When building an Ethereum application with smart contracts, you'll want to run it on a local network to see how it works before deploying it.
Similar to how you might run a local server on your computer for web development, you can use a development network to create a local blockchain instance to test your dapp. These Ethereum development networks provide features that allow for much faster iteration than a public testnet (for instance you don’t need to deal with acquiring ETH from a testnet faucet).
Development networks are essentially Ethereum clients (implementations of Ethereum) designed specifically for local development.
Why not just run a standard Ethereum node locally?
You could run a node (like Geth, Erigon, or Nethermind) but since development networks are purpose-built for development, they often come packed with convenient features like:
- Deterministically seeding your local blockchain with data (e.g. accounts with ETH balances)
- Instantly mining blocks with each transaction it receives, in order and with no delay
- Enhanced debugging and logging functionality
Quickly fire up a personal Ethereum blockchain which you can use to run tests, execute commands, and inspect state while controlling how the chain operates.
Ganache provides both a desktop application (Ganache UI), as well as a command-line tool (
ganache-cli). It is part of the Truffle suite of tools.
A local Ethereum network designed for development. It allows you to deploy your contracts, run your tests and debug your code.
Hardhat Network comes built-in with Hardhat, an Ethereum development environment for professionals.
Some consensus clients have built-in tools for spinning up local Beacon chains for testing purposes. Instructions for Lighthouse, Nimbus and Lodestar are available:
There are also public test implementations of the Beacon Chain. The recommended testnet with long-term support is Goerli (which will merge with the Prater chain in August 2022). The Ropsten Chain was recently merged with its own Beacon Chain and is currently still available for testing consensus client implementations and post-merge application development.
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