the case as an exchange providing an outlet for traders and speculators to express their views in the markets has proven to be an equally powerful force, and in some ways shows that miners just follow the money. So if the community can create demand and value for a coin and an exchange can provide the venue for a previous software release to trade on then it can survive and flourish. Miners will then just follow the coin which yields the most value.
This notion sets new precdents in the crypto currency world as it will become a lot harder for coins with large market capitilsations to do a hard fork without being very sure it is what the majority of users, and speculators agree with and wants. This also sets the prededent that if you hold the crypto currency at the time of the hard fork you ewill ssentially then hold two coins of differing and potentially wildly fluctuating values.
What this means is that if the majority actually reject the hard fork and the original software and chain becomes more vaulable, it can create a situation of big winners and big losers or the passive investor will essentiall still hold similar value , (assuming both ‘new’ coins retain most of its value after the contrversial hard fork). This is because holders of both coins can essentially vote by selling their new coins for those on the original chain and if enough people do so they can kill the new chain and double their money. This appears to be the trend with Ethereum Classic as the increase in price and convergence with ETH can reach a tipping point where the values of it and Ethereum Hard fork reverese.
Ethereum Classic has some notable high profile Cyrypto personailties publicly backing it on twitter. Now also many Ethereum Develpors, no longer with the Ethereum Fundation, have come out and announced they are also willing to support Ethereum Classic. This is becuase it seems they disagreed with the hard fork and what it represented for such a popular crypto currency.
At this stage it is not clear what exactly will happen to Ethereum Classic but with this large public support and the wind behind its sails it is not going away any time soon.