The public nature of blockchains means that the data held on the blockchain ledger is theoretically readable by anyone, much like information stored on public websites. However, in practice, data is stored in code, so in both cases, everyday users rely on services that can search for such information and present it in a human-readable format.
Indexing services and search engines perform this on the public internet, while in the blockchain ecosystem, people use block explorers. A block explorer allows anyone to search for blockchain data such as transaction records or account balances.
What can Etherscan do?
Etherscan makes it easy for anyone to search, sort, or filter blockchain data. It uses an API to constantly retrieve and organize new block data from the Ethereum network in near real-time. Etherscan can be used to search for any Ethereum-based token, including all ERC-20 tokens and ERC-721 tokens (or NFTs).
You can drill down into individual token transactions and view which tokens have been sent to which addresses. It’s also possible to view the token balances of any given address and all transactions for incoming and outgoing funds since its creation. Etherscan also shows the full code underlying all tokens and smart contracts.
Anyone can use Etherscan to search for addresses, tokens, and transactions without needing to create an account. However, additional features are available for users who create an account, such as the ability to monitor addresses and receive alerts when a transaction occurs. An account is also needed to access Etherscan’s developer features, such as APIs that allow dapps to access the platform's data and services.
The ability to search and track wallet, token, and smart contract activity offers many different use cases in the crypto ecosystem. Etherscan can be used as a way to prove and verify that a transaction has taken place on Ethereum, acting as a form of payment receipt. It can also be used as proof of a token mint or burn, for example, when carrying out background research about a project. Such searches may also reveal unusual activity that could indicate a token is a scam.
Although addresses on Ethereum are pseudonymous, it can be useful to monitor wallet activity in certain cases. For instance, copy traders seeking to replicate the trading strategies of whales or expert traders or for law enforcement and cybercrime professionals tracking stolen funds and other criminal activities.
How to use Etherscan
To use Etherscan, you will need the Ethereum address of a wallet, smart contract, or transaction ID. This doesn’t need to be your own wallet or transaction since all Ethereum data is publicly searchable via Etherscan.
You can also search for tokens by name or ticker. For instance, searching Uniswap brings up the token contract details for the UNI token. On the token page, there is an overview of information about the token, including supply, number of holders, price, and more.
Below, Etherscan offers tab options to toggle between views showing token transfers, the addresses of token holders, information about the smart contract, and more.
It is worth noting that the green check mark on the “Contract” tab only confirms that the smart contract source code has been successfully verified as an exact match for the code processed by Ethereum. It isn’t confirmation that the contract has been audited or is safe to use.
On the “Transfers” tab, or anywhere else in Etherscan where a transaction ID has a blue link, clicking on the transaction will bring up the associated details. It shows the status (successful, pending, or failed), the time stamp, the originating and destination addresses, the amount, and the gas fee paid.
To set up alerts for an address, the user must have created an account and be logged in. From the profile page, the “Watchlist” feature can be accessed, and new addresses can be added. It’s possible to customize the notification options so that they are only sent for incoming or outgoing transactions, or both, or to track different types of token movement, so a user could configure tracking only when an outgoing NFT transaction occurs, for example. Other profile features include the ability to add private, human-readable names to specific addresses to make it easier to track them.
Etherscan offers several add-on features, such as basic analytics and a calculator for converting between ETH and its fractional units. The platform’s gas tracker feature may be useful for users familiar with Ethereum’s volatile gas fees. It can be accessed from the “More” menu or by clicking the blue Ethereum gas price ticket at the top of the page.
The gas price tracker is a dashboard showing the latest high, low, and average gas fees and a visual of the block confirmation time against gas price. It also shows estimated gas costs for transactions on the most popular services, such as Uniswap and USDT. Users can also toggle through tabs ranking dApps and addresses by their gas-guzzling or gas-spending status, respectively.
Alternatives to Etherscan
Although Etherscan is one of the most popular block explorers for Ethereum, it’s not the only one. Others include Blockchair, TokenView, and EnjinX. Those who require more complex blockchain analytics and visualizations tend to use paid services from providers such as Dune Analytics or Glassnode, which can also aggregate on- and off-chain data for deeper insights.
- Etherscan is the most popular block explorer for the Ethereum network.
- It can be used to prove and verify transactions and to track wallet movements for use cases such as detecting on-chain criminal activity, copying professional traders, or researching crypto projects.
- Etherscan allows anyone to view the details of wallets, smart contracts, and transactions on Ethereum and also includes additional features such as a gas price tracker.