Concepts & Definitions - Block Explorers
Topics that will be covered in this guide:
The concept of block explorers
The first Block explorer
What are Solana Blockchain explorers
Well known Solana Blockchain explorers (3 listed)
Common terms in Blockchain explorers
How to trace a Solana address (using Solscan as reference)
BLOCK EXPLORER CONCEPT:
Block explorers, which is short for Blockchain explorers, are web-based tools or digital platforms that allow users to view and interact with the data stored on a Blockchain.
The Blockchain is a chain of blocks where each block contains a set of transactions. It is designed in such a way that once data (e.g transactions) are recorded, it is impossible to alter. However these transactions can be explored or monitored. By entering a transaction ID or a wallet address, users can retrieve details about transactions, confirmations, balances and more.
Still confused ?
Imagine the Blockchain like a diary where everyone writes down their special transactions. Now, think of a Blockchain explorer as a magnifying glass that helps you read what's written in that book.
In a Blockchain explorer you can typically see addresses (or public keys) involved in a transaction which are cryptographic identifiers associated with the users' wallet but these addresses don't reveal the personal identities of the users. However you can track the movement of funds and their transaction history.
THE FIRST BLOCK EXPLORER:
The first block explorer is the Bitcoin blockexplorer . Bitcoin, being the first crypto currency, has a unique digital book where all transactions are recorded. At first, when Bitcoin was brand new, people had to figure out how to read this digital record book but with the emerging of explorers, users could easily search for transactions.
Bitcoin's first block explorer blockchain.com (Formerly Blockchain.info) is a crypto financial service company. The company began as the first Bitcoin Blockchain explorer in 2011 and later created their own Bitcoin wallet that accounted for 28% of Bitcoin transactions between 2012 and 2020.
WHAT ARE SOLANA BLOCK EXPLORERS:
In the context of the Solana Blockchain, the definition of a block explorer does not change. The block explorers are simply online platforms that allow users to explore and analyze data (e.g transactions or wallet holdings) within the Solana chain network. Solana is known for being a high-speed and high-performance blockchain. It has set of explorers that basically provide information and insights of transactions, blocks, addresses, and other network activities.
SOLANA BLOCKCHAIN EXPLORERS:
Later in this guide, we'll be learning how to trace a Solana address using one Solana Blockchain explorer randomly. Meanwhile, Here are some well known Solana Blockchain explorers:
Solana explorer ( https://explorer.solana.com/ ): This is a Solana Blockchain explorer which users can use to view transactions, blocks, programs, tokens, accounts across Solana clusters. Developers can use the devnet cluster to enable developer settings, use the test net and test dApps or connect to a custom RPC URL.
Solscan ( https://solscan.io/ ): Established in 2021, Solscan is an alternative block explorer and a data analytics platform focused on the Solana Blockchain. It offers a search feature for Solana Blockchain data, allowing users to observe activity, handle accounts, monitor transactions, and explore investment prospects. Developers can use Solscan's API in their dapps. Solscan includes an informative platform, along with an NFT and DeFi dashboard.
SolanaFM ( https://solana.fm/ ): SolanaFM is an alternative block explorer that takes a user-friendly approach to providing block information for Solana. It offers easy-to-use APIs and indexing solutions, allowing access to Solana's historical data. The platform, built mainly with GraphQL, provides on-chain analysis and data manipulation options for developers.
COMMON TERMS FOUND IN BLOCKCHAIN EXPLORERS:
Transaction hash/hash ID: A transaction hash (tx hash or txn hash) is like a receipt that proves a transaction was added to the Blockchain. It's vital for verifying transactions and locating funds. For example, when sending cryptocurrency between wallets, the transaction hash confirms the transfer. A transaction hash appears as a long string of alphanumeric characters, typically around 64 characters in length. For example, a Solana transaction hash might look like '2JMvy6Q3z5MqnYvdbR1RGjnrBYEoVKoPMjHd77kQAM9NfAEG6cuJz1xjw4vmtu9RYF5fA3bR1KkxGCp4DkMzGqgP'
This transaction hash can be used to lookup transaction details like sending address, receiving address, date and amount of tokens transferred.
Confirmed and unconfirmed Blockchain transactions: confirmed transactions refers to those transactions that have been validated and added to the blockchain. These transactions are final and irreversible. While unconfirmed transactions are those pending transactions that have not yet been recorded to the Blockchain.
Block: A group of transactions bundled together and added to the Blockchain. Data is stored in blocks, and these data are transactions. These blocks are chained together by adding the previous block hash to the next block header.
Wallet address: A wallet address is a unique string of characters that acts as a digital identity on a Blockchain network. It's like a virtual mailbox where you can send and receive crypto currency. Solana is a Blockchain and a crypto currency. In your wallet, you have a unique Solana address consisting of a series of characters (numbers and letters). Once you input this wallet address in a block explorer it reveals details of all the token holdings and transactions you have performed using that chain.
HOW TO TRACE A SOLANA ADDRESS:
Here's a step by step process on how to trace a Solana address using a block explorer, with a specific focus on Solscan as our tool of choice. This approach is applicable across multiple block explorers.
Find the Solana address you would like to trace. If this address happens to be yours, simply go to your wallet and copy your Solana wallet address. It is a long string of alphanumeric characters, too, but shorter than a hash ID.
Go to solscan.io on your browser, paste the wallet address in the search bar, and click the search icon.
After clicking the search icon, you will now see information about the account you searched for which includes the detailed history of the transactions on this account.
Some of the information found will include:
An overview section which shows the current balance, distinguishing SOL balance from the SPL token balance.
A tab underneath the Overview section which displays the transaction history showcasing the transaction signature (hash ID), Block, time of transaction and transaction fees.
Various tabs which display the SOL transfers, SPL transfers, token accounts, stake accounts and other smart contract interactions.
What else can you do on Solscan?
Blockchain explorers can be used to perform more functions than just looking up addresses and transactions. For example you can also use solscan to:
Find tokens; when you paste the token's contract address on the search bar it displays various information about the token like its token name, holders, total supply, market cap and more.
Find Solana's active accounts by visiting the analytics page.
Access DeFi dashboards; some of the largest DEXs on Solana have their dashboards integrated on the explorer to make access easier. Like Raydium,Orca, Step Finance etc.
Access NFT dashboards and many more.
Block explorers are essential tools for navigating and understanding Blockchain networks. They provide a user-friendly interface to explore and trace transactions, wallet addresses, latest metaverse NFTs, nodes and other data on the blockchain. Block explorers play an essential role in enhancing transparency and accessibility with the crypto space. Moreover, they vividly illustrate the essence of decentralization.