What Is A Blockchain Explorer?

What is a Blockchain - What Is A Blockchain Explorer?

Public transparency is an important notion in cryptocurrency. One of the great promises of blockchain is that it levels the playing field by not limiting information to a few individuals in positions of power.

But what precisely does it mean? Can you discover how much Bitcoins your neighbor possesses? How can you look at and verify public data for yourself? That is precisely what we will demonstrate in this post. We specialize on Bitcoin, however dedicated blockchain explorers for Litecoin, Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, and pretty much any native blockchain are available.

Introduction

Have you ever had a payment go missing, or someone claim to have paid you but didn’t? In our present financial structure, this may result in a “he said, she said” scenario or may need the involvement of a third party.

Blockchains address this issue by introducing the notion of public transparency, in which information is available for viewing by anyone at any time. All information is publicly viewable by design on blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which is important when transactions (or Txs) and contracts need to be readily recognized and validated.
In this article, we’ll look at the fundamental design of a Bitcoin block explorer.

What is a blockchain explorer?

A blockchain explorer is similar to a search engine in that it provides information about a blockchain’s history and present condition. This might be beneficial when you want to examine the amount and history of an address or follow the progress of a particular payment. Anyone with an Internet connection may use an explorer to observe all public blockchain transactions.

How does a block explorer work?

To interact with the database and observe the network’s history, each blockchain will provide a Command Line Interface (CLI). A CLI explorer, on the other hand, is not a user-friendly experience for the general public. As a result, most blockchains will have an explorer with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that displays information in a more user-friendly style.

Let’s explore one of the commonly used Bitcoin explorers: blockchain.com.
Other alternatives for BTC include blockchair.com and blockcypher.com.
Blockchain.com 1 - What Is A Blockchain Explorer?
On the front page, you can see some high-level data about the Bitcoin blockchain. This includes the price, estimated hash rate, daily number of transactions, and transaction volume. We also see charts mapping price and mempool size. At the bottom, we can monitor the latest blocks and transactions.

Let’s go through what we can see here in a bit more detail:

Price: An aggregated USD price feed across several markets. In most cases, the price depends on the feed’s provider and is not indicative of the spot price on a specific exchange.

Estimated Hash Rate: An estimate of the computing power currently employed by miners to secure the blockchain. It can be seen as a proxy for the security of a Proof of Work (PoW) blockchain.

Transactions: The number of unique transactions confirmed over the past 24 hours. To be confirmed, a transaction needs to be included in a validated block (a block that was successfully mined).

Transaction Volume: A measure of the total value of outputs (in BTC) confirmed on the blockchain over the past 24 hours. Due to the way that Bitcoin works, this total also includes unspent outputs returned back to the “spending” wallet as change.

Transaction Volume (estimated): An estimate (in BTC) of the actual transaction volume transferred between unique wallets. It’s the Transaction Volume (above) minus an estimate of the outputs returned as change to spending wallets.

Mempool Size: The mempool size tracks the aggregate size (in bytes) of transactions that are waiting to be included in a block. It’s a proxy for the amount of activity on the blockchain and can serve as an indicator of the fees required for fast confirmation.

Latest Blocks: A list of confirmed blocks, from newest to oldest. It includes details such as block height, timestamp, miner name (if known), and block size. You can click on “block height” to uncover information about transactions included in the block. Clicking on “miner” will reveal information about the address of the block’s miner. The public address of the miner may be a known mining pool address.

Latest Transactions: A list of valid transactions which have been submitted to the mempool. Again, transactions are unconfirmed until they have been included in a validated block.

There are additional metrics about the blockchain that you can track on this page, including network difficulty, fees per transaction, and average confirmation times. Some blockchain explorers will also let you connect to their API.

Binance 10 - What Is A Blockchain Explorer?

Example

Pizza Day is an auspicious day in Bitcoin history commemorating the purchase of two large pizzas in exchange for 10,000 Bitcoin. Using our block explorer, we can view and explore details about this famous transaction.

Pizza Day Transaction Hash:

a1075db55d416d3ca199f55b6084e2115b9345e16c5cf302fc80e9d5fbf5d48d
Copying the transaction hash into the search field of the Bitcoin blockchain explorer will take us to the Pizza Day transaction. If you don’t want to copy-paste the details, here is a link to the transaction page.
At the top of the page, you can see a summary of the transaction inputs and outputs. On the left are the Bitcoins paid for the pizza (totaling 10,000 BTC). These were sent to the single address on the right (belonging to the pizza delivery person).
Blockchain.com 2 - What Is A Blockchain Explorer?

If you click on the receiving address (on the right), you’ll see its transaction history. You can also scan the QR-code to get the respective address string. The QR-codes are very useful when making payments with TrustWallet or other mobile crypto wallets.

Blockchain.com 3 - What Is A Blockchain Explorer?

If you return to the original Pizza Day transaction page, you can scroll down to check the transaction details. These include the unique hash for the transaction, the confirmation status, the timestamp, the number of confirmations, the total input and output, the miner fees, and more. You can see there was a transaction fee of 0.99 BTC paid to the miner on top of the 10,000 BTC for the pizzas.

Blockchain.com 4 - What Is A Blockchain Explorer?

Clicking the block height (57,043) will give you details about the block in which this transaction was included.

Blockchain.com 5 - What Is A Blockchain Explorer?

As you can see, the block which confirmed the Pizza Day transaction was an uneventful block. There were two transactions in all, one for Pizza Day and the other for the miner’s block reward.

The green and red globes on the right show whether or not the Bitcoins were spent after this transaction. The seller of the pizzas has already transferred the 10,000 BTC to another address, but the miner’s address still owns the block reward (50.99 BTC).

Closing thoughts

Blockchain explorers are handy tools that take use of public blockchains’ open and transparent nature. They give essential information on the network’s status, such as transaction and address history. This facilitates tracking and verification.

However, this focus on complete public openness might lead to chain analysis, which involves charting the history of transactions and addresses. This may reveal the pseudonymous character of the addresses, particularly for people who often use the same addresses (not recommended). Others, like as Monero, pursue a different balance between openness and anonymity.

Last updated Sep 17, 2022

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