Public testnets are a threat to the development of dapps 

Despite their initial promise, public testnets are an insufficient and incomplete way to test dapps

OPINION
article-image

turtix/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

share

As the blockchain ecosystem continues to evolve, the importance of testing infrastructure cannot be overstated: It’s essential for the experimentation and development of dapps.

And as interest in dapps increases exponentially, so does the use of testnets. Like any piece of technology that is scaling at an unprecedented rate, inefficiencies and limitations become more apparent as time goes on. This has certainly been the case with public testnets. 

Despite their initial promise, developers are facing a number of hurdles in utilizing testnets effectively, leading to calls for more efficient mechanisms to build and test dapps. 

Public testnets: An insufficient and incomplete testing infrastructure  

In the grand scheme of their development, blockchain and dapps are still in their infancy. As such, the infrastructure used to develop dapps is still under construction. 

Public testnets — which were initially designed with the primary purpose of network testing — have been repurposed for the development and experimentation of dapps. In the absence of a better alternative, developers are forced to use them to test their products, which requires dealing with a host of problems including incomplete mainnet data, token supply shortage and long deployments. 

One of the key issues with public testnets is that they usually do not accurately mimic the data of their associated mainnets. There is often limited historical data available, which — coupled with a lack of up-to-date production data — means that testnets do not accurately reflect the diversity and scale of their real-world mainnets. 

Developers then struggle to test how their smart contracts interact with different types of user inputs, smart contracts and protocols, likely compromising the performance and security of their dapps. 

Test tokens are also relatively tricky to come by, with developers often waiting for a long time to obtain the amount they need. The Goerli token supply shortage is one example, forcing developers to pay a premium for what was intended to be freely distributed coins. 

Some developers end up asking for charity just so they can continue with their workday. Without sufficient testnet tokens, developers face limitations in testing complex dapp scenarios, thereby posing a threat to innovation on the blockchain. 

Developers also face the challenge of public testnets’ short lifespan. Every time a testnet deprecates, a new network needs to be deployed, meaning developers need to go through the same hurdles several times. This understandably stunts the development process and causes frustration within the developer community. 

Read more from our opinion section: Let developers walk so users can run

On the other hand, public testnets are intrinsically more collaborative than testing with local nodes. Not only can the entire developer team test and debug the code in the same environment, beta testers may also be recruited from all over the world to interact with the dapp to collect more data and user feedback. 

However, public testnets have notoriously long deployment periods. Developers have to deal with network congestion and transaction execution delays that slow dapp development and testing. Aside from network congestion, external dependencies — such as developers waiting for the projects their dapps interact with to deploy their assets first — prolong deployment times for Web3 teams. 

Publicity problems 

It is clear that developers find public testnets tricky to deal with from a technical standpoint. But there are also serious problems associated with safeguarding intellectual property on testnets.

As the name suggests, these testing solutions are designed for public use. On the face of it, having a transparent arena where developers’ code is open to scrutiny and experimentation could foster innovation and collaboration. However, we can’t ignore commercial realities.

The exposure of code to the public domain raises concerns about protecting proprietary

technology and safeguarding intellectual property. The decentralized nature of public testnets makes it challenging, if not impossible, for developers to maintain control over who can access and use their code. 

Competitors can closely analyze and emulate the innovations of others, without them knowing, simply by observing public testnets. While legal protections can be employed, they can only go so far in the international, decentralized arena of blockchain. 

Blockchain and the dapps it enables have the potential to revolutionize various sectors of the economy and attributes of our personal lives. But while public testnets play a pivotal role in the iterative development of these dapps, it is essential for developers and stakeholders to approach them with a critical eye.

Recognizing the limitations and addressing the drawbacks of public testnets is essential to fostering sustainable, long-term innovation in blockchain. The developer community is exploring several potential solutions ranging from improving current testnets and developing more robust replacements to even moving toward virtual or private testnets. 

Taken together, these innovations can usher in a new testing paradigm that will accelerate progress in the Web3 space. It will not only facilitate dapp development, but also standardize developer experience, bringing it closer to Web2 and lowering the barriers to entry. 

As we emerge from the bear market, collaborative efforts to build a more scalable testing infrastructure are a prerequisite for driving innovation, growth and blockchain adoption. The future of dapps can be bright — as long as we ensure the testnets they are developed on are fit for purpose.



Start your day with top crypto insights from David Canellis and Katherine Ross. Subscribe to the Empire newsletter.

Explore the growing intersection between crypto, macroeconomics, policy and finance with Ben Strack, Casey Wagner and Felix Jauvin. Subscribe to the On the Margin newsletter.

The Lightspeed newsletter is all things Solana, in your inbox, every day. Subscribe to daily Solana news from Jack Kubinec and Jeff Albus.

Tags

Upcoming Events

Salt Lake City, UT

MON - TUES, OCT. 7 - 8, 2024

Blockworks and Bankless in collaboration with buidlbox are excited to announce the second installment of the Permissionless Hackathon – taking place October 7-8 in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve partnered with buidlbox to bring together the brightest minds in crypto for […]

Salt Lake City, UT

WED - FRI, OCTOBER 9 - 11, 2024

Pack your bags, anon — we’re heading west! Join us in the beautiful Salt Lake City for the third installment of Permissionless. Come for the alpha, stay for the fresh air. Permissionless III promises unforgettable panels, killer networking opportunities, and mountains […]

recent research

AERODROME TEMPLATE.png

Research

Aerodrome is a "MetaDEX" that combines elements of various DEX primitives such as Uniswap V2 and V3, Curve, Convex, and Votium. Since its launch on Base, it has become the largest protocol by TVL with more than $495M in value locked, doubling Uniswap's Base deployment.

article-image

And a look into the newest name on the Trump ticket: Sen. JD Vance

article-image

Plus, Imran Khan’s intriguing experiment on the speeds of crypto onramps

article-image

The SEC has signaled a timeline to issuers that could lead to a July 23 launch for the ETH funds, people close to the process told Blockworks

article-image

PayPal has unequivocally made a name for itself as a crypto adopter among fintech giants

article-image

Also, a look into how the highly-debated SAB 121 could end up shaking out for crypto custodians

article-image

Vance, an Ohio Republican, is largely seen as crypto-friendly