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Testnet and Mainnet – What Role Do They Play?

You have probably heard about crypto coins talking about we are in testnet phase or we are going to launch our mainnet.

Testnet Launch TRON

But what are those? What is meant by testnet and mainnet? How importnant is it?

Let us have a deep look into it –

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Cryptocurrencies are fairly new to the internet scene. So there are a lot of terms people are not familiar with. There are terms like FOMO, FUD etc which defines the emotions and market trend of a cryptocurrency and its investors. Then there are technical terms like mainnet, testnet, the blockchain, faucet etc.

Recently a lot of people are asking me what is a testnet? And what on earth is mainnet too? Well, this is not a surprise to me. This is mainly fueled by the Tron testnet launch.

That is why in this post I am going to explain testnet and mainnet in detail. I will try my best to keep the concepts as non-technical as possible. So that there remain no “requirements” to learn from this post.

WHAT IS TESTNET?

Testnet, as the name suggests, is an alternative network for the developers for testing purposes. You can view a testnet as a demo network for experimenting. It’s kind of like the beta stage of a cryptocurrency network.

A testnet is an alternative blockchain of a cryptocurrency solely for developers. It allows developers to conduct experiments without wasting real currency.

Testnets are almost similar to the mainnets or main blockchain of a cryptocurrency. The working principle of both types of blockchains is similar. But there are a few key differences too.

Ledger Nano S - The multi-currency hardware wallet

A testnet is an alternative demo network. So cryptocurrencies on a testnet do not have any value on the mainnet and vice-versa.

  • You can easily test out your ideas on a testnet. Because it provides you a sandbox environment separate from the main blockchain. So you don’t need to worry about breaking the main blockchain.
  • As a testnet is an alternative blockchain to the main blockchain the coins on the testnet do not carry any value. So you do not need to spend real currencies to test your blockchain-based applications.
  • Setting up a testnet allows you to fully control the blockchain as your liking. It allows you to set up your own node.
  • Testnets are alternative blockchains for development purposes. So a testnet has very low difficulty and no competition for mining. That is why mining on a testnet is extremely easy. You will be able to create the coins you need on your testnet.
  • As testnets are separate blockchains the wallet addresses should generally be different than the mainnet ones. For Bitcoin, the testnet addresses either start with m or start with n. While this is the case for Bitcoin, it is not the case for Ethereum. For Ethereum there are no differences between testnet and mainnet addresses.

Recently Tron released their own testnet.

WHAT IS MAINNET?

Mainnet is the complete opposite of the testnet. Mainnet is the main blockchain of a cryptocurrency network. So when someone says Bitcoin mainnet, it means the real Bitcoin blockchain.

Unlike testnet which is an open network for testing purposes, mainnet is the real deal. For Bitcoin and all the other cryptocurrencies, coins on the mainnet have real economic value. Mainnet coins are the ones we invest in and trade regularly.

As mainnet coins have real economic value, it will be very expensive to test features and run tests on the mainnet. That is why we use testnet to run our tests with fake coins that have no value outside the testnet.

Developers also implement new features on the testnet before rolling them out on the mainnet. For obvious reasons of course! Testnet allows the developers to test the features, identify and eliminate the bugs if any.

Ledger Nano S - The multi-currency hardware wallet

In recent times it has become a trend for the cryptocurrencies to launch in testnet phase. This allows both developers and cryptocurrency enthusiasts to explore the cryptocurrency in great detail. When the developers feel confident about their work they launch it to the general public in form of mainnet.

ICX Mainnet

For example, recent cryptocurrencies like Icon ICX  and Tron TRX  followed this principle. Icon has already reached its mainnet phase and is trading successfully.

The Tron team launched its testnet on 31st March. Tron does not have its own blockchain right now. But developers and users alike can test out the features. It will allow them to experience Tron cryptocurrency in detail.

All the features of Tron mainnet are already available on the testnet. Right now it is a matter of stress testing. The mainnet is expected to be launched on May 31st. The developer team will start the migration from ERC-20 token on April 15th.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TESTNET AND MAINNET?

So, right now I believe you have a clear idea of what is testnet and what is mainnet. But to make it, even more, easier for you, let’s compare them. Let us talk about the differences between testnet and mainnet.

  • Mainnet is the “real” cryptocurrency network. Whereas testnet is an alternative dummy network for testing purposes.
  • The cryptocurrency coins on testnet do not have any monetary value. But on the other hand, coins on the mainnet have monetary values attached to them. These are the ones we invest in, these are the ones we mine and these are the ones we trade.
  • For obvious reasons, mainnet and testnet coins are not compatible with each other. So you cannot bring mainnet coins to testnet. Likewise, you cannot send testnet coins to mainnet.
  • Testnet allows you to run your own node on the test blockchain. This reduces mining difficulty and makes it easier to mine the coins. Whereas, on mainnet, the mining is far more difficult. Because there are a lot of miners and the competition is extremely high.
  • Mainnet is more strict about implementing rules as it deals with coins that have real economic value. But testnet provides you more flexibility to work with. For example, the Bitcoin testnet does not have the IsStandard() check. This permits you to test out non-standard transactions.
  •  The genesis block for the mainnet of a cryptocurrency is different than the genesis block of the testnet. Because although they both work on the same protocol, they are two different blockchains. They are not identical at all!
  • Without any doubt, fewer transactions happen on testnet than on mainnet. So the size of testnet is smaller than mainnet.

FINAL WORDS

So this brings us to the end of another blockchain related article. Testnet and mainnet are terms that are used very frequently on the blockchain space. So I hope that this post helped you to learn about testnet and mainnet in detail. Please let me know your views in the comment section below.

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Indrasish Banerjee

Hello, I'm Indrasish Banerjee. A budding software developer, a musician by hobby and a cryptocurrency enthusiast by choice. I love everything remotely related to the blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. I know that these are the future of the world economy. I'm a regular writer here on Coinsuggest. Please follow my works to keep yourself up to date with new technologies in the cryptocurrency space. Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mutantthumb

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