What Is Explorer
A quick overview of a blockchain explorer and how to use it.
- An explorer is used to search for operations run on the network, a.k.a blockchain transactions.
- A single blockchain operation, a.k.a. a blockchain transaction, can be checked by the transaction ID.
- The search returns transaction status, sending and receiving wallet addresses, and other details.
- Etherscan and Blockchain.com are among the best-known explorers.
- Some networks like Ethereum or Avalanche publish and store smart contracts (see What is Smart Contract).
- Explorers are used by crypto traders and Zenland users to check their transactions and contracts.
- All blockchain and smart contract transactions have gas fees, the fees paid to nodes processing them.
- Paid gas fees are displayed alongside contract values and the number of tokens transferred.
A blockchain explorer, also known as a block explorer, is often compared to a blockchain browser or a search engine. On command, an explorer finds and displays a piece of information from the blockchain. You can also think of it as a tool through which a user communicates with the blockchain code and requests information.
A blockchain is a distributed database that stores transaction records on many computers. Controlled by set rules (network protocols), these independent computers, or nodes, process and add new transactions to the database.
Official network explorers are blockchain-specific. For example, Polygonscan, the Polygon network explorer, only shows blockchain transactions within its own network. The same is the case with Avascan, the Avalanche network explorer.
Among the most used explorers for all Ethereum and Bitcoin transactions are Etherscan and Blockchains.com. As with all blockchains, transaction details are encrypted to keep user identities anonymous.
By entering a transaction ID (transaction hash) into the search, you will be able to see:
- transaction ID, a.k.a. transaction hash,
- a transaction status (e.g. "Success" if the transaction was confirmed),
- the time it occurs,
- the block number where transaction data is stored,
- tokens transferred,
- sender's and receiver's wallet addresses,
- paid gas fees and gas prices.
Some blockchains are designed to publish and store programmable contracts between users. The contract conditions are written directly into the code which is then published to the blockchain.
These contracts involve multiple interactions between a blockchain and a contract. Known as contract calls, these operations record changes to a contract state and have payable gas fees. Generally, they are processed as other blockchain transactions, and are visible in the explorer.
Once deployed (published) to the blockchain, Zenland contracts along with all their transactions can be viewed via Etherscan or other block explorers.
A gas fee is a blockchain fee that is paid to nodes approving a user transaction miners/validators). Gas fees vary depending on the type of network and the level of difficulty of a blockchain transaction.
Unlike a regular transaction, a smart contract is found by the contract address, instead of transaction ID. Depending on the network and explorer used, the results may look slightly different.
Contract address is a digital fingerprint of a specific contract recognized by the blockchain that stores it. This address is given when the contract is deployed (published) into the blockchain.
Usually, the contract information is divided into three separate blocks:
- a contract overview,
- more information (not every explorer has this section),
- contract activity.
Like the regular transaction results, an overview part displays the contract address, its balance, and value in both USD and tokens.
A token is often referred to any crypto, except for Ether (ETH) or Bitcoin (BTC).
The more information section typically contains a crypto wallet address of a contract creator. Oftentimes, the ID of the first transaction that initiates a contract, a.i. the deployment transaction, also shows up here.
A cryptocurrency wallet is an app (web, desktop, mobile) or a physical device that stores your public and private keys. Note that, unlike a physical wallet, a crypto wallet does not store any crypto (which is stored on the blockchain). Keys are passwords that allow you to send and receive crypto. Metamask, Coinbase Wallet, and Trustwallet are among the most used crypto wallets. Each wallet has its unique ID known as a wallet address.
The third, contract activity, section shows the history of all transactions within a certain contract, a.i. contract calls.
Besides all transaction IDs (hash) an explorer displays the blocks that store them, the time they occurred, each transaction value, and fees. "From" and "To" show the sender's and receiver's wallet addresses.
All transaction IDs are clickable and can be further explored as regular transactions.
Contract activity will also list all internal transactions (transactions from the contract address) and any public comments left by the viewers.
There are also columns like "Contract", "Events", and "Analytics" for the developers to view and interact with the source code.
- More on how to check a contract via Etherscan https://info.etherscan.com/explore-contract-address/