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Testnets and mainnets: What are they and what’s the difference?

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The world of blockchain technologies and cryptocurrency is home to a lot of specialist terms, many of which are incomprehensible to crypto beginners. “Testnet” and “mainnet” are two of them, and we’ll explain what they are in this article.

What is a testnet?

A testnet is a test version of a network providing a prototype version of a blockchain that can be tested on without having to use real tokens or introduce risk to the functioning of the main blockchain. The project tokens do not yet have any real value at this stage.

Testnets allow developers to make sure there are no bugs or other issues, and if they identify any they can fix them before officially releasing the crypto project to market. This final product is known as the mainnet.

The test network continues to exist after the final version of the network has been launched. It is used to conduct various experiments and, since blockchains are updated on a regular basis, developers need a safe place where they can test their updates before migrating them to the mainnet.

What is a mainnet and how does it differ from the testnet?

The mainnet represents a crypto project’s core operating network. When developers announce a mainnet launch, this means the blockchain is ready to operate fully. Launch dates can usually be found on a project’s official website, in the roadmap section.

Key differences between mainnets and testnets:

  • A mainnet is an official, fully-fledged crypto project with a "live" blockchain. The testnet is the initial stage in the creation of the platform.
  • The mainnet is a complete product that’s ready to be used by the community, while the testnet is an alternative version of the network designed for testing.
  • The coins used on the mainnet have real value, while testnet tokens do not.
  • Crypto projects that are at the testnet stage still have a lot to prove to a community, unlike projects that have officially launched their main blockchain.

How to make money on a testnet

When it comes to earnings, there are two kinds of testnet.

  • Incentivized. In this case, users are rewarded for assisting with the testing of new crypto projects. Rewards can take the form of native tokens or the possibility of acquiring them even before the official project launch, early access to the beta version, etc.
  • Non-incentivized. Testnet participants are not guaranteed to be rewarded, but the most active testers will often receive bonuses of some kind.

You can make money by testing the technical side of a testnet or its interface.

Interface testing

This option doesn’t require any special equipment or knowledge. Testers are given the opportunity to test different features of the platform, find bugs, conduct transactions with test tokens or stake them. If you encounter difficulties or identify errors, all you need to do is describe the problem in detail.

For example, you may be asked to connect your wallet to the platform. Test tokens will be sent to the wallet and you’ll be required to carry out a transaction with them. You’ll be paid in real coins for this. There are no guarantees, but you can sometimes make good money by doing these kinds of simple actions. For example, at one point ParaSwap testers made $5,000 on test transactions, while Uniswap sent 4,000 tokens to testnet participants (worth $18,960 at the time of writing). Rewards do vary of course, and you may only receive $100, but that doesn’t seem too bad for carrying out basic actions.

Technical tests

Making money on technical tests is slightly more difficult. Some degree of relevant knowledge is required, as testers have to run one of the nodes on the blockchain. Simple instructions for setting up and launching nodes may not exist yet, and the technical requirements for hardware and connecting to the network may prove to be quite high.

You’ll need a computer, a virtual server and money to rent it out. It’s impossible to say for sure how long network tests need to run for – it could be anything from a month to a year.

How much can you make on this kind of testnet? That also varies. If you’re lucky, you could earn as much as Solana testers, who received 100 SOL per month. That’s currently worth $2,190.

Where to find testnets

Nodes.Guru — the largest testnet aggregator.

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If you’re a beginner, select a project with one spanner. These are the simplest ones and the least demanding when it comes to hardware.

DropsEarn

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It’s also worth monitoring upcoming crypto projects as well as existing ones, and participating in all the available projects that fit your criteria. You may only earn money on 10–20% of them, but you’ll also gain experience which will help you participate in more complex testnets and earn larger rewards in future.

Testnets are not always a quick or easy way to earn crypto, but the likelihood of earning a decent amount is fairly high.