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What Is Etherscan, and What Are Block Explorers?

7 Minute Read

The cryptocurrency community values transparency. From open-source code to public ledgers, Web3 developers use dozens of tools to prove network security. Many blockchains also integrate with sites known as "block explorers" to help crypto users track their digital transactions. 

There are countless block explorers in today's crypto industry, but Etherscan remains one of the most widely used. Those in Ethereum's ecosystem can benefit from Etherscan's free services. So, what is Etherscan, and why has it become such an indispensable tool in the world of crypto? 

Understanding block explorers

Block explorers are sometimes called the "search engines of Web3," because their features are similar to standard Internet explorers but only track information on their target blockchain. For example, a Bitcoin (BTC) block explorer provides data on BTC's network activity. Anyone on a BTC blockchain explorer could paste a Bitcoin blockchain address to view the associated wallet's current holdings and historical transaction data. 

These websites make it fast and simple for users to find the blockchain data they're most interested in. People can also use block explorers to monitor daily network activity, suspiciously large crypto transfers, and average transaction fees. Crypto traders and blockchain analytics firms rely heavily on block explorers to analyze the crypto market.

What is Etherscan?

Etherscan is a block explorer that tracks the Ethereum blockchain. Software engineer Matthew Tan created Etherscan in 2015 and currently serves as the company's CEO. With roughly 5 million active monthly users, Etherscan is one of cryptocurrency's most widely used blockchain explorers at the time of writing. 

Anyone with an Internet connection can use Etherscan's tools to analyze activity on Ethereum (ETH). In addition to tracking ETH wallets, Etherscan provides info on Ethereum-based tokens and smart contracts. Etherscan also highlights the latest data on Ethereum's network congestion and average gas fees

Etherscan isn't affiliated with Ethereum's core development team or with the non-profit Ethereum Foundation. Although Etherscan is a trusted site in the crypto community, it remains a centrally controlled company headquartered in Malaysia. 

How does Etherscan work? 

Etherscan developed an Application Programming Interface (API) to gather information on the Ethereum blockchain. APIs are standard software tools that help Web applications exchange data. For instance, a clothing shop's website may use an API linked to Google Maps to share directions to its location. Etherscan's API works similarly, but it focuses on the Ethereum network. 

When someone types an ETH blockchain address into Etherscan, the API will instantly "scan" Ethereum for information associated with this crypto wallet. Etherscan's API also tracks transaction hash numbers, block IDs, and token addresses on Ethereum.

Etherscan's API collects and presents metadata on the Ethereum blockchain. For example, people can use Etherscan to gauge the current transaction volume, node distribution, and gas prices on Ethereum, as well as examine detailed charts on ETH's price and market cap. 

How to use Etherscan: Tips and examples 

You don't need an Etherscan account or a crypto wallet to access Etherscan's website—anyone can visit etherscan.io and start experimenting with the site's many features. 

Etherscan's home page includes a search engine in the center of the page to paste an ETH wallet address, transaction data, or block ID to find the information you're interested in. For example, here’s how to use Etherscan to track a crypto transfer to an ETH wallet:

  1. Open your crypto wallet and select Ethereum
  2. Click "Receive" or "Deposit"
  3. Copy the ETH wallet address into your clipboard 
  4. Paste this Ethereum wallet address into Etherscan's search tab
  5. Hit the search icon 

After entering your ETH wallet info, a screen highlighting the current digital assets in this blockchain address appears. Scrolling down reveals prior transactions to and from the wallet with timestamps, hash numbers, and transaction fees. 

Aside from searching wallet addresses, people also use Etherscan to review data on new Ethereum projects. To do this, find a smart contract address associated with whatever token you're interested in. As an example, here's how you'd find info on the popular Ethereum token Uniswap (UNI):

  1. Visit a reputable coin price aggregator website like CoinMarketCap or CoinGecko
  2. Search for Uniswap
  3. Copy the "Ethereum Contract Address" on the top of UNI's page
  4. Enter UNI's contract address into Etherscan's search tab 

You could also use the above strategy to research NFT (non-fungible token) projects on Ethereum. For instance, the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) published the following smart contract address on their official website: 

  1. 0xBC4CA0EdA7647A8aB7C2061c2E118A18a936f13D

If you paste this address into Etherscan, the transaction history associated with this popular NFT collection appears. 

Aside from searching for wallets and tokens on Etherscan, you can find a wealth of data on Ethereum under the search tab, as well as a list of the latest ETH transactions with timestamps and price data constantly updating on the site’s homepage. Click on any of these analytics to read detailed statistics about the Ethereum network. For further research, click on dozens of Ethereum-related charts and graphs under Etherscan's "Resources" tab. 

What is an Etherscan account? 

Many of Etherscan's services are free, but only account holders enjoy certain bonus features. To open an Etherscan account, submit an email address and create a password. After joining the Etherscan community, follow ETH wallet addresses and receive email alerts whenever there are transfers affecting those wallets. You can also add personal memos to ETH transactions and generate an API key. 

Why use block explorers like Etherscan?

Block explorers like Etherscan keep the crypto industry transparent while preserving privacy. These websites also provide Web3 users with a convenient way to monitor their transactions and research their favorite crypto projects. Uses of block explorers include:

  1. Checking crypto transactions: Many people use Etherscan to monitor personal crypto transfers. Anyone can paste a wallet address or a transaction hash ID to see where their crypto is on the blockchain. The data on Etherscan shows if their transfer is in progress or confirmed. 
  2. Researching Ethereum projects and companies: To avoid falling for a crypto scam, it's wise to look up smart contract data on Etherscan. Reputable projects should share their Ethereum address for on-chain activity review. Many prominent crypto companies and exchanges also post their ETH wallet addresses so curious users can monitor their crypto reserves. 
  3. Estimating ETH gas fees: Etherscan regularly publishes average ETH gas fee estimates. Users can track how much ETH they need to pay these network fees before transferring tokens on the blockchain. 
  4. Tracking ETH whale movements: "Crypto whales" are investors or institutions with significant crypto positions. For example, an "ETH whale" has a large amount of ETH in their crypto wallet. Many crypto traders use the data on Etherscan to track suspiciously large transfers of ETH or stablecoins. While whale movements may impact crypto prices, they are no substitute for standard fundamental and technical analysis. 

Examples of other block explorers

Etherscan is the most used block explorer for Ethereum (at the time of writing), but there are other sites that track transactions on different blockchains. Just like Etherscan, these block explorers are free to use. 

  1. Blockchain.com: Created in 2011, Blockchain.com is one of the first widely adopted block explorers. Although Blockchain.com is best known for monitoring the Bitcoin blockchain, it also scans wallet addresses for chains including Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash. The site offers additional services like a crypto exchange and a digital wallet. 
  2. CoinMarketCap Blockchain Explorer: CoinMarketCap is best known for its real-time crypto price feeds. This site offers a Blockchain Explorer that scans wallet addresses for Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Binance Coin. 
  3. Polygonscan: Polygonscan is similar to Etherscan, except this website focuses on Ethereum's layer 2 blockchain, Polygon. Anyone using Polygon can paste their MATIC address on Polygonscan for up-to-date transaction data. 

Wrapping up 

Sites like Etherscan make it easy to keep tabs on token approvals, blockchain congestion, and personal transactions on Ethereum. As crypto adoption spreads, the resources on block explorers play a central role in the crypto ecosystem. Thanks to these easy-to-use sites, everyone can enjoy access to critical crypto data. 

Worldcoin also wants to enhance transparency in Web3 while preserving everyone's right to privacy. With our eye-scanning Orb device, we can verify wallet ownership without collecting sensitive KYC data. This revolutionary technology can significantly reduce the risk of crypto scams without changing the pseudonymous nature of blockchain transactions. For more details on WorldCoin's mission, subscribe to our YouTube page.