If you’re a digital entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard of the blockchain — but just in case, it’s a digital ledger that’s used to record times and transactions publicly. Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ether transactions all run on a blockchain, where the times and info are recorded, and the transactional info is available to the public. You can’t undo these transactions and you make them using a series of private and public keys (share). Developers also build smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, among others.
Now that we have the power to use technology for trust, instead of third parties — we can see when transactions were made, by a trusted source and integrate this information. Smart contracts take this one step further by automating transactions, because now we don’t need banks and other third-parties to approve things, we have secure, trustless technology to do that.
A great example, we often reference, is Fizzy.axa — which is an insurance company that automatically pays out for delayed flights after users have “signed” a smart contract. The information is reliably available and the process doesn’t require anyone to submit or accept a claim — it’s done automatically.
This burgeoning technology means exciting things for business owners and one great leap into the future of mankind.So, developers are building more and more smart contracts now.
This is where Ethereum test networks come in. Ethereum is one of the blockchains that smart contracts can be built and deployed on, in a test network (testnet), where you can interact with a working prototype of the final smart contract in order to test it before it goes live. There are three public testnets that developers can use to do this: Ropsten, Kovan and Rinkeby but there will likely be more in future. You can also setup your own private Ethereum Test Network whenever you would like to, on your own laptop. These test networks are entirely independent from one another.
The 2 types of testnet nodes
There are 2 types of ethereum test nodes:
- Lightweight Ethereum nodes: used for small-scale local testnets, like test-rpc which are most commonly used.
- Heavyweight Ethereum nodes: used to connect to large-scale publicly networked testnets, like Ropsten.
You need a place to test your smart contract before it goes live / you spend actual currency
You can even play around with “fake” cryptocurrency on these platforms but there are a few steps you have to take to ensure that you don’t spend your real ether when building them. There are ways to run your contracts on the Ethereum test network with only the minute cost of gas — you can view the Ropestan chart prices here. If you’re a developer just getting into smart contracts, we’ll do a post on this for you soon. But, entrepreneurs only need to know that there are steps your developer can take to ensure that they don’t accidentally interact with the main net, when they think you’re interacting with a testnet.
- Smart contracts automate actions and run on the blockchain.
- Developers use testnets to test and preview smart contracts before they are launched.
- Developers can use test crypto to play around with on a testnet but need to make 100% sure that they’re using a test network and not connected to the main networks, so that they don’t accidentally spend real currency.
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