Test, test, test, testnets
This meant primarily to give an overview on what testnets are and how they fit in to the grander scheme of things. Enjoy!
The real world implications of ‘why’ a testnet
There are many human coordination problems that Web3 hopes to solve. For example, four billion of our cousins in the world don’t have financial services of any kind at all, and data harvesting has proven to have so many adverse effects. What does that have to do with a testnet, you might ask.
Bitcoin, was made possible by decades of research and testing, proving that a decentralised, censorship-resistant money system can work. Fast forward a few years, and smart contract and their auxiliary networks are adding so much more innovation to benefit human coordination, but with each new complexity, the need for extra diligence increases. There are a few too many cases of hurried development, that have had quite drastic outcomes. Our response? The mantra of “test, test, test”. Later in D_D Academy, we will deep dive in coding with Test Driven Development, but let’s first address actual test networks.
So what makes one different to a live network for me as a smart contract developer?
As it suggests, a testnet is a safe space blockchain network where developers can run, re-run and compare results for their applications, making sure they are bug free and stable for use in production on live networks. So we can think of a testnet as a sandbox environment, where we can feel comfortable to play around and get things right. And new developers can quickly start to build confidence alongside their seasoned colleagues, who dedicate a great portion of their time on them with an extremely strong focus on secure code.
Faucets and how do I get started?
Most of the actions on a live blockchain incurs a transaction fee, but tokens on a testnet used for transactions have no financial value. We can request small amounts of them to be transferred from a website hosted faucet through the use of our wallet. e.g. Goerli Faucet. Despite having no financial value, some faucets do occasionally get drained. You might be asked to broadcast your request with your wallet address on a social media platform, to be in some way accountable. So, there’s a small chance that you need to shop around to find one with a balance.
Other vital uses of testnets
Not only do we use them for testing our applications, but they are vital for testing the architectural facets of whole blockchains, such as the viability of scaling and security, new client software for validator nodes, etc. If it wasn’t for testnets, we would never have known if The Merge of Ethereum was possible.
The bottom line
If we want to ensure global adoption of web3, every single one of us has the responsibility of making it secure. A testnet is the gateway to our collective success. Let’s BUIDL safely for our seven billion friends.