What is mainnet and testnet?

What is mainnet and testnet?

Author: Robert Strickland


What is mainnet and testnet?
Cryptocurrencies, like any other technical or software development, require testing and validation. But experimenting on a real blockchain, where real tokens with value are already walking around, is unwarranted from a security perspective. Any flaws could result in hacking, theft of funds, etc. In this article we will understand what mainnet and testnet are and how they are involved in product development.


Let's imagine that you have decided to launch your own cryptocurrency through an ICO. To do this, you work out the software code, work on the architecture of the product, invest in advertising, etc. But any investor wants to invest in something they can at least try. Then you take it and launch your platform in test mode. There are tokens there, but they don't circulate on the main blockchain and have no value, the platform itself has a near-final state, look, etc.

This running "draft" is what is called a testnet network. If we define it more clearly, a testnet is an alternative blockchain that mimics the real functionality of the platform but has no real value. Often developers use testnet for ICOs or for personal testing of the network.

For example, bitcoin has 3 generations of testnet:

It is considered the first zeroing of a testnet network with a different genesis block. The reason for this phenomenon is that users started selling test coins for real money.
The current version of testnet, which was released at the same time as version 0.7. It introduced a new genesis block and a rule that limited the growth of network complexity to make transactions more accessible, and consequently make it easier to test new features and solutions.
A separate testnet branch was introduced specifically for testing Segregated Witness.
Notably, the testnet network develops its own wallets, explorers to track the state of the blockchain, and even cranes.


If testnet is considered a draft of a blockchain, the mainnet network is cleaner. It is launched only after full testing of the product and elimination of all identified defects. The mainnet already has real coins with a certain value, miners who mine the cryptocurrency, real transactions, etc.

Mainnet and testnet can exist in parallel. This is done so that developers can test new features and add-ons without forks or failures in the mainnet. The mainnet will be updated only after the final test of the idea's functionality and effectiveness.


Some of the main tasks assigned to mainnet and testnet are:

The presence of mainnet and testnet allows you to increase user loyalty to the new project, which is often used as part of a marketing strategy to attract investors.
Using mainnet and testnet in combination allows you to test new solutions for performance without risking the functioning platform.
Testnet networks are often used by newcomers to the crypto industry to explore a new industry with no real financial risk.
Thus, mainnet and testnet play an important role in cryptocurrencies and any blockchain platforms.

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