A blockchain, in its essence, provides a digital record of transactions. At present, this most often pertains to transaction records for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC). The database of records, called blocks, is often touted for its transparency and immutability. But what do these features really mean?
What is block explorer?
A blockchain explorer is a piece of software that uses API and blockchain node to draw various data from a blockchain and then uses a database to arrange the searched data and to present the data to the user in a searchable format. User’s inputs are searchable terms on the explorer which are then searched through an organized table on the database. The explorer will already have organized data from a blockchain into the table format.
For most users, a blockchain explorer will allow you to search and explore data about recently mined blocks or recently carried out transactions on a blockchain. Ideally, they allow you to view a live feed of blocks as they are mined, as well as the data related to the blocks.
There are a lot of block explorers out there, as each cryptocurrency or blockchain has its own. This means that you cannot track Ether (ETH) transactions with a Bitcoin block explorer.
Some popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether also have a wide number of block explorer offerings. For example, there are dozens of Bitcoin explorers, with some of the most popular including Blockchain.com, Blockchair, BlockCypher and Tokenview. Similarly, there are a bunch of Ethereum explorers including Etherscan and Ethplorer.
How Does A Blockchain Explorer Work?
Blockchain explorers work by using a database that holds all blockchain in a searchable format and tables. An explorer will, therefore, work with a node interface to first extract all the data in a given blockchain. Once it derives the data, it then stores it in easily searchable tables. It will gather the latest transactions and blocks and arrange them according to the defined searchable categories – for instance, wallet addresses transaction IDs, rich lists, balances, etc
An explorer also provides an interface to the user to allow them to search for the information. In terms of the technology, an explorer may use a relational database, SQL database, and an API. You may be already familiar with the fact that each blockchain comprises many distributed nodes. Each node that can directly read data on a blockchain, grabs details of the latest transaction and mined block and other data. This is then sent to the database, where the data is arranged in the form of searchable tables.
This makes the explorer fast to use. Most blockchains use 24 tables including block, address, transaction, etc. Each row has a unique ID or key, for instance, a unique identifier for addresses used on the blockchain. Others create a unique key.
The user interface server for explorer then creates a web page that allows it to interact with a user by way of the latter input of searchable terms. It also provides an API to interface with other computers. These are sent to the backend server in a server readable format and the back-end server then responds to the user interface server for the search terms. The user interface and API then sends the web pages as HTML to the browser to allow the reading of responses by the user.
What can you do with a block explorer?
Explore mined blocks
Different individuals and mining pools (groups that combine their computing resources to mine crypto) compete to mine blocks in any given blockchain and explorers allow us to find who successfully mined a given block defined by its height.
Check how much Bitcoin in circulation currently
Block explorers provide all necessary data about not only transactions and addresses, but also about the status of a certain blockchain in general. As such, block explorers also include some useful charts related to network difficulty, mempool size, average block size, as well as total cryptocurrency in circulation.
Track where your crypto comes from
To investigate your Bitcoin address, just copy and paste your BTC address into a search bar on a block explorer like Blockchain.com. Then you will get to a page containing all the information associated with your Bitcoin address, including a total number of incoming and outcoming transactions, total BTC received and sent, as well as a final balance in dollars.
You may be confused by so-called hash ID which can be checked in your transaction. Just check the transaction associated with your BTC address and you will get it. More information about each transaction, including hash, amount, as well as the sender and the recipient can also be found. Click on the sender’s address to learn more info about an address where your crypto came from.
Track the status of your transaction
When you deposit or withdraw, you need to confirm if the transfer successful or not. Using block explorers, you can see the number of unconfirmed transactions on any blockchain by checking the “unconfirmed transactions” section on Blockchain.com’s explorer, or “pending transactions” section on Etherscan.
Track average transaction fees on your crypto
BTC and ETH network fees are not capped, and may become expensive due to increased network congestion.
Bitcoin’s average fees in USD are available at Blockchain.com’s section “Fees Per Transaction.”
For Ether fees, check the “Ethereum Gas Tracker” page on Etherscan, and learn how much is required to pay to proceed with an ETH transaction. “Gas” refers to the fee required to successfully conduct a transaction on Ethereum, with gas prices denoted in Gwei — a denomination of ETH that is equal to 0.000000001 ETH.
Block explorer can be regarded as a tool for easier exploring blockchain. Information such as blocks, crypto prices, transaction fees and mining difficulty in blockchain can be found through simple explore in block explorer.