Do you have an interest in the Ethereum blockchain? Do you want to monitor the transactions, forks, and block activity? Then meet etherscan.io, the Ethereum block explorer. I want to introduce you to this site and some of the features that may come in handy as you (and I) continue to learn this new technology.
Main Page UI Features
You’ll notice on your first visit to the site that there are two UI components under the header: A general overview of Ether and the status of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). To the right of that component, you will notice a 14-day Ethereum transaction history. These components should be looked at as a quick way to evaluate the health of the Ethereum blockchain.
Underneath those components are two more main monitoring features of the app: Blocks and Transactions. These components allow you to see all of the information as blocks are freshly mined, and every ether transfer and contract creation transaction. This is helpful for you to verify how your dApp is performing on the main Ethereum network and what transactions are occuring on the network. Transparency and immutability are key features of this blockchain and the ability to see any transactions also helps with security.
Seeing transactions and their success/failure along with how much gas is being spent serves as an educational reminder of how transactions can be executed, and what the costs could be if contracts aren’t optimized and your architecture hasn’t taken into account how much data you are transacting across the chain.
To look at transactions, you can click on the View All button at the top of the Transaction component, or you can use the blockchain drop-down in the header. This drop-down also gives you options to view contract internal transactions (as long as you have the contract address). In this drop-down, you can also select the option to view all blocks, uncles, account numbers/balances, and all verified contracts on the mainnet.
Looking at verified contracts using Etherscan is a solid research method for creation of contracts. You can look at the source code:
You can look at the ABI (application binary interface), giving you a peek into how the methods from the contract translate to the interface:
Next to the blockchain drop-down are the token drop-down menu options for looking at tokens on the Ethereum mainnet.
Looking at all of the tokens that are forked off of Ether can give you an idea of what tokens (and their dApps) have traction. This could help you understand what makes a successful token and what doesn’t (although that is not necessarily tied to a functional dApp).
You can see its current price, recent change in value, volume, and its market cap. Note that this is not an exchange; this is meant for transparent information as to the value of the forked token and the health of the dApp, which may be an indicator of the overall health of the Ethereum network and its currency.
Another great feature is the token tracker page, which you can reach by clicking on the name of a token on the ranking list:
The TokenTracker summary gives you a brief look into the history of the token and the ERC20 contract. An interesting UI element in this component is the reputation of the token. An OK reputation, while not an endorsement, is an indicator that there is accurate information, a solid advisement team, clear goals, and the token is traded on a recognized exchange. If the reputation is Suspicious, then there are reports of phishing and/or spam. If it’s designated as Unsafe, then it has been reported as a token that is red flagged on exchanges and has credible confirmed reports of misinformation and/or spam.
Underneath the reputation and ERC20 contract address and links is a menu that has information on all transfers and holders of tokens, profit/loss info, a chart on historical prices, and smart contract info. All of this information is helpful in understanding the overall health of the token.
With Etherscan, you can also examine mining history through the Blocks UI component:
Transaction time, miner information, rewards, and the block number are available on the home page. You can also click on View All for a more detailed view of all transactions and mining on the Ethereum network.
In this detail view, you can examine block height, how many transactions on the block, gas used, the limit, and average gas price (in Gwei).
Etherscan is a great tool to keep in your toolbelt to help you understand how the Ethereum network is working. I do recommend that you read the Ethereum whitepaper, and check out ethereum.org for an introduction to Ethereum. Then, definitely revisit the site and click on all of the components and research blocks, tokens, transactions, etc. I would also recommend this YouTube video, which breaks down how Blockchain works in the current Proof of Work model (mining). If you’re already in the know, then go ahead and have fun keeping up with Ethereum with this solid tool.