Mainnets vs. Testnet – What are they?

You must have read about headlines like “This cryptocurrency is going to start with their testnet phase” so on and so forth.

So, what are they? What’s a testnet and a mainnet? What is the difference between the two? How are they important to blockchains?

If you have all these questions then we have got all the answers for you. Let’s have a look…

Though crypto has been around for some time now, it’s still relatively new to A LOT of people. So, often you come across terms that you have no idea about and even when you do go looking for answers, people talk in an EVEN MORE confusing manner.

So, how would you describe what mainnets and testnets are to an ordinary person?

Let us start off with testnets first. Testnet is an alternative network for the developers for testing purposes. It is like a prototype of the cryptocurrency network. But, this is solely for developers use. It allows them to conduct experiments without wasting real currency.

Since blockchain is a decentralized platform that keeps updating along the way, developers need a place where they could test things out before they bring it on the actual blockchain.

Here are some key features to remember when you have to describe what testnets are to other people.

  • It’s a place for testing out ideas. It gives you a ‘safe space’ to experiment without breaking the main blockchain.
  • Since it isn’t directly linked to the main blockchain, this means that it has no value. This means you don’t have to spend real money to test out your blockchain-based applications.
  • It gives you full control of the blockchain as your liking.
  • Since testnets are an alternative to blockchains, a testnet has low difficulty and no competition for mining.
  • They have different wallet addresses but that’s not true for every cryptocurrency. For e.g. Bitcoin has different addresses whereas Ethereum has kept the same.

Now on to the mainnet. They are the complete opposite of the testnet. As the name suggests, it is the main blockchain of a cryptocurrency network. Mainnet is the real deal, unlike a testnet which is an open network for testing purposes. Thus, the coins on the main have real value and we invest and trade in them regularly.

In much simpler words, it’s the blockchain that carries out the functionality of transferring digital currency from senders to recipients. It’s the actual end product.

So, what makes them different?

  • Mainnet is the real cryptocurrency network whereas testnet is the alternative dummy for it.
  • The cryptocurrency coins on the testnet do not have any monetary value but the coins on the mainnet do. They are the ones we invest in and all the trading takes place here.
  • One important thing to remember is that, though they are of the same cryptocurrency they aren’t compatible. You cannot one day decide to bring your mainnet coins on to the testnet and the other way around.
  • Mainnets have stricter rules as you are dealing with coins that have real economic value but testnets are more flexible.
  • The originating or the ‘genesis’ block of both are different. They both work on the same protocol but on two different blockchains.
  • A testnet is smaller in size as compared to a mainnet because fewer transactions happen on the testnet.
  • A testnet cannot have smart contracts or dApps running on it. That’s only possible on the mainnet.

It can get confusing at times because quite a few things are similar but they are not identical. If things get confusing for you, you can always bookmark this article to make your life a lot easier.

Soha Ali

As vanilla as it sounds, a filmmaker in the making. Soha brings the irony out of the crypto world by contributing to the Unfiltered section of BlockPublisher. Contact the editor at editor.unfiltered@blockpublisher.com

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