A blockchain explorer or block explorer functions like a browser for a blockchain. It allows you to access all sorts of information pertaining to what goes on within a blockchain network.
There are several blockchain explorers for different types of cryptocurrencies, and they aren’t universal. For instance, a Bitcoin block explorer can’t be used for searching Ethereum transactions. You’ll need an Ethereum block explorer to do that, such as https://etherscan.io.
What Info Can You Find?
Block explorers allow you to explore or track transactions that have already been added (mined) to a block. It gives you the necessary details such as the amount of crypto sent/received, the inputs and outputs, etc.
This is most useful when verifying if a crypto payment has been sent or received, as well as how many confirmations it has. Basically, the more confirmations a transaction has, the more irreversible it gets.
You can also search your (or somebody else’s) wallet address in block explorer. This will allow you to check the balance, transaction history, how many transactions it has received or sent, etc.
This makes it easy to audit funds for tax and other purposes.
Blockchain explorers allow you to view all added (mined or other consensus methods) blocks in a chain. These explorers generally show the most recent blocks first, but they also let you explore older blocks, even a genesis block. Here’s the genesis block of Bitcoin, mined by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, a historical day in crypto.
Block explorers also provide other useful information such as the average fee, the mempool status, the list of unconfirmed transactions, the hashrate, etc.
How to Use?
All blockchain explorers have a search bar for users to easily search for wallet addresses, blocks, transactions, etc. Blockchain.info is the most popular block explorer, providing data for several cryptocurrencies.
Why It is Important?
On a macro scale, an important benefit for blockchain explorers is the fact that it allows the users to see the movement of tokens in a transparently decentralized manner. Paypal does not have such public data available for its users to audit.
Furthermore, it also allows us to determine what percentage of addresses own what percentage of tokens, in order to know how evenly the wealth of the network is distributed. Bitcoin’s wealth for instance, is largely held by the middle class more than anyone else.
A cryptocurrency project with no block explorer likely has no working product or is fraudulent, since they can’t prove that their coins even exist, nor can they show their movement.
Many cloudmining investment schemes were not transparent. They didn’t provide their users with a way to track their mined coins, which could have been done easily through a blockchain explorer. It turned out that most cloudmining projects were scams. Therefore, one should always be mindful if a project has a block explorer or not.
This article is published on BitPinas: Blockchain Explorer 101