A block explorer (or blockchain explorer) is like a browser for a particular blockchain network, enabling you to track transactions, look up addresses and see other detailed information, such as embedded text data within blocks.
Blockchain networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum record transactions on a public ledger. Block explorers take this information to provide a real-time display of the transactions and the production of blocks by miners.
On top of that, block explorers can also be thought of as an archive of all blockchain transactions and addresses that ever existed. You can search an address and see all transactions it participated in.
Why Use a Blockchain Explorer?
The main things a block explorer allows you to do is to view information about particular addresses, transactions and blocks.
Most people use a block explorer to check how many confirmations they have on a bitcoin or crypto transaction. A transaction is not considered valid (meaning its irreversible) until it has a certain number of confirmations from miners.
By typing your address in a block explorer, you can see all your incoming and outgoing transactions, as well as how many confirmations it has in real time. Once the transaction is settled, you can validate it with the block explorer.
There are a variety of other reasons why people use a blockchain explorer.
Participants in the Bitcoin network may also want to monitor the mempool transactions to transact at a time when fees are low or to ensure their transaction is included in the next block. Use the API to collect data, for instance, finding whale addresses or large transactions, as this kind of data may be useful for trading the markets. Loads of work has been done to track exchange and miner flows for bitcoin.
How to Use a Block Explorer
There are some popular block explorers are listed below:
- Blockchain.info (BTC, ETH, and BCH)
- Etherscan.io (ETH, ERC-20, and ERC-721 tokens)
- Blockchair (BTC, ETH and various altcoins)
- Blockcypher (BTC, LTC and various altcoins)
A bit like using a search engine. Type an address, block hash, or transaction ID to get more details. You can navigate from there to explore transaction histories.