Just for a moment, imagine what it would be like if you tried to find what you need on the Internet without a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. For most people, it would be quite a challenge, to say the least.
Just as there are search engines to help us discover what’s available on the Internet, there are what’s known as blockchain explorers (or sometimes block explorers) to help users navigate the blockchain.
This might sound like an odd concept, but once you’ve learned the basics of blockchain explorers — or perhaps even tried out some of the ones on our list of recommended blockchain explorers — you should soon see the utility that these essential tools can offer.
So, are you ready to do some exploring? Here we go!
One of the most important advantages of blockchain technology is the transparency that it provides to users. The transactions made on a blockchain are stored permanently on a record/ledger that’s open-sourced and viewable anytime, anywhere by any interested party.
That might sound daunting but consider the implications. The level of transparency offered on the blockchain can help to reduce fraud and illegal activity generally. And for the non-fraudsters out there, you should be able to track your transactions since they’re all permanently recorded. But how?
That’s where blockchain explorers come in. Just as a search engine can help you track down nearly any type of information you’re looking for in the tangible world, a blockchain explorer can quickly assist you in locating the details of transactions that took place on the blockchain of most well-known cryptocurrencies.
How Does a Blockchain Explorer Work?
You don’t have to know all of the technical details of how a blockchain explorer works, but it’s essential to at least have a basic understanding.
To put it simply, a blockchain explorer collects bits of information from a network by using an application programming interface or API and a blockchain node.
After extracting as much data from the network as possible, the node interface will then store and arrange that data. Finally, the software will and present the data to you, the user, in a searchable format.
Once you’ve accessed a blockchain explorer, you should be able to quickly search for and explore data about the mined blocks and/or transactions on the blockchain of your choosing.
Typically, you won’t need anything fancier than a normal web browser and Internet connectivity to access a blockchain explorer. What you’ll see varies from one blockchain explorer to the next, but oftentimes you’ll see a screen displaying a live feed of blocks as they’re being mined, with a particular focus on the most recent blocks and transactions.
And, just like you’d see in an Internet search engine, you’ll most likely find a search box in which you’ll usually be able to enter an address, block, or transaction that you’re looking for. Or, if you’d rather just browse, it’s not unusual to see a list of the latest blocks and/or transactions right on the home page.
What Can You Do on a Blockchain Explorer?
Whether it’s Bitcoin, Ethereum, or another popular blockchain, you should be able to dive in almost immediately and discover potentially important bits of information with a blockchain explorer.
Typically, a blockchain explorer will allow you to:
- Track the transaction history of any wallet address on the blockchain that you’ve specified
- View recently mined blocks
- Discover unconfirmed transactions on a blockchain
- Check for double-spend transactions
- Find out find who successfully mined a particular block
- Identify “orphaned” blocks that aren’t attached to the main blockchain
- Track down the “genesis” or original block of a blockchain
- Look for the mempool-size, or the aggregate size of unconfirmed transactions in bytes
- See other minutiae such as transaction fees, blockchain difficulty, and hash rates
Some blockchain explorers will even let you seek out the largest transaction of the day — perhaps you can find that big-money “Bitcoin whale” you’ve been looking for!
Just keep in mind that each blockchain explorer is different, and sometimes they’re specific to one or more blockchains. For example, you probably won’t find much success if you try to use a Bitcoin blockchain explorer to locate data on the Ethereum blockchain.
Start With These Block Explorers
Ready to take a chance and see what’s out there on the blockchain? If so, then we invite you to try any or all of these popular blockchain explorers.
Blockchain.com Explorer: This is one of the most popular Bitcoin block explorers available today. Here, you’ll find the usual search features (latest blocks and transactions, mempool-sizes, and so on), but you can also access more specific details like ownership by time held, daily active addresses, and concentration of retail investors versus “whales.”
BlockCypher: The interface here is super-simple and uncluttered, but that’s the beauty of BlockCypher. The front page serves up the specified blockchain’s recent blocks, current fee estimates, and latest transactions, and a search bar can take you to specific information pertaining to a handful of blockchains, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Dogecoin.
BlockChair: This one’s reminiscent of Google’s home page as it displays a big, prominent search field front-and-center. Probably the most significant feature of BlockChair is that it allows you to search for transactions, addresses, blocks, and even embedded text data on 17 different blockchains.
TokenView: Imagine being able to explore the transactions of more than 100 different cryptocurrencies. This is actually possible, believe it or not, with TokenView. This blockchain explorer is a veritable gold mine of information, including daily trading volumes, lists of pending transactions, the number of active wallets, block reward winners, and more.
Making the Blockchain Your Friend
Regardless of your level of expertise, you can make friends with just about any blockchain — it’s just a matter of getting to know it better, and blockchain explorers give you the tools and the information you’ll need to do just that.
And when you’re ready to really step up your crypto game, be sure to check out Coin IRA, a fully compliant and licensed institution guiding you through safe buying, selling, trading, and storing of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.