Probably very few of us could imagine our daily lives without an internet browser like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or similar. Whether it is on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you most likely rely on one of these browsers for things such as your work or studies, to find the best way to get to somewhere, to look for answers to most varied questions — or to read this blog post.
In essence, we need internet browsers to navigate the day-to-day life. It is very much the same story with blockchain explorers, also called block explorers. Without them it is impossible to unlock the whole potential of the crypto world. Indeed, you cannot pave your way to success with a half-hearted compromise — and this is why a block explorer is your best friend.
Whether you are just starting in the crypto world and looking for useful resources, or you are already relying on a web/application on a regular basis to get crypto-related information, blockchain explorers are far more versatile than most people imagine. This is why we compiled the following review to help you get the most out of these amazing tools.
Surge of the blockchain explorers
A blockchain explorer is, by definition, a website that allows users to search and track transactions conducted on a certain blockchain. Providing readable, understandable, and organized data allows users to gain invaluable insights into past, current, and future cryptocurrency transactions.
Block explorers really took off when crypto use started expanding and reached “ordinary” people. The whole idea of cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology is transparency — the fact that all transactions are stored on a ledger that is publicly available 24/7. This, nevertheless, was not the case at first. Huge quantities of information stored in blockchain ledgers and formatted in a certain way were effectively not accessible to the vast majority and only expert users such as developers and miners were able to decipher the twists and turns of the data.
The emergence of blockchain explorers represented a real paradigm shift. It was now possible for any user to get easy access to the information and, therefore, be able to understand, interpret and evaluate the performance of a specific token. Over time the palette of different explorers and features available has become richer and ever more colorful.
What data do block explorers provide and why are they useful?
Block explorers are, no doubt, the best way to keep an eye on the whole cryptocurrency ecosystem. Using them provides you with a powerful tool with a wide scope of possible applications. Furthermore, most renowned explorers today give you a live feed of blockchain activity, just as it occurs.
To get the most out of the data, you need to know what you are looking for and how to interpret or use the information you acquire. Besides helping you to avoid possible scams, block explorers offer you a long list of advantages that you can exploit to your benefit as a crypto investor.
Let’s have a look at a compilation of the most important features and their usefulness below.
- Address data
- You can check your own or any other wallet to verify if it is a valid and trustworthy address before sending out any tokens.
- You can check an address’s:
- Transaction history, including the values and the inputs and outputs of each transaction;
- Tokens and their proportion;
- Current balance (usually both in cryptocurrency and in its FIAT equivalent).
- This can give you an idea about the nature of the address. For instance, if there is a high number of regular transactions with multiple users, then it is either a cryptocurrency exchange or a tumbler trying to mix and obscure the funds behind those transactions.
- In the case of an ICO, you can also check the balance and spending history of different users taking part in it.
- All addresses are public, so you can explore receiving addresses but also change addresses of transactions.
- Transaction data
- Most explorers provide a lot of information about transactions in real-time, allowing you to audit other users or check if your transaction has gone through and reached the right destination.
- You can see
- the status and value of the transaction,
- its fee,
- sender and recipient data (inputs and outputs),
- the exact time it was processed (time stamp), and
- which block it belongs to.
- Using transaction history, you can trace the account holder or see if a user holds different wallet addresses.
- Transaction history improves blockchain’s transparency and provides public evidence of transfers having been carried out.
- Explorers might also include additional categories such as the largest transaction of the day or the number of transactions per day, among others.
- Block data
- A block is basically a compilation of a bunch of verified transactions that is created approximately every 10 minutes.
- You can see all the blocks belonging to the blockchain and clicking on one lets you obtain many useful details, such as its:
- Height, i.e. its sequence number in the blockchain;
- Time stamp, i.e. when it was mined or confirmed;
- Miner(s), usually under the field “Relayed by”, and the distribution of the reward between the miners that helped to solve its hash.
- Hash value, which is essentially a unique identifier that helps to maintain the privacy, security, and authenticity of your data.
- Transactions, because each block contains a set of confirmed transactions. Usually, the first transaction is the income earned by the miners.
- Block data can be useful to have the utmost certainty that your transaction will remain confirmed for all eternity. As all previous blockchain blocks are reconfirmed by the integration of new blocks, you can be certain that no hacker can tamper with the chain by undoing previously confirmed activity.
- This feature, of course, is self-explanatory.
- But let us just mention that price charts can give you a greater understanding of how the market of a specific token is doing.
- Hash rate
- Basically, it shows roughly how much computer power there is to secure the network.
- The higher the hash rate is, the better the network is secured against potential attacks.
- Looking at the 7-day average of the hash rate is probably the safest bet when drawing any conclusions because daily values may vary.
- Mempool status
- Mempool is where all the unconfirmed transactions wait to be confirmed by the network. Miners have to check that all transaction data is valid and that the sender actually has the indicated amount of cryptocurrency to spend. If everything is in order, then a bunch of transactions are confirmed and grouped into a new block.
- Mempool’s value is a useful indicator because the higher it is, the higher is the network’s traffic volume. On the basis of that, you can know how long your transaction might take and, additionally, how high priority fees are if you want to boost your transaction on the waiting list.
- Fees of transactions
- Connected to the size of the mempool are the fees you have to pay in order to get your transaction confirmed by the network.
- Whereas the precise fee of each transaction varies (depending on its inputs and outputs, for example), keeping an eye on the average fee can still help you estimate the cost of or gas necessary for your next transaction.
- Double-spend incidents
- Some explorers might contain records on double spending, which can occur when someone tries to use the same tokens twice within the 10-minute period required to confirm a block.
- Blockchain difficulty
- If the explorer shows how hard it is to mine a new block in the blockchain, then a higher difficulty level is proof of the network’s security levels, because it takes more computing power to mine the same number of blocks.
- Other data and fun-fact-finding
- There’s so much more you can discover with an explorer — fun facts or information that might come in handy for one reason or another.
- Some examples include the genesis block (i.e. the very first block ever mined in a blockchain), stale or orphaned blocks (i.e. blocks that are not attached to the current, longest blockchain).
- In some cases, you can see rich lists and social media posts connected with a certain address.
- Present-day explorers include more and more useful tables and charts offering users more options to delve into past, current, and future trends of cryptocurrency.
Make your pick
Information is power. It is in the interest of every well-informed cryptocurrency user to use a block explorer.
A blockchain explorer is what makes the crypto market open, transparent and decentralised. Secondly, in order to make informed decisions on a certain token, it is indispensable to have an overview of its network. And last but not least, block explorers are also fun to play around with because you never know what new piece of information you can discover.
Go deeper with another post of ours where we lay out a list of possible explorers to choose from. Finding that right one for you will provide you with tools necessary to surf the crypto wave.