What is a Blockchain Explorer and How Does it Work?

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Has someone ever sent you a link after sending you some crypto, but you weren't quite sure what this meant or what to do with it? It was likely a link to the transaction on a blockchain explorer! These incredibly useful tools act as gateways to all the important data related to a blockchain and enable you to do a range of things when it comes to cryptocurrency.

What is a Blockchain Explorer?

A blockchain explorer is an online tool to access various data related to a blockchain. Most commonly in the form of a website (or in some cases an app), blockchain explorers often act in a way that is reminiscent of a search engine for transactions, wallets, and other essential data on a specific blockchain. Suppose you are looking for bitcoin market data or view transaction volume. A block explorer probably isn't what you should be using unless you are looking for on-chain statistics. However, suppose you were looking to see the balance of particular blockchain wallets or perhaps see the status of a specific transaction on the bitcoin blockchain. In that case, blockchain explorers are the perfect solution.

Who Uses a Blockchain Explorer?

Contrary to what you may think, block explorers are commonly used by just about anyone that is actively using cryptocurrency. While they aren't necessary, if you regularly perform transactions and want to verify they have been confirmed or check other details, you'll absolutely want to use a blockchain explorer. While blockchain explorers can seem a little complex at first glance, this is due primarily to the amount of information you have at your disposal. Once you learn to pinpoint the specific information you are looking for, a blockchain explorer is an excellent tool for any cryptocurrency enthusiast or even just someone exploring blockchain technology.

What Can You Do with a Blockchain Explorer?

Using a blockchain explorer, you can do a range of different things. One of the most common is checking the balance of one of your cryptocurrency wallets. Most blockchain explorers will enable you to quickly check your balance and transaction history simply by searching for your wallet address or public key.

Another widespread thing to do with a blockchain explorer is to monitor a transaction for confirmations. Searching a transaction hash to see how many confirmations it has acquired is very useful in ensuring that you can consider a transaction truly complete as unconfirmed transactions can still be very mutable in many cases and are rarely accepted until a reasonable amount of confirmations has occurred (the exact amount varies between blockchains and other factors). Understanding how to check the confirmations achieved by a transaction is a great way to protect yourself from double-spend attacks and see when recent transactions have been successfully mined or otherwise confirmed.

Many blockchain explorers even go as far as to provide network statistics such as blockchain difficulty, track the latest blocks, mempool status, and enable users to find almost any blockchain-related data for the blockchains supported by the explorer being used. Having access to an easily searchable format allows you to make informed decisions when using cryptocurrency without dealing with complicated APIs or blockchain nodes yourself.

What Information Can You Find with a Blockchain Explorer?

  • Transaction fees paid
  • Wallet balances and the transaction history
  • Information about specific blocks
  • Confirmations for specific transactions
  • Mining information (for proof of work blockchains)
  • Estimated values in fiat (commonly in USD)
  • Check the status of a transaction
  • View the transactions included in a particular block

The Best Blockchain Explorers

How Do Blockchain Explorers Work?

Blockchain explorers work by providing a more user-friendly layer on top of node software or APIs (application programming interface) that provide blockchain data. While once you would have had to dig into the command line in a terminal to verify a bitcoin transaction, this is no longer the case thanks to the range of easy to use block explorers that enable you to get the data you need without having the technical knowledge required to query a node or even having access to one.

How to Check a Transaction with a Blockchain Explorer

Open a block explorer in your browser (e.g. https://blockchair.com) Locate the main search bar or other search option (almost all will support this) Use the search function to search for a specific transaction hash or associated specific wallet addresses

Once you have located the information for the transaction, you can check how many confirmations it has received as well as the values involved and other potentially important data related to the transaction.

Interesting Transactions to Investigate with a Block Explorer

You can use a block explorer to investigate a range of historical and otherwise interesting transactions. Viewing these various transactions can be an excellent way to get a feel for how a blockchain explorer works. Don't forget you can just as easily search for a wallet address using a block explorer as well.

The first bitcoin transaction: f4184fc596403b9d638783cf57adfe4c75c605f6356fbc91338530e9831e9e16

The famous bitcoin pizza transaction: a1075db55d416d3ca199f55b6084e2115b9345e16c5cf302fc80e9d5fbf5d48d

Ethereum transaction with transaction fee equaling thousands of Ether: 0x2c9931793876db33b1a9aad123ad4921dfb9cd5e59dbb78ce78f277759587115

Vitalik Buterin donates over 1 billion dollars worth of Shiba Inu Tokens to Charity: 0xb65bcbb85c1633b0ab4e4886c3cd8eeaeb63edbb39cacdb9223fdcf4454fd2c7

Conclusion

Blockchain explorers are one of the most useful tools in the cryptocurrency space. It's easy to research the data you want, from the largest transaction to the smallest or the oldest to the latest transactions. So it doesn't matter if you're a bitcoin maximalist or you like to get involved in the newest blockchain projects; you'll likely be able to find at least one full-featured block explorer to help you gain access to virtually any data you're looking for on the network.

The next time you want to investigate a specific wallet address, smart contract address, or transaction hash yourself, you know what to do and exactly where to start looking.

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