One neat thing about blockchains is that you can see all of the transactions ever processed on them. This feature, unique to public blockchains, will persist for all of time—or, at least, until someone switches the internet off.

You can download a blockchain ledger for yourself and sift through it on your computer. But a much easier method is to parse this data with a tool called a blockchain explorer—a website that lets you scan through a blockchain’s entire history.

Blockchain explorers support different blockchains. Etherscan is the gold standard for the Ethereum blockchain, Solscan is a popular choice for Solana, and is focused on Bitcoin. But the type of data is usually the same: a robust history of all transaction data ever processed on a particular blockchain.

On an explorer, you can witness the moment, etched forever into history by the immutable nature of decentralized ledgers, that Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto mined coins now worth tens of billions of dollars. Or, you can follow the alleged money-laundering attempts made by those in control of the spoils of the Bitfinex hacker.

Privacy coins such as Monero mark the major exception to this fascinating rule. You can see that a transaction has taken place, but who sent what to whom is obscured.

In this guide, we’ll teach you the basics of how to use these tools for yourself. We’ll primarily rely on Etherscan, the popular Ethereum blockchain explorer—but trust us: most blockchain explorers are fundamentally the same.

What’s in a transaction?

On a blockchain explorer, you can trace…

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