A mainnet is a distributed, operational digital network that officially serves as the primary infrastructure for a particular cryptocurrency. Launching a mainnet is a critical milestone for any blockchain project, because it signifies the project is ready for public use and real-world transactions.
How Mainnets Work
Blockchain project code is initially launched in a staging environment called a testnet. The sandboxed environment allows project developers to test new code and fine-tune the logic for updates and project forks without affecting the live mainnet. Once the code goes through quality assurance (QA) in the staging environment, it is migrated to the mainnet production environment and made available for public use.
When a user initiates a transaction on the network, it is broadcast to the nodes on the network. Miners then compete to add the transaction to the next block in the blockchain by solving complex mathematical puzzles. The first miner to solve the puzzle and add the transaction to the blockchain is rewarded with a set amount of cryptocurrency. This is what incentivizes miners to participate in the process.
Mainnets (main networks) are comprised of distributed computing nodes that connect to form a peer-to-peer (P2P) network for a specific cryptocurrency.
Mainnet components include network nodes, a cryptocurrency that provides economic incentives for users to support the network, a consensus mechanism that allows nodes to verify and validate transactions and storage blocks that are linked together to form a chain – hence the name blockchain.
Mainnet Nodes: Nodes are the individual computers or servers that form a crypto mainnet. Crypto mainnets depend on the active participation of network nodes that are incentivized by financial rewards to verify, process, validate, and record user transactions.
Nodes can be categorized in two ways:
- Full nodes store the entire history of the blockchain. Each full node in the network maintains a copy of the network’s distributed ledger to ensure that information stored in the blockchain ledger is always accessible, even if more than one node fails. Full nodes can independently validate transactions and are resource-intensive.
- Light nodes (lite nodes) store a subset of the blockchain data. Light nodes help improve the network’s scalability by allowing more users to interact with the blockchain, even if they lack the computing resources to run a full node.
Most mainnets are designed to accommodate both full nodes and light nodes to optimize network performance and strike a balance between the need for decentralization, security and scalability. Some mainnets like Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain, however, benefit from having a higher number of full nodes in order to support smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps).
Cryptocurrency: Most mainnets have their own native cryptocurrency to support transactions and reward the miners, validators, and stakers who contribute their resources and computational power to maintain the network, validate transactions, and keep the mainnet secure.
Consensus Mechanism: A consensus mechanism is a set of rules that govern how transactions are validated and recorded on a blockchain. The most common consensus mechanisms are Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof of Stake (PoS). Consensus mechanisms ensure that only valid transactions are added to the mainnet’s blockchain.
Blocks: A block is a data storage unit. Each block in a mainnet stores a collection of transactions, a timestamp, and a cryptographic hash that references the previous block in the chain. The linked blocks create a secure, chronological, and tamper-resistant record of all transactions that have taken place on the network.
Role of Miners in a Crypto Mainnet
Miners play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity and security of a crypto mainnet. Miners are computer nodes on the network that use their computational power to verify and validate transactions on the blockchain. Some cryptocurrencies only allow full nodes to participate in mining, while others allow light node mining.
In addition to adding new blocks to the blockchain, miners also verify the validity of previous blocks each time a new block is added to the chain. This process is important because it ensures that the blockchain is secure and that transactions recorded on the blockchain are immutable.
Crypto miners have been blamed for contributing to global warming because it takes a significant amount of energy to power mining operations. Concerns about the environmental impact of crypto mining have led to calls for more energy-efficient mining rigs and the use of renewable energy sources.
Examples of Successful Crypto Mainnet Launches
Here are some examples of crypto mainnet launches that have made a significant impact on the blockchain ecosystem.
In 2009, the launch of the Bitcoin mainnet marked the beginning of the blockchain era and introduced the world to decentralized digital currencies and the underlying technology that powers them. The Bitcoin network, which uses the Proof of Work consensus mechanism, has been running smoothly since its inception and arguably serves as the backbone for the entire cryptocurrency ecosystem.
In 2015, the launch of the Ethereum mainnet paved the way for numerous innovative blockchain projects and fostered innovation for dApp and smart contract use. Since that time, Ethereum’s mainnet has undergone several upgrades and at least two forks, including the Byzantium and Constantinople hard forks. The next Ethereum mainnet (Etherium 2.0) is currently a testnet that replaces Ethereum’s PoW consensus mechanism with Proof of Stake (PoS).
In September 2020, Binance, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges globally, launched Binance Smart Chain (BSC), a parallel blockchain to Binance Chain that supports smart contracts and dApps. The BSC mainnet launch aimed to provide a more efficient and scalable platform for decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, with faster transaction times and lower fees compared to Ethereum. BSC has been successful in attracting numerous DeFi projects, solidifying its position as a prominent mainnet in the DeFi ecosystem.
The Solana mainnet, also launched in 2020, aims to deliver fast transaction speeds and high throughput by leveraging a novel consensus mechanism called Proof of History (PoH). Since its mainnet launch, Solana has attracted various DeFi projects and NFT platforms, making it one of the fastest-growing blockchain networks in the industry.