What is a Snapshot?

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In conventional computing contexts, the term “snapshot” denotes the ability to capture and record the precise state of a computer system or storage device at a specific moment. Within the realm of cryptocurrencies, the concept of a snapshot pertains to the process of capturing the state of a blockchain at a particular block height.

During this event, a snapshot effectively captures the entirety of the blockchain ledger, encompassing all extant addresses along with their associated data—transactions, fees, balances, metadata, and beyond.

The utilization of snapshots is particularly prevalent during airdrop initiatives that precede each distribution round. Within an airdrop framework, tokens are allocated based on the balance within each individual blockchain address.

To this end, snapshots are employed to document the token balance of every holder at a specific point in time, typically denoted by a specific block height. Remarkably, most users are at liberty to conduct transactions involving their funds post-snapshot, without jeopardizing their eligibility to partake in the impending distribution round.

Snapshots also play an integral role in the context of blockchain hard forks, serving as markers for the block height at which the original chain’s state is documented prior to the inception of a new chain.

A notable instance of this process occurred during the Bitcoin Cash hard fork on August 1st, 2017. At block height 478,558, every address possessing Bitcoins saw their balance replicated onto the Bitcoin Cash blockchain. This is due to the shared historical data up until the fork, enabling the two blockchains to effectively split while retaining their respective independence and operational autonomy.

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