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Mid Level Reading
25 May, 2024

Mainnet

[ Mayn-net ]

Mainnet is a fully developed and deployed blockchain protocol where transactions are broadcasted, verified, and recorded.

Michael Healy
Written by
Michael Healy
Michael Healy Michael Healy Expert Author
Michael, an entrepreneur, and co-founder of Unit, is a full-stack, mobile, and blockchain developer with extensive experience in the crypto and blockchain industry since 2010. A leading token builder, Unit powers the token economy using the Polkadot-powered Unit Network blockchain. Michael has built a diverse portfolio with multiple successful exits, including encrypted P2P video conferencing,...
Michael Gord
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Michael Gord
Michael Gord Michael Gord Expert
Michael, co-founder, and CEO of Global Digital Assets (GDA) Group, is a distinguished figure in the blockchain and Metaverse industries, with a focus on capital markets. As the former Managing Director of the XDB Foundation and CEO of MLG Blockchain, he has been involved in over $25 billion of digital asset financings. A pioneer in...
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Mainnet is the public version of a blockchain network, as opposed to a testnet, which is used for development purposes.

When you hear about the Bitcoin network or the Ethereum network, you’re hearing about the mainnets of these networks. In ideal conditions, these networks will never experience downtime and be able to accommodate the needs and workloads of their users.

Popular blockchain networks such as Bitcoin require regular maintenance and updates to stay secure and ensure proper functioning.

To facilitate these updates without disrupting the network, additional networks are used for development and testing—often called “testnets.”

While there can be many testnets, there can only be one main network. It serves as the public-facing (i.e., “production”) version of a blockchain network and is known as a “mainnet.”

What Is The Difference Between Mainnet and Testnet? 

Mainnet vs. testnet comparison
Mainnet vs. testnet comparison | Sources: immunebytes.com
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The main difference between a mainnet and a testnet is that while the former is for public use, the latter is for testing purposes only.

Think of testnets as a copy of the mainnet where blockchain network developers and operators can experiment with and test new features, bug fixes, and changes in a safe environment. 

Testnets have their own coins and tokens, that can be created at will using faucets — tools built to create tokens on-demand for testing purposes. Notably, these tokens are worthless and just like the testnet itself, are used only for testing purposes. 

“TestNet is a bitcoin network for development purposes, the bitcoin on this network is worth nothing. MainNet is the Bitcoin network everybody knows.” 

Dorier, N., & Strait, B., n.d.

Testnets aren’t used only to develop changes to the blockchain network. On blockchains that allow for smart contracts, such as Ethereum, testnets are essential for smart contract developers to create and test their code.

How Does Ethereum Mainnet Differ From Bitcoin Mainnet? 

Bitcoin and Ethereum are undoubtedly the two largest and most popular blockchain networks at the time of writing. They share many similarities and many more differences. 

Smart Contracts

Bitcoin was the first successful blockchain and is the one that ushered in the era of blockchain development we find ourselves in today. 

A few years after Bitcoin, Ethereum came along, expanding on the technology’s core capabilities by being the first blockchain to enable smart contracts.

These are standalone programs that can run on top of a blockchain network, mint their own cryptocurrencies, and communicate and transact on-chain using unique blockchain addresses, just like human users.

Consensus

Another difference is in the mechanism they use to achieve consensus about the blockchain’s state — known as a consensus mechanism

Since its genesis block (i.e., the first block), Bitcoin has been using the well-known Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus mechanism. This mechanism involves massive amounts of electrical power to drive complex computations in a race to “mine” the next block in the chain.

While incredibly resilient to attack and security faults, this approach comes with drawbacks, such as a large environmental footprint.

While initially using the same mechanism, Ethereum has since switched to another approach known as Proof-of-Stake (PoS), where security is achieved through staking ETH tokens (i.e., locking up tokens as a guarantee of fair participation, when validating blocks). This approach is also considered a lot more environmentally friendly due to the lack of energy-intensive mining. 

Currency

Bitcoin has a fixed maximum supply of 21 million coins, while Ethereum’s supply has no such artificial cap, making it “inflationary,” at least in theory. In practice, Ethereum constantly implements changes to its fee structure, changing its tokenomics from inflationary to deflationary and back based on network usage. 

Transaction Finality and Blocktimes

Bitcoin comes with a hefty 10-minute average block time. This is significantly longer than Ethereum which, under normal load, averages somewhere between 10 and 15 seconds.

Conclusion

Mainnets are meant to be stable, reliable, and publicly available. While some testnets are also available to everyone because blockchain technology is non-discriminatory and open to all, they are not meant for wide public use. Instead, they’re there to enable rapid and effective development while the public-facing version remains operational. 

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Michael Healy
Written by

Michael, an entrepreneur, and co-founder of Unit, is a full-stack, mobile, and blockchain developer with extensive experience in the crypto and blockchain industry since 2010. A leading token builder, Unit powers the token economy using the Polkadot-powered Unit Network blockchain.

Michael has built a diverse portfolio with multiple successful exits, including encrypted P2P video conferencing, a large UK student social network, and the Wikileaks Android app. He has experience working with top organizations like Wellington Partners, Founders Forum, Google, KPMG, and Saatchi & Saatchi.

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