Transparency in Blockchain Transactions is Enabled Through Block Explorers
The difference between the level adoption of the various aspects of blockchain technology largely depends on the ease of accessibility for users.
The development of user interfaces are as important as the core development of the underlying algorithms of the emerging technologies.
This explains the first mover advantage enjoyed by cryptocurrencies when compared to other aspects of blockchain technology.
The gateway for practitioners in the blockchain ecosystem that permits the dissection of transactions into their component parts is referred to as Blockchain explorer, or Block explorer.
What is Blockchain Explorer?
Some of the qualities of blockchain technology that makes it stand out are the openness, transparency and unrestricted auditability of transactions.
This would remain as mere theories, or an exclusive reserve for just developers without the blockchain explorers that we have today.
Blockchain explorer is the interface that allows practitioners in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency ecosystem to view the details of transaction occurring on a blockchain.
For Bitcoin in particular, the block explorer is an online browser that displays the contents of individual Bitcoin blocks. It also displays the transactions, transaction histories and balances of Bitcoin Addresses.
What is a Block?
The information in a blockchain explorer is stored in files known as Blocks. Hence, bitcoin blocks are files where all the data pertaining to a Bitcoin network are recorded and stored.
Blocks are similar to the pages of a ledger of record book, and every new block contains fresh data of the most recent transactions.
Transaction Between Wallets
As a store of value, Bitcoins sometimes act as transaction vehicles. These transactions involve the transfer of units of the cryptocurrency between the wallets of users.
Therefore, the details of a given transaction involves all the information contained within the communicating wallets and the Bitcoin blockchain upon which they operate.
A Bitcoin wallet is a tool that is used to securely store Bitcoins. These wallets usually keep a secret piece of data called a private key, or seed.
These private keys are the wallets elements that are used to sign transactions. On the blockchain, it is these keys that prove that the transacted Bitcoins actually originate from the wallet owner.
What is Bitcoin Wallet Address?
Bitcoin wallets are comprised of public keys, or addresses. A Bitcoin address or public key is usually connoted by a series of alphanumeric characters that are used for identification purposes.
For instance, for me to receive Bitcoins from anyone on the blockchain, he must have my public key/wallet address. It is to this wallet address that the Bitcoins will be sent before I can take over custody.
Bitcoin wallets come in different forms, and each of them retain the same primary functions of storing Bitcoins and enabling transactions securely. Some of the types of wallets that exist today where users can store their Bitcoins include desktop wallets, mobile wallets, web wallets and hardware wallets.
What You can do with Block Explorer?
The blockchain explorer or block explorer as it is alternatively called represents an expansive plane upon which every detail on the blockchain can be accessed as mentioned above.
It allows users to view information about transactions, blocks and addresses. Such information as the most recent blocks and transactions are easy to access. It also provides information about transaction hashes which can be used to trace and prove specific transactions.
Some other details that are easily accessed using the block explorer include total information about the latest blocks mined.
Information such as the block height, how long ago it was mined and the number of transactions in the block. Other details include the total amount of Bitcoins sent, the particular mining pool the size and weight of the block.
One of the most important tools of a block explorer is the search bar. This tool enables users to access all forms of details that they may wish to by using any of the digital entities of the blockchain.
Such digital entities may include block heights, addresses, block hash, transaction hash, hash160, or ipv4 address.
How to Explore a Bitcoin Address?
Any user seeking to audit or investigate Bitcoin transactions can do so through the public key/address of a given wallet.
All the user needs to do is to copy and paste the given address into the search bar on the homepage of the block explorer and clicking ‘enter’ to search. This action brings out the entire history of transactions of that address and other details involved.
How to View Transactions on Block Explorer?
Details of the transaction history of any given wallet can be accessed using the block explorer. A summary of the number of transactions, total number of bitcoins, final balance, and transaction hashes are all brought to the fore.
Besides the summary, the individual transactions are also serially listed and their peculiar details can also be accessed. Such details include the date of the transaction and the actual value in fiat at the time of transacting.
In order to trace a particular transaction, all a user needs to do is to enter the transaction hash ID into the search bar and every detail is exposed.
However, the full details of peculiar transactions are embedded in the ‘Hash ID’. This is represented by a series of lowercase alphanumeric characters. By clicking on the Hash ID of a given transaction, all the necessary information of that particular transaction is displayed.
The details are usually in two groups, one of which provides a summary of the characteristics of the transaction while the second group supplies the input and output details.
The characteristics that are usually listed includes the size, weight, time of send/receive, block to which transaction was included and the number of confirmations.
Under inputs and outputs, we find details such as total input, total output, fees, fees per byte, fees per weight unit and estimated Bitcoins transacted.
Why Block Explorers Matter?
Blockchain is described as a decentralized technology that enables transparent and immutable transactions. No matter the level of transparency, until it becomes accessible and interpretable by the common man, it remains unbeneficial.
Therefore, the essence of block explorer is to serve as a user interface that enables the common internet user to have access into the back-end occurrences of blockchain transaction.
This enables system auditability and eliminates the cumbersome practice of storing huge amounts of data in cases that deal with large transaction volumes.
List of Some of the Existing Block Explorers
As mentioned above, blockchain as a technology represents a platform for open, transparent and completely autidable transactions. No matter how theoretical this may sound, it only becomes real and implementable with interactive user interfaces.
For this purpose, there already exists a number of blockchain explorer that allow for the fulfillment of such blockchain promises. Some of which include:
- Blockchain.com: This is the most popular blockchain explorer that was founded in 2011. The platform also provides a web wallet with over 26 million wallets already created on the platform.
- Blockr.io: This is a multi-currency block explorer that is currently owned by Coinbase. It supports currencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Peercoin.
- Blockexplorer.com: This is the oldest block explorer and supplies the basic information of all Bitcoin transactions and wallets. However, it is not as sophisticated as the others.
- BitcoinChain.com: Like other block explorers, this also supplies all transaction and block information. It also displays real time Bitcoin price charts on the homepage.
The list continues with others such as BTC.com, Blockcypher, Tradeblock, e.t.c. The basic functions of these platforms is to allow users within the ecosystem to access all necessary details on the blockchain independently and in a decentralized manner.
While the benefits of blockchain technology are listed continuously, the role of block explorers in actualising the reality of such benefits cannot be over emphasized.
Feature Image Credit: shutterstock.com
Inpost Image Credit: reasonstobitcoin.com, medium.com, bitcoin.stackexchange.com
DisclaimerThe writer’s views are expressed as a personal opinion and are for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.
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