A blockchain explorer is a web-based tool used to search and view transaction and other useful information related to a specific blockchain. It provides a record of past and current transactions and up to date details on block creation. While a blockchain explorer can be used to monitor more technical aspects of blockchain performance, it is more commonly used to monitor balance and transaction information for a known wallet address.
Finding the Correct Blockchain Explorer
A blockchain explorer is specific to a particular blockchain. For example, if you want to search for a Bitcoin transaction you need to use a Bitcoin blockchain explorer. If you want to explore transactions for an altcoin (i.e. any other cryptocurrency than Bitcoin) you need to use a blockchain explorer specific to that altcoin. On an Ethereum blockchain explorer, in addition to wallet address and transaction data, you can also search for data on ERC-20 tokens.
If you search the internet for a specific blockchain explorer, you will notice multiple options are available. The one you choose will likely come down to personal preference and ease of use. You may also want to check the website for your specific blockchain or cryptocurrency for details on an official, or recommended blockchain explorer.
A Simple Blockchain Explorer Search
In the following example we are using the Bitcoin blockchain explorer from blockchair.com. You will notice blockchair.com offers the ability to search across multiple blockchains including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Cardano, Bitcoin SV, Stellar, Monero, Dash, Zcash, Dogecoin, Mixin, Groestlcoin.
You can search the explorer by entering a known wallet address or a transaction hash (also by token name on an Ethereum explorer). A transaction hash (txid) is an alphanumeric string created by the blockchain to identify a specific transaction. A single wallet address can contain multiple transactions.
In some cases you may receive multiple results when searching a wallet address. In this example, three results were returned after searching for a Bitcoin wallet address. This is possible when there has been a hard-fork i.e. due to a chain split where a new version of the blockchain has been created. This is how the Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV blockchains were created. Make sure you select the result for the correct blockchain.
a) Wallet Address Results
When you search by wallet address you will be able to view the following details:
b) Transaction Search Results
When you search by transaction hash (txid) you will be able to view the following details:
How to Find Ethereum Blockchain Token Information
In the following example we are using the Ethereum blockchain explorer on blockchair.com to find token information.
Scroll down the blockchair.com home page to Explore Blockchains. Click on Go to Ethereum explorer ->
On the Ethereum blockchain explorer page you will find links to the following:
Click on the relevant link/s to start exploring.
Glossary of Basic Terms
Altcoin - Any alternative digital currency to Bitcoin.
Bitcoin - The first Proof of Work (PoW) Unspent Transaction Output (UTXO) blockchain and cryptocurrency created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakomoto (a pseudonym as real identity is unknown). The concept of cryptocurrency was outlined in a white paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.”
Blockchain - An immutable digital ledger comprised of data recorded in packages called blocks. Each block is linked (or chained) to the next block using a cryptographic signature.
Block Height / Block ID - Is the number assigned to a block (or level of the block) within a blockchain. For example, the very first block (also called a Genesis Block) will be Height 0.
Confirmation - A confirmation means a transaction that has been verified by the blockchain network. Once a transaction is successfully confirmed multiple times by the network it is considered final and in theory irreversible. The greater the number of confirmations the more secure the finality of the transaction.
Cryptocurrency - Is a form of digital money made possible with blockchain technology. Cryptocurrency can be sent and received without the involvement of a third party (such as a bank or other centralised financial institution).
Ethereum - Is an open blockchain platform enabling developers to create decentralized applications, tokens and to write smart contacts. The native token is called Ether, which is used to pay transaction fees, miner rewards and other network services.
Wallet Address - A wallet address is an alphanumeric character string, which can also be represented as a scannable QR code. The address can be used to send and receive transactions on a blockchain network.
Token - Is a digital identity or representation of something that can be owned.
Transaction Hash (txid) - Is an alphanumeric string known as the ‘hash value’ or ‘digital fingerprint’ that identifies a specific blockchain transaction.
Transaction Input/Output - The transaction input is a wallet address from where digital funds/assets have been sent. A transaction output is a wallet address where digital funds/assets have been sent.