Categories: EducationFAQ

What is a Block Explorer?

Even though a lot of cryptocurrency users rely on block explorers for all kinds of information, a lot of novice users do not have a clue as to why these tools are so valuable. There are quite a few interesting things one can do with a block explorer, either for bitcoin or for a specific altcoin. Tools like these should never be underestimated, as they provide a ton of valuable details regarding the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Why Block Explorers Matter

On the surface, a block explorer looks like a bunch of confusing data when someone is new to cryptocurrency. A lot of data is provided on the screen, yet very little of it makes sense at first. However, once one gets a better understanding of what it is we are actually seeing on the block explorer itself, things quickly start to fall into place.

A cryptocurrency block explorer shows the latest blocks in the blockchain. For example, if a new bitcoin block is discovered by miners, all block explorers should list it the second it is generated on the network. Clicking on a specific network block will provide users with more information regarding its size, when it was found, and more importantly, which transactions it contains.

There is much more to the block explorers we are using today, though. Looking at a specific block also provides the hash of every block. This hash is quite complicated to generate and becomes more difficult as time progresses. There is also a link to previous network blocks, all of which have a unique hash and a set of transactions as well.

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A block explorer is also a valuable tool to see how the current block reward for every network block is distributed to the miners who helped solve its hash. The first transaction of every block is the income earned by the miners. All other transactions are fund transfers generated by bitcoin users and the associated fees used to broadcast that transaction. While this information may not be vital to everyone, it is a good way to see how bitcoins are generated by mining and how they are distributed.

Depending on which block explorer one uses, there are some additional features to be enjoyed as well. Blockchain.info, for example, has become much more than just a block explorer, as it also provides statistics and charts pertaining to the bitcoin network. Most block explorers will also show the number of unconfirmed transactions – also known as the mempool – and whether the mining difficulty will go up or down. Do keep in mind this last figure is purely estimated and may change several times.

Even though the name “block explorer” would suggest it can only be used to look up individual network blocks, that is not the case. Block explorers can also search for transaction IDs and wallet addresses, making them quite a nifty tool to check on specific transactions to your own wallet address. A block explorer quickly becomes a tool everyone in the cryptocurrency relies on virtually every day, yet they are far more versatile than people anticipate.

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JP Buntinx

JP Buntinx is a FinTech and Bitcoin enthusiast living in Belgium. His passion for finance and technology made him one of the world's leading freelance Bitcoin writers, and he aims to achieve the same level of respect in the FinTech sector.

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