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Blockchain

A beginner’s guide to viewing Bitcoin’s blockchain

With the significance of blockchain ever increasing, here's a guide to help assist you in viewing Bitcoin's blockchain

Introduction

If you haven’t heard of Bitcoin yet, you should go and take a long, hard look at yourself. If you have, then you may be wondering how you can view the Bitcoin blockchain. The answer in short: scope out a block explorer.

Typically, block explorers are open source web tools that allow you to access information relating to blocks, addresses, and transactions on the blockchain.

Viewing the Bitcoin blockchain is relatively simple: to begin with, you just need to locate a block explorer. A block explorer is a browser, not too dissimilar from any other type of browser. However, on a block explorer, you are able to keep track of all transactions recorded on the blockchain.

Fundamentally, all block explorers display similar information, so once you’ve grasped the basics on one block explorer, it shouldn’t be too difficult to process the same information on other explorers.

However, it is worth noting that you will be unable to use a block explorer for a blockchain that it wasn’t designed for. Therefore, if you were to use a block explorer designed to keep track of, for example, Ethereum, you wouldn’t be able to keep tabs on Bitcoin on the same block explorer.

What does blockchain allow you to view?

The information provided by a block explorer is typically as follows:

  • A list of a chain’s recent blocks
  • Transactions in a given block
  • Links to the previous and next transaction involving each input and output
  • A list of all transactions involving a given address
  • A way to search for blocks, transactions, and addresses

A list of Bitcoin block explorers

Blockchain.info – This block explorer is one of the most popular of 2018. To view Bitcoin’s blockchain, click on the link provided. The next step is to simply scroll down on the front page and view the list of transactions recorded on the ledger.

Blockexplorer.com – This block explorer is not necessarily the best designed of the bunch; however, it is one of the longest established block explorers out there today. This site provides its users with basic information regarding all Bitcoin transactions and wallets. To gather further information, click on any block of your choosing and view the details.

Insight.is – Next up on this list is the Insight REST API, which provides a powerful and simplistic way to view data from the Bitcoin network. You can even develop your own services using Insight. This API is an open source, fast-paced piece of software. However, it does require you to install it on your computer.

Blocktrail.com – Blocktrail is yet another way to view the Bitcoin blockchain. Upon clicking the link, look at the top of the page and click the explorer tab. Once on the explorer tab, a list of blocks should appear (make sure that you are viewing the Bitcoin ledger and not one of the alternatives, such as Bitcoin Cash). Each of these blocks represents a transaction that has been added to the ledger. This in turn enables the user to see the most recent entries on the blockchain with the following information: Height, Miner, Time, and Extra Info. To gather further information, click on any one of the blocks.

Bitcoinchain.com – This block explorer may not look the nicest; however, its home page presents users with more information at first glance than, say, Blocktrail. Clicking on the link provided here will direct you to the Bitcoin ledger. On this site, information such as the Hash, Transactions, Output, and Fee are given immediately. This may be attractive to some users as it saves time, albeit only about a minute.

Bitinfocharts.com – Once again, the design on this site is not trying to be fancy. What Bitinfocharts does do nicely, however, is present several categories within a blockchain. These range from the latest blocks, to blocks with the largest days destroyed, through to the top 100 busiest blocks. At first glance, this site seems cluttered, but if you are looking for a breakdown within a blockchain, then this block explorer certainly has its merits.

Chain.so – Sochain’s block explorer is more user friendly than some of the previous entries, making it a great resource for beginners who may not be as familiar with blockchain and block explorers. Clicking the link will take you directly to the site which provides real-time updates, making it a valuable resource to anyone interested in Bitcoin’s ledger.

Understanding block explorers

Below is a list of terms that are frequently used on block explorers and their definitions:

Hash rate: refers to the estimated amount of power being emitted from data miners.

Network difficulty: depicts the current difficulty the blockchain is running at.

Transaction pool: the transaction pool contains all the transactions that are currently waiting to be assigned to a block.

Tx hash: the transaction hash (Tx hash) is the unique identifier of the transaction.

Age: how long the transaction has been recorded for on the ledger presented in years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds.

Block: refers to a block/cell where the transaction data has been recorded.

Fee: depicts the fee that was paid when the transaction was sent.

Output: this value will vary depending on the size of a transaction. Typically, this is a privacy tactic to prevent how much has been spent from being publicly accessible.

Naturally, the lists above are by no means exhaustive; the world of cryptocurrency is huge, and so too is the amount of resources that aid it. There are a wide variety of block explorers, with the ones outlined thus far having been but an introduction into the vast world that awaits once you know what to look for.

For more exclusive guides from Coin Rivet, click here.

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