Crypto Terminology – Altcoins | Mainnet | Testnet | Coin | Token
Just like any discipline or field of study and industry, you are bound to come across technical terms and terminology that is closely tied to whatever it is you’re reading or researching about. The people who are immersed in the particular subject that you are trying to discover and learn about usually have their own language. So if you’re a noob, you’ll have your work cut out for you as you try to learn all the lingo that people in the ecosystem you are studying already know and might have even created some of the words themselves. In this brief article, we will go over a few words that are so very often used in the crypto space, so that you are up-to-date on your Crypto Terminology.
Let’s Get Down to the Crypto Teminology Basics
First off, there’s just some basic jargon that it is a bit obvious to decipher. Namely, altcoins are all coins other than the flagship cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Hence the name: alter(native)coins. Then, you might have come across mainnet, which is short for main network. Mainnet refers to the production-ready and live blockchain of a crypto-platform. Meanwhile, testnet is short for test network, which is like the beta (or test or experimental) version of a blockchain network. Note that testnet and mainnet have become a part of crypto terminology now, but can also (and were originally) be used to describe just about any technology’s platform, not necessarily crypto technology.
You are sure to have come across the word “coin” during your crypto journey. The word coin should ideally be used to refer to a cryptocurrency whose main purpose is to serve as a mode of payment (money). Bitcoin and Litecoin are prime examples of cryptocurrencies that are often used and accepted as a medium of exchange. Usually, it is also easier to gain a conceptual understanding of what a coin is versus a rather complex cryptocurrency that has more advanced use cases, like the EOS platform.
Tokens Vs Coins
It is best to refer to a cryptocurrency as a token if it has some utility beyond functioning as replacement for money. For instance, the ERC-20 tokens by Ethereum have some very practical utility in the cryptosphere. In fact, ERC-20 refers to an actual standard that a token complies with and its implementation is based and programmed using its codebase and design principles.
Getting a bit more advanced now, you have permissioned and unpermissioned blockchains. While blockchain is usually the word used to refer to a data structure that has been cryptographically programmed to function as a public distributed ledger, distributed ledgers may also require their users to have permission to use them. Hence, the name “permissioned” blockchain; so, it’s not publicly accessible and requires authorization to be accessed. Meanwhile, there are unpermissioned blockchains as well, which are free for all and anyone can access them at will. This leads us to opensource code.
Blockchains and cryptocurrency do not exist magically. They have a creator. These creators are called programmers who use programming languages to create blockchains and digital currencies. The language that you are reading this article in is a language as well, but it is a natural language. A natural language is any language spoken, written, and understood by human beings. Whereas, a programming language might also be understood by humans, but it’s the language that computers understand, after it has been broken down to long strings of just 1s and 0s. Code written and accessible to everyone, so they can contribute to it, is referred to as opensource code. So, this would be some more general techie terminology, which is a superset of crypto terminology.
Notably, there’s not much really that computers can understand. The only thing a computer actually does, and does much better than any human being is: add and subtract really, really fast. (Multiplication and Division are just an extension of basic addition and subtraction.) That’s all it does, even the most sophisticated and powerful supercomputers are simply able to add and subtract super fast. They are not yet capable of original thought and action. The added functionality that we see and use thanks to the efforts of application developers is actually us telling computers what do every step of the way through lengthy code.