Michelle Legge
By Michelle LeggeHead of Crypto Tax Education
Updated Apr 22, 2024
This article has been fact checked and reviewed as per our editorial policy.

What is Etherscan and How To Use It

Etherscan is the most widely used blockchain explorer for the Ethereum blockchain - but getting to grips with it isn’t always easy. Learn about blockchain explorers and how to use Etherscan in our guide.

What is Etherscan?

Etherscan.io is a blockchain explorer for Ethereum. You can use Etherscan to explore transactions on the Ethereum blockchain including transaction history, address information, block information, token information, smart contracts, and more. 

What is a blockchain explorer?

A blockchain explorer is a tool used by crypto investors, analysts, and enthusiasts to view all the information on a given blockchain including transactions, addresses, gas fees, and more - effectively letting you read the blockchain.

An infographic explaining the meaning of blockchain explorer, presented by Koinly, a crypto tax software

How does Etherscan work?

Etherscan works by interacting with the Ethereum blockchain and its data to provide users with an easy way to read the Ethereum blockchain. It essentially has three steps, which put simply, are: 

  1. Retrieving Ethereum data in real-time

  2. Maintaining an organized data record

  3. Presenting near real-time data to users

To understand Etherescan in more depth, we need to know about three things: RPC, nodes, and RPC endpoints.

  • RPC (Remote procedure call): RPC is a way for one computer program to talk to another. In Ethereum, we use a special kind of RPC called JSON-RPC. Etherscan uses this to get information from the Ethereum network.

  • Blockchain nodes: Ethereum stores all its data on special computers called nodes. They are like the servers for the Ethereum network. But regular software can't talk directly to these nodes.

  • RPC endpoints: Think of RPC endpoints as virtual addresses. When Etherscan wants to ask for data or do something on the Ethereum network, it sends a request to an RPC endpoint. This endpoint then gets the information from the Ethereum nodes.

So, Etherscan uses the JSON-RPC API to send requests to RPC endpoints (which are Ethereum nodes), and these endpoints send back the latest data to Etherscan. Because Etherscan serves many users, it uses several RPC endpoints to make sure it gets updates in near real-time.

What is Etherscan used for?

Now you get how it works, you’re probably wondering why someone would use Etherscan. Etherscan offers many valuable insights for investors, which we can roughly group into three broad categories.

Explore wallet addresses

Etherscan allows users to explore Ethereum-based wallet addresses. You can easily look up a wallet address to check its holdings of ETH, as well as other ERC-20 tokens like Shiba Inu or Tether and NFTs (ERC-721 tokens).

For a deeper dive, you can click on any transaction ID in the transaction history section. This takes you to an individual transaction page where you can find detailed information such as ETH spent on gas, the smart contract involved, the recipient's wallet address, transaction timestamp, date, and amount.

Etherscan also provides wallet analytics and charts to help you assess a wallet's activity over time.

View transactions and blocks

Beyond personal wallets, Etherscan offers tools to analyze the Ethereum network as a whole. This includes data on Ether (ETH) price, market capitalization, average gas prices, transaction speed, and network upgrades.

Etherscan maintains a comprehensive record of all Ethereum blocks and transactions, offering network analytics, charts, statistics, and node-related information.

View smart contracts

Smart contracts contain extensive data, and Etherscan allows users to access and explore it. You can search for a specific smart contract and find details such as the crypto wallet responsible for deploying it on Ethereum.

Additionally, Etherscan provides information about the contract's code, deployment date, time, block height, and total token supply. It also lists token holders and their respective shares, along with the contract's transaction history and associated wallet details.

How to use Etherscan

If you’ve not used it before, all the information can be a bit overwhelming, so here’s a step-by-step guide on how to read Etherscan.

How to use Etherscan to view wallets and transaction history

1. Go to Etherscan.io

2. Paste the wallet address (or ENS domain) into the search bar on the homepage

3. On the next page, you can see the balance, the tokens held, and the transactions made with that wallet. 

4. You can then click on any transaction hash to see more details about that transaction like gas paid, other addresses involved, and more. 

Pro tip

To view a wallet balance on a specific date or block height, use Etherscan’s Balance Checker.

How to use Etherscan to check gas fees

  1. Go to gas tracker

  2. Find the kind of transaction you’re making under additional info and check the current rate (low/average/high)

How to use Etherscan to view smart contracts

1. Go to Etherscan.io

2. You can either search for the specific protocol you’re looking for or paste the contract address into the search bar - in this example, we’ll use Tether

3. Select the contract tab

4. You’ll see three new tabs: code, read contract, and write contract- if you select the connect to Web3 option, you’ll be able to connect your wallet and interact with the contract (please note this option is in BETA)

Read next: What is BscScan and How To Use It

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Your frequently asked questions...

Do users need an account to use Etherscan?
Can Etherscan track Bitcoin?
Is it free to use Etherscan?
What can Etherscan be used for?
How to check wallet balances and history on Etherscan?
Can Etherscan be used on testnets?
What information can I find by reading smart contracts on Etherscan?
How do I interact with a smart contract using Etherscan?
What are the benefits of creating an account on Etherscan?
How does Etherscan improve security in the Ethereum ecosystem?
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