What is Snapshot in Cryptocurrency?

Understand what a snapshot in cryptocurrency is in this short and informative crypto 101 article.

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  • Snapshots are precise records of blockchain states captured at a specific time.
  • They are essential for network upgrades, airdrops, and voting in the crypto ecosystem.
  • Understanding snapshots helps users actively participate in blockchain governance and decisions.

A snapshot in cryptocurrency is a bit like taking a photo; it captures the state of the blockchain at a particular moment in time.

Think of it as freezing the transaction history and wallet balances to create an exact record of who owns what at that second.

This information is crucial when dealing with airdrops, voting rights, or even major network updates.

By making sure that every coin holder’s balance is accurately recorded, a snapshot prevents any discrepancies during these critical events.

In this article, we’re going to explain why snapshots are not only important for technical upgrades but also how they empower users to participate in governance decisions, ultimately shaping the future of their preferred cryptocurrencies.

Snapshot Definition and Purpose

Snapshot in cryptocurrency is like taking a picture of all the activity and information within a blockchain at a specific instant.

It’s not just any picture though—it’s a detailed one that shows you everything from how much currency is in each account to the complete history of transactions.

Why would you want such a detailed picture? Well, there are a couple of key reasons:

  • Airdrops: Developers might use snapshots to decide who gets new tokens. If you hold a certain currency at the time of the snapshot, you could receive free new tokens.
  • Network Upgrades: Sometimes a blockchain gets an update. To make sure nothing is lost during this change, a snapshot lets you keep a record of the state before the upgrade.

More on that later though..

Mechanism of Action

So, how does it actually work? Here’s a simple breakdown of the steps involved:

  1. Choosing a Point in Time: First, developers decide on a specific block number or time for the snapshot.
  2. Taking the Snapshot: At that chosen time, an exact record is made of all the balances and transactions.
  3. Recording the Details: This record includes balances in wallets, smart contract states, and any other relevant data.

Keep in mind that while a snapshot gives you a comprehensive look at the blockchain’s state at a specific time, it doesn’t affect your funds or the ongoing operation of the blockchain. It’s a passive action—like taking a photo—nothing more.

Applications in Cryptocurrency

Snapshots are crucial in the crypto world because they track the state of digital assets at a specific moment. This info is used in various ways that can affect your holdings and decisions.


When a project distributes free tokens, they might take a snapshot of their blockchain to decide who gets what.

Basically, if you hold certain cryptocurrencies at the time of the snapshot, you might wake up to new tokens in your wallet as a reward. This is widely known as an airdrop.


Before a blockchain goes through a fork, a snapshot records who owns what. If a new chain branches out, this tells them who should have the new coins.

It’s like confirming your guest list before throwing a party.

For example, when Bitcoin underwent a hard fork in 2017, creating Bitcoin Cash, a snapshot was taken to determine who owned Bitcoin at that specific time. This snapshot served as the “guest list” for the new chain, ensuring that everyone who held Bitcoin at the time of the fork received an equal amount of Bitcoin Cash.

Governance and Voting

For decisions in a decentralized project, your vote might be tied to how much coin you hold.

They’ll take a snapshot to see your balance, so your voting power is fair and square.

This snapshot serves as the basis for determining each participant’s voting power, ensuring that their influence on the project is proportional to their investment.

By taking a snapshot of everyone’s balance, the project can ensure that the voting process is fair and transparent, as each participant’s voting power is directly tied to their contribution to the project.

This helps to maintain the decentralized nature of the project and encourages active participation from all members.

Participation on Initial Exchange Offerings (IEO)

When it comes to Initial Exchange Offerings (IEOs), exchanges sometimes use a snapshot to determine an individual’s eligibility to participate.

This snapshot is crucial because it helps the exchange to verify if a user has enough of their native token or the required cryptocurrency to participate in the IEO.

In this way, the snapshot serves as a screening process, ensuring that only those who meet the eligibility criteria can take part in the offering. This approach is beneficial for both the exchange and the IEO participants.

For the exchange, it helps to maintain the integrity and fairness of the offering by preventing users from artificially inflating their holdings just to participate.

For the participants, it provides a clear guideline on the minimum requirements needed to join the IEO, making the process more transparent and accessible.

Challenges and Limitations

Snapshot in cryptocurrency has its fair share of hurdles and issues. Let’s get into what might make them tricky to handle.

Security Concerns

Your assets in a snapshot might not be as safe as you think. If someone gets into the system and alters the snapshot data, it could lead to loss or false records. Since snapshots reflect the state of your holdings at a particular time, they need tight security to prevent tampering or unauthorized changes.

Data Storage and Management

Keeping a full record of a blockchain’s data takes up a lot of space. The more transactions and addresses there are, the bigger the blockchain gets, and the more storage you’ll need. Managing all this data effectively is a big job and if not done right, can slow things down or make the system less reliable.

Bottom Line

So, to summarize a snapshot is a record of the balances of all participants in a specific blockchain project at a particular point in time. This is done for various reason, usually for Airdrops, Hard Forks, IEOs and Governance matters.


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