Testnet vs. Mainnet

Last Modified:
March 1, 2024

When discussing blockchain applications and upgrades, you'll frequently encounter the terms "testnet" and "mainnet." Both are used to refer to blockchain networks, but what exactly do they mean, and how do they differ from one another?

What is a mainnet?

A mainnet, or main network, is a fully operational blockchain where real transactions are executed and verified. Actions made on the mainnet are permanent and can charge high transaction fees. For this reason, developers extensively test their projects on separate test networks to debug and optimize them before launching them on the mainnet.

Ethereum and Bitcoin are examples of mainnets.

What is a testnet?

A testnet, or test network, is a special blockchain for testing applications, smart contracts, and crypto projects in a simulated environment. It’s like a sandbox where developers can freely experiment with new features and prototypes without publishing the changes to the mainnet. Testnets are also used to troubleshoot bugs in applications. 

Unlike the mainnet, actions in a testnet are reversible and free of cost. Testnets use their own unique tokens which imitate the blockchain’s actual token but cannot be used on the mainnet or for trading purposes. Small amounts of these tokens can be gotten for free from certain websites called “faucets.”

Examples of testnets for Ethereum are Kovan and Sepolia.

Testnets make the process of creating and upgrading blockchain applications more convenient. They prevent the loss of real funds and assets due to human error and high transaction fees. Through them, developers can ensure that the apps they launch on the mainnet are secure, error-free, and optimized for their users.