What Is a Blockchain Explorer?
A blockchain explorer functions as a search engine for blockchain networks. Users can navigate around a blockchain explorer designed for a particular chain to search and view information like transaction IDs, crypto addresses, and block numbers to get a data-backed glimpse into the inner workings of a decentralized network.
Understanding Blockchain Explorers
A blockchain explorer offers a peek into a blockchain network, where users can view all of its data since launch, every block added and related information, wallets used to purchase and sell the network’s native token, specific transactions, and more.
There are some commonly used explorers, such as Blockchain.com, which includes all major blockchain networks. Alternatively, it is possible to access each network’s own explorer, which is unique to that blockchain e.g. - Etherscan for the Ethereum network.
This guide explains how to use an explorer, and what can be gained from using one.
How to Use a Blockchain Explorer
Blockchain explorers typically feature a dashboard where users can get a glimpse of historical and live data of a blockchain network at a glance, which usually include the following;
All-time statistics such as the number of blocks, transactions, nodes, addresses, the latest mining activity, mining difficulty, or hashes per second.
Mempool refers to the awaiting transactions and related statistics. Besides the number of queued transactions, it's possible to find the average time to verify a transaction, the fees, the best fee for the time being, and the overall size of the mempool.
Price graphics are featured in the dashboard, more often than not it is possible to view all-time price fluctuations as well as the past day, week, month, or year.
Market data is briefly mentioned in terms of circulation supply, market cap, or maximum supply if applicable.
The latest transactions and blocks are also listed in the dashboard, where users can get live data on the blockchain.
To dive into the explorer, users usually need the following information;
This refers to a string of alphanumerical characters that identify a transaction, and can be found in the wallet with which users performed the transaction.
On an explorer, viewers can access the hash code of a transaction, the corresponding addresses between which transaction occurred, the amount and the associated transaction fees, size, and the confirmation status.
Depending on the explorer, viewers can also see what the transaction amounted in a fiat currency at the time of completion, and what it amounts to at the time of viewing.
Addresses on an explorer refer to a wallet address: users can view their own and others’ wallets completely, as long as they know the address, including the outstanding balance, transaction history, transaction count, total amount sent and received, and the addresses they’ve sent to and received from. Depending on the explorer, users can even generate wallet statements much like a bank statement.
Users can also explore each block in a blockchain, including the very first one, called the genesis block. An explorer can show the amount of transactions included in a block, the date and time it was created, the miner (a mining pool or miner address), total input and output, associated transaction fees, the size, and difficulty level.
While the aforesaid make up the major parameters to search on a variety of blockchains, explorers are not limited to transaction ID, blocks, and addresses. Depending on the blockchain and explorer, users can create custom charts to analyze market data, explore smart contracts where its applicable, get access to node breakdown, or compare two or more blockchains.
Why Use a Blockchain Explorer?
Blockchain explorers offer utility to any community member regardless of their level of engagement, including developers, traders, miners/validators, organizations, or enthusiasts. Traders can inquire about the state of their transaction, and view the complete details of their addresses or any other address, where it's possible to view every transaction that ever occurred and the current balance.
Traders can also check an equivalent of ‘best fee’, meaning the best possible transaction fee they would be getting. It's also possible to see the average time it takes to complete a transaction, and the amount of awaiting transactions in Mempool. They can also track the market cap, price to fiat currencies, or circulating supply real-time before buying cryptocurrency.
Miners can check whether their process has been successful, and be informed about how long it takes to mine block in a given network and the computational power needed. The businesses may analyze the prominent blockchain addresses and whales, as well as their own transaction data at a glance.
Enthusiasts can have a blast in learning the inner workings of a blockchain: they can investigate how blockchains with different consensus mechanisms such as proof-of-work or proof-of-stake, understand different block difficulties and implications or explore the genesis blocks.
Will There Always Be a Need for Blockchain Explorers?
The answer is a solid yes. By providing an online interface for any person, whether they are a blockchain community member or not, blockchain explorers enhance the transparency property blockchain networks often cherished for without pushing users to decipher all of the ledger data themselves.
They are instrumental for not only following the operations of a blockchain, but they are also a great asset for enthusiasts to explore the inner workings of a decentralized ledger system and may eventually encourage members to participate more.
An explorer is also a trader’s best friend, allowing a neat glimpse into the profitability of a blockchain network with an option to access historical charts to analyze, along with the ability to view the best transaction fees and average times.