Block explorers are tools you can use to search and track transactions on a particular blockchain. Just as web browsers like Safari and Google Chrome let you browse the web, block explorers let you browse the blockchain.
For browsing Ethereum, many people use a block explorer called Etherscan. As for browsing Bitcoin, Blockchain.com is a widely used block explorer.
Searching on a block explorer is similar to searching on a web search engine like Google, where you input data—such as the word ‘trees’ and ‘Australia’—click ‘search’ and get a page full of results. With block explorers, the data you input can be things like the sending address, receiving address and transaction ID (TXID).
Your TXID identifies your wallet-to-wallet transaction. (You may see this referred to as a ‘transaction hash’ or ‘hash’.) The search box is where you input information that’s specific to your transaction. For example, the public address to which you sent your cryptocurrency.
The moment a transaction is generated, a TXID is generated. You can search with this TXID on a relevant block explorer.
For example, James has bought 10 ETH on an exchange and has sent this 10 ETH to his hardware wallet. After 10 minutes, he notices the transaction is still incomplete.
James looks for his TXID and uses an Ethereum block explorer, such as Etherscan, to investigate. He copies the TXID (e.g. 0xb65c7eb5a49ec02616d753ba10a44a77a682d7af5f6041ebc6765de9bf488ebe) from the exchange’s website and pastes it in the search bar on Etherscan.
A web page loads with the transaction details. James can now verify the ‘From’ and ‘To’ addresses as well as the ‘Status’ of his transaction.
Let’s say James doesn’t know the transaction hash, he can find all his past transactions by searching his wallet in the search bar. The address he sent the payment from was 0x1f7ae0a6c2903c6aca626f9be742c87db55cd265.
James can see every transaction he’s made with the wallet address as well as other useful information such as balance or value.
He can find the individual transaction by looking at the age (date) of the address it was sent from.
Whilst having a basic understanding of block explorers and transactions is one thing, it can still be quite overwhelming when you open a transaction and see a flood of numbers, hashes and data. It can feel like information overload.
When you click on a transaction using a block explorer, you’ll likely see measures such as: