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How to Use a Block Explorer

Etherscan, polygonscan, avascan, bscscan... there are so many block explorers, but they all basically work the same way. This guide will cover the basics of what you absolutely need to know about using and interacting with a block explorer.


Understanding how to use and interact with a block explorer is crucial in understanding crypto at a higher level or if a user ever plans to interact on-chain (anything crypto outside of a centralized exchange).

A screenshot of the Etherscan landing page
The Etherscan landing page. Explore Ethereum blocks here.

A blockchain explorer is a powerful tool that allows you to view and analyze the contents of a blockchain. Whether you're a blockchain developer, an investor, or just someone curious about the technology, a blockchain explorer can be an invaluable resource. In this post, we'll focus on how to read and use a blockchain explorer like etherscan or bscscan.


What is a Blockchain Explorer?


A blockchain explorer is a web application that allows you to view and search the contents of a blockchain. It provides a way to view transactions, account balances, and other information stored on the blockchain. Each blockchain explorer is specific to a particular blockchain, so you'll need to use a different one for each blockchain you want to explore. Some examples of EVM-compatible block explorers include polygonscan, avascan, arbiscan, and loop explorer. Non-EVM block explorers include cardanoscan, and btcscan.


How to Use a Blockchain Explorer


To use a blockchain explorer, you'll need to know the address of the blockchain you want to explore. For example, if you want to explore the Ethereum blockchain, you'll use etherscan.io. If you want to explore the Binance Smart Chain blockchain, you'll use bscscan.com. Once you've navigated to the blockchain explorer, you'll be presented with a dashboard that provides various information about the blockchain. Here are some of the key elements of a blockchain explorer:


  1. Search bar: The search bar is where you can enter a transaction hash, a block number, a wallet address, or a contract address to view its details.

  2. Top Navigation Bar: The top navigation bar provides links to different sections of the blockchain explorer. For example, on etherscan.io, you can access the "Blocks," "Transactions," "Addresses," and "Contracts" sections.

  3. Transaction List: The transaction list provides a list of all the transactions that have occurred on the blockchain. Each transaction is represented by a unique hash.

  4. Block List: The block list provides a list of all the blocks that have been mined on the blockchain. Each block is represented by a unique number.

  5. Address List: The address list provides a list of all the wallet addresses that have interacted with the blockchain. Each address is represented by a unique string of characters.

  6. Contract List: The contract list provides a list of all the smart contracts that have been deployed on the blockchain. Each contract is represented by a unique address.


"There's so much going on in the crypto space that it's hard to zoom out and see the progress." – Vitalik Buterin

Here's a quick snapshot of etherscan and where to find some of the block explorer functions listed above:

A snapshot of the etherscan searchbar dropdown menu

Reading Transactional Information


When you click on a transaction hash in the transaction list, you'll be taken to a page that provides detailed information about that transaction. Here's what you can expect to see:

  1. Transaction Hash: This is a unique identifier for the transaction.

  2. Block Number: This is the number of the block in which the transaction was included.

  3. Timestamp: This is the time at which the transaction was mined.

  4. Sender: This is the wallet address of the sender of the transaction.

  5. Receiver: This is the wallet address of the receiver of the transaction.

  6. Gas Limit: This is the maximum amount of gas that can be used for the transaction.

  7. Gas Price: This is the price per unit of gas.

  8. Nonce: This is a unique number used to prevent replay attacks.

  9. Value: This is the amount of cryptocurrency transferred in the transaction.

A snapshot of an Ethereum transaction receipt
Everything listed above can be seen in this etherscan transaction.

In addition to these details, you'll also see a "View Contract" button if the transaction involved a smart contract. Etherscan will have additional information about the smart contract like when it was deployed, how much $ETH the contract holds, and how many token holders for that contract there are if the contract is a token.


Filtering Data by Contract or Wallet Address


You can use the search bar on the blockchain explorer to find and filter information by contract address or wallet address. For example, if you want to view all the transactions that have occurred for a specific wallet address, you can enter the wallet address in the search bar and click the "Search" button. You can also filter the results by transaction type, such as buy or sell orders.


Similarly, if you want to view all the interactions that have taken place with a specific smart contract, you can enter the contract address in the search bar and click the "Search" button. You can also filter the results by interaction type, such as buy or sell orders.


Determining if a Smart Contract Is Safe or Malicious


Smart contracts are self-executing contracts that run on the blockchain. They allow for the creation of decentralized applications (dApps) and the automation of certain tasks. However, smart contracts can also be vulnerable to attacks, which is why it's important to be able to determine whether a smart contract is safe or malicious.


To determine if a smart contract is safe, you should look for the following:

  1. Code Verification: The code for the smart contract should be verified on the blockchain explorer. This means that the code that is deployed on the blockchain should match the code that is displayed on the blockchain explorer. You can verify the code by clicking on the "Contract" section and then searching for the contract address. If the code is verified, it means that the contract is the same as the code that was published and there have not been any changes made to it.

  2. Contract Interactions: You can view the interactions that have taken place with a smart contract on the blockchain explorer. You can see which wallets have interacted with the contract, the type of interaction (such as a buy or sell order), and the amount of cryptocurrency that was transferred. If there are a lot of interactions, it can indicate that the contract is being used frequently, which is a good sign.

  3. Community Support: You can view the community support for a smart contract on the blockchain explorer. You can see the number of holders, the amount of cryptocurrency that has been invested in the contract, and the number of transactions that have taken place. If there is a lot of community support, it means that there is a strong user base for the contract, which is a good sign.

  4. Contract Reputation: You can view the reputation of a smart contract on the blockchain explorer. You can see the ratings and reviews that have been given to the contract by users. If the contract has a high rating and positive reviews, it means that it is a trusted and reliable contract.

  5. Security Audits: You can view the results of any security audits that have been performed on a smart contract on the blockchain explorer. If the contract has undergone a security audit and the results are positive, it means that the contract is safe and secure.

It's important to conduct some basic checks to make sure a smart contract is safe before interacting with it. Because blockchains are decentralized, anyone can deploy a smart contract and the only thing preventing a scammer from draining someone's wallet are the warnings and stopgap message on the wallet and the block explorer, along with an individual's common sense. Proceed with caution.


Smart Contract Interactions on the Block Explorer


You can interact with a smart contract directly on the blockchain explorer by clicking on the "View Contract" button on the transaction page. This will take you to the contract page, where you can view the contract details, interactions, and transactions.


To interact with the contract, you'll need to connect your wallet to the blockchain explorer. This can usually be done by clicking on the "Connect Wallet" button and selecting your preferred wallet provider. Once your wallet is connected, you can interact with the smart contract by sending transactions. For example, you can send cryptocurrency to the contract to buy tokens or you can send tokens to the contract to sell them.


Summary


A blockchain explorer is a powerful tool that allows you to view and analyze the contents of a blockchain. By using a blockchain explorer, you can view transactional information, determine if a smart contract is safe or malicious, find and filter information by contract address or wallet address, and interact with a smart contract directly on the block explorer. Whether you're a blockchain developer, an investor, or just someone curious about the technology, a blockchain explorer can be an invaluable resource for exploring and understanding the blockchain. If you found this helpful, don't forget to drop us a like, share this post, and check out some of our other write-ups to help people be more successful with crypto.

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