What is a core network 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 sector: Ethereum, Avalanche, Polkadot, Solana and many others. But what exactly is a mainnet? Discovery of mainnets through the prism of that of the Ethereum blockchain.

What is a core network?

A main networkabbreviation of “main network” and translatable into “main network” in French, is a term that 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 is a functional blockchain, it can be used to perform any transaction : exchange of cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFT) and other information transfers. These transactions are verified and registered in the blockchain.

It is usually a public network accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. It is thus possible to read or create transactions on the public blockchain, but also to validate the transactions performed.

the consent among the network participants is responsible the inclusion of transactions in the blockchain and the maintenance of the networkand differs according to the technical characteristics defined by the development team.

In the case of a Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain like Bitcoin, these are miners competing to solve math calculations using their hardware.

In the case of a Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchain like Tezos, these are validators that point a certain amount into the network’s native cryptocurrency 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 has a cost. In fact, the subject at the origin of a transaction must pay commissions, in order to economically encourage minors to validate it and avoid spam on the net.

Therefore, a main network is the final product of a blockchain project, which is accessible for use. This can be updated by the development team if needed, either to fix bugs, flaws or to make protocol changes.

Therefore, a project with a mainnet benefits from a superior credibility to a project that doesn’t have one. In effect, a core network means that the project is operational, it allows network participants to transact transparently and developers to deploy applications on it.

The core network also allows you to test the technical capabilities of a blockchain in real conditions since any individual can interact with the network. Without a mainnet, a project has no functional product: it is therefore less credible in the eyes of investors.

Before implementing a core network, the team behind a project sometimes launches a fundraiser in the form of private and / or public sales such as the Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) in order to financial 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 some seriousness on the part of the company by first proposing a final product before raising money to improve it.

Ethereum’s main blockchain network

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

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

Finally, on July 30, 2015, after more than a year of development funded by this fundraiser, the team distributed the core network of the Ethereum network. The miners were thus able to begin validating network transactions and the the genesis block was extracted.

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

Since then, Ethereum’s core network has seen many updates via hard forkincluding DAO (2016), Byzantium (2017), Constantinople (2019), Istanbul (2019) and London (2021).

These updates have improved the Ethereum mainnet adjusting mining difficulty, block size, reforming network transaction fees (EIP-1559) or even adding functionality to smart contracts.

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

The complement of the mainnet, the testnet

Each mainnet has its complement, the testnet. The latter is a test environment on which developers can safely test the correct 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 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 being rolled out for the first time on Ropsten.

Therefore, this testnet allows developers observe how migration occurs in a test and risk-free environment as it does not exist no real economic stakes. Therefore, a series of tests can be performed to ensure the proper functioning of this migration on Ropsten before implementation on the main Ethereum network, under the name of The Merge.

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