What is a mainnet for a blockchain?

A mainnet is the end product of a blockchain project. It is the main network of a blockchain on which real transactions take place and where cryptocurrencies have real economic value. There are many mainnets in the cryptocurrency industry: Ethereum, Avalanche, Polkadot, Solana, and so many more. But what exactly is a mainnet? Discovery of mainnets through the prism of that of the Ethereum blockchain.

What is a mainnet?

UN main networkabbreviation of “main network” and translatable into “main network” in French, is a term which designates the main and functional blockchain of an ecosystem. It is an environment where real transactions take place and where cryptocurrencies have real economic value.

A mainnet being a functional blockchain, it can be used to perform any transaction : exchange of cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFT) and other transfer of information. These transactions are verified and recorded in the blockchain.

It is usually a public networks accessible to possibility has an Internet connection. It is thus possible to read or create transactions on the public blockchain, but also to validate the executed transactions.

the consensus between network participants is responsible for the inclusion of transactions in the blockchain and network maintenanceand it differs according to the technical characteristics defined by the development team.

In the case of a Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain like Bitcoin, it’s about miners competing to solve mathematical calculations using their hardware.

In the case of a Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchain like Tezos, these are validators who stake a certain amount in the network’s native cryptocurrency in order to validate transactions.

Both of these blockchains, Bitcoin and Tezos, are open source and publicly verifiable. They execute real transactions that have real economic value on their respective mainnets: the Bitcoin mainnet, and the Tezos mainnet.

In the vast majority of blockchains, each of these transactions at a cost. Indeed, the individual at the origin of a transaction must pay fees, in order to economically encourage minors to validate it and to avoid spam on the network.

Therefore, a mainnet is the end product of a blockchain project, which is accessible for use. This can be updated by the development team if necessary, whether to correct bugs, flaws or to make a change to the protocol.

Thus, a project with a mainnet benefits from a create superior to a project that does not have one. Indeed, a mainnet indicates that the project is operational, it allows network participants to make transactions transparently and developers to successfully implement applications.

The mainnet also makes it possible to test the technical capabilities of a blockchain under real conditions since any individual can interact with the network. Without mainnet, a project is not a functional product: it is therefore less likely in the eyes of investors.

Before deploying a mainnet, the team behind a project sometimes launches fundraising in the form of private and/or public sales such as Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) in order to Financing development of the latter and to form a community. These raised funds are often used to develop the prototype of the blockchain network.

It is also possible that the mainnet is already deployed before a fundraiser, which also shows a certain seriousness on the part of the company by first proposing a final product before raising funds to improve it.

The mainnet of the Ethereum blockchain

Let’s take a concrete example to illustrate what a mainnet is. When we talk about the Ethereum mainnet, we are talking about the main and public blockchain of Ethereum. In November 2013, Vitalik Buterin imagined the project by developing the Ethereum blockchain white paper.

After defining the technical characteristics in 2014 in a yellowpaper, the project is financed via an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). The Ethereum mainnet is not yet deployed at this time, this ICO took place on the Bitcoin blockchain.

Finally, on July 30, 2015 after more than a year of development financed by this fundraiser, the team deployed the mainnet of the Ethereum network. The miners were thus able to start validating network transactions and the genesis block was mined.

The public was able to start using this blockchain, whose characteristics are well known: its native cryptocurrency, Ether is used for transactions, payment of transaction fees and for the use of smart contracts.

Since then, the Ethereum mainnet has seen many updates via hard forksincluding the DAO (2016), Byzantium (2017), Constantinople (2019), Istanbul (2019) and London (2021) forks.

These upgrades have improve the Ethereum mainnet by adjusting mining difficulty, block size, reforming network transaction fees (EIP-1559) or even adding features to smart contracts.

Blockchain projects having an ERC-20 tokenany of the Ethereum blockchain token standards, such as USD Coin (USDC), DAI, Wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) or even Uniswap (UNI), all use the Ethereum mainnet, and do not have their own blockchain.

The complement of the mainnet, the testnet

Every mainnet has its complement, the testnet. The latter is a environmental test on which developers can safely test the proper functioning of the network and detect possible problems or bugs, before integrating updates on the mainnet.

The Ethereum Ropsten Testnet is a good example. As part of the migration of the Ethereum blockchain from a Proof of Work consensus to a Proof of Stake consensuswhich presents a real technical challenge, this update is first deployed on Ropsten.

Thus, this testnet allows developers to observe how the migration takes place in a test environment and risk-free since there is no no real economic stakes. Thus, a battery of tests can be carried out to ensure the proper functioning of this migration on Ropsten before deployment on the Ethereum mainnet, under the name of The Merge.

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