It is fairly easy for someone from a software background to decipher these terms thrown around in the cryptoverse. However, for someone who is just exploring or seeking investment opportunities, terms like this could become a blocker. Especially when they are found in almost every whitepaper you go through. So today, I will take you through what is mainnet.

The funny part is that even my dictionary doesn’t recognize this term and marks it as a spelling error. So you are not alone. Also, the mainnet is so relevant that you must have seen some Blockchain companies celebrating its launch. And rightly so. But what is it about? What does it do? How is it different from the testnet? Well, you are about to find out. Read on!

What Is a Mainnet in Cryptocurrency?

Mainnet is the conjugation of two words. ‘Main’ and ‘Network’. Mainnet refers to the actual network of a Blockchain where a sender transfers the actual value to a receiver in the form of tokens. This is different from a testnet which is mainly used by developers to test out their decentralized applications.

For example, Ethereum Network‘s mainnet is called ‘Mainnet’. However, there are multiple testnets in the Ethereum ecosystem, namely Rinkeby, Goerli, Sepolia, etc. To give a further context, before the transition of Ethereum from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake, a.k.a the ‘Merge’, it was tested on the testnets mentioned above.

Furthermore, a mainnet can be updated regularly through proper planning and community alignment. A crypto-based wallet must also accompany this launch.

This was from a technology standpoint. From an ideological lens, the launch of the mainnet is a testimony to the seriousness of the project. If you are looking to invest in a project, you must ensure that it has a mainnet. Think of the mainnet as the final step in the development cycle of a product. If you had any tokens before the launch of the mainnet, they would have to be moved to the mainnet to add any sort of value to them.

How Does a Mainnet Work?

Generally, all Blockchains come up with their testnet first. These testnets lead to the development of the mainnet. Once all the scenarios are tested, the transition from testnet to mainnet begins. Although there can be multiple models which could be at play during this transition, here’s one widely followed model for proof-of-stake blockchains (the most popular consensus mechanism).

To run the mainnet node, you need to stake a certain amount of cryptocurrency. You would do that in a bid to earn more cryptocurrency on top of it as a reward. However, in the initial days of the project, this currency is worthless. So, they invite volunteers to set up a node on their testnet in return for a free (or discounted) entry to a node in the mainnet.

Once they have a significant mass and development is completed, they transition to mainnet with multiple nodes.

Post that, transactions can start on the mainnet as they already have the validators in place.

Most projects also start working on the community way before the mainnet launch. This helps them gain significant traction during the launch period.

Characteristics of a Mainnet

The next obvious question in the series is if the mainnets are so important and valuable, what do they bring to the table? What are the specific features of a mainnet that a testnet couldn’t offer? Let’s find out:

1. Real-world value

This is one network where every transaction you do has an economic impact attached to it. In other words, these transactions are going to have some weight on the value of the native cryptocurrency in the market. Every mainnet transaction is backed by a fee called the ‘gas fee‘. This is required to protect the interests of a network (else anyone could do transactions that could harm the system).

For example, the Bitcoin ecosystem has three Blockchains: Bitcoin (where actual BTC is stored), Testnet, and Signet. However, only the Bitcoin on the mainnet has any form of value.

PS: I am a billionaire on Signet. But it doesn’t really matter.

2. Mining or validation

Yet again, all the mining and validation happens for the mainnet because of two reasons:

  • Miners receive rewards with real-world value on the mainnet only.
  • All important transactions happen on the mainnet.

Apart from that, the number of miners also matters on the mainnet because this is where you want decentralization in the real sense. For testnet, it is okay if only the internal team has set up nodes or mining.

3. History

Whenever someone talks about the genesis block (the first ever Block in any Blockchain), they are referring to the mainnet only. In other words, the mainnet initiates the history of all the transactions on the network.

If someone says that Bitcoin’s genesis block or block zero was minted on the 3rd of January 2009, they are referring to the mainnet alone.

4. Technological evolution

Ever forged a signature? Please don’t. Nonetheless, you take a rough piece of paper, keep on trying until you achieve a level of perfection, and then finally, you have one shot of doing it right on the actual document.

Think of mainnet as that main document. All technology is tried and tested on mainnets heavily. It is even abused and tested under load to check its resilience. Then only, it is moved to mainnet.

So it is safe to assume that the mainnet is the filtered product of all the developer activity. It is the most advanced form of work that has been done by a Blockchain team.

5. Unique identifier

The mainnet is differentiated from the testnet in the form of an ID and a set of rules. For example, in Bitcoin, the mainnet network only allows the operation of addresses 1, 3, and bc1, while in the testnet, addresses 2 and tb1 are used.

6. Trust and credibility

It’s very easy to create a brand but very difficult to build one. The mainnet is the first step in the brand-building exercise. By the time you are on testnet, you have just expressed an intention of getting into Blockchain tech. But the mainnet is where the juice lies.

Secondly, once the mainnet is launched, project developers make the code open source for anyone to discover bugs that may help in the improvement of the network. This leads to added credibility.

The Importance of a Mainnet

We just discussed how mainnet is extremely important for a project to instill that trust in the community.

In fact, the mainnet becomes even more relevant when you are dealing with real-world use cases. For example, Ethereum is touted to be the digital oil. This is because its native crypto, Ether, powers the transactions on the network and all the dApps built on it.

Now you could do all these transactions on Rinkeby or Goerli (Testnets of the Ethereum network), but they won’t have that value because it is the mainnet that is customer-facing. It is the mainnet that the community relates to.

To prove this further, during the recent Merge event, Ethereum moved from PoW to PoS. During this period, the older chain that runs Proof-of-Work (PoW) still existed with ETHW as its native token. Even if ETHW was the original ETH, its value is ~$6 as we write this. Compare this with ETH (newer version) at $1400 as of November 8, 2022.

This is the power of mainnets. Since the entire community is using the mainnet and hence the $ETH, the value of the network is going up due to the supply constraints of $ETH.

Difference Between a Mainnet and Testnet

To help you further understand the key differences between a testnet and a mainnet, I have created this table that compares these two across different parameters.

ParameterTestnetMainnet
PurposeThe entire purpose of a testnet is to test out different functionalities before releasing it on the mainnet. Testnet is the sandbox environment before you go to the production (live environment).Mainnet is meant for the actual Blockchain transactions that impact the real world. For example, if a Blockchain is tracking and mimicking the price of USD, only the tokens on this blockchain will be equivalent to $1.
Cost of OperationsWe discussed how a transaction fee is required to conduct Blockchain transactions. If you were to pay this fee during the testing, you would go bankrupt even before the launch. Therefore, testnets are cheaper versions of mainnets where tokens have no real value. Think of them as dummy tokens.Mainnets are expensive. Expensive enough to at least not let you test your product on it. This forces the developers to come up with products that are top-notch.
Network IDTo further differentiate testnet and mainnet, the IDs for them are kept separate. For example, Ethereum testnets have network IDs of 3, 4, and 42 for Ropsten, Rinkeby, and Kovan, respectively.Ethereum mainnet has network ID 1.
Genesis BlockGenesis Block for the testnet is independent of the mainnet. It does not carry any historical significance.The mainnet genesis block is where it all starts. If anyone wishes to go through the entire history of a blockchain, this is where they would start.
NodesTestnet has lesser nodes, as it doesn’t really matter here.Mainnets have more nodes to ensure proper decentralization and security in the Blockchain.
TransactionsSince this is solely used for testing, the number of transactions is less.The number of transactions is higher for the mainnet as it is being used by the users.

Conclusion

While this gives you enough clarity on what mainnet is and its relationship with testnet, I think the real value of this conversation is in how to use this information while investing. So first of all, avoid investing in projects that don’t have a mainnet launched. Secondly, try to evaluate the number of dApps that are willing to build on Mainnet. The more, the merrier. And finally, find out if the project is stuck too long at one phase of the development. This is generally a red flag. you could get this information from the whitepaper, which generally has a detailed roadmap.

Until then, there is a way to slash down your GTM (Go-To-Market) for starting your investing journey. Instead of nitpicking individual crypto and evaluating their mainnet, rather invest in tried and tested projects handpicked by the experts. Coin Sets provides you with baskets of cryptocurrencies that allow you to invest based on different themes like Blue-Chip, gaming, NFTs, etc.

FAQs

1. What does Pi Mainnet mean?

Pi is a Blockchain network developed by Stanford PhDs. The USP of the network is that it allows you to mine its native crypto, called Pi, on your phone through an application. However, the project has been in the testnet phase for years now. Although they did launch a mainnet on December 28th, 2021, it is still open for limited internal users only. The miners of Pi will be able to move their tokens to the mainnet after a KYC process that is still under development.

Pi mainnet is where your Pi would have a market value, and also, the transactions will happen on it.

2. Is Mainnet an Ethereum?

Every Blockchain out there has a mainnet. Just like everyone else, Ethereum also has a mainnet. People commonly call it Ethereum, but the official name of this mainnet is ‘Mainnet’. Ether is the native currency of the ‘Mainnet’.

3. How do you transfer Pi to Mainnet?

On your Pi Application, there is a new tab called ‘Mainnet info’. This tab would take you to the mainnet checklist, where you can complete all the prerequisites to transfer your Pi. These prerequisites include

  1. Downloading Pi Browser App
  2. Creating a Pi Wallet
  3. Confirming your Pi Wallet
  4. Commit to lockup configuration- To prevent the dump of Pi during the launch, the Pi team is offering a staking service to all its users. You can choose to get your Pi locked for a certain period and earn interest on top of it.
  5. Submitting KYC application (Coming soon)
  6. Migrating to mainnet. 

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