Blockchain Exploration: a Community Effort
Help us give you the right tools with EthVM
If you’ve ever attended a blockchain meetup or had a lively crypto discussion with friends, you are sure to hear the words ‘ecosystem’, ‘environment’, ‘platform’, ’decentralization’ and perhaps even ‘web3’ brought into the conversation.
Essentially, the narrative is that there is a great deal more to blockchain than coins, balances and transactions. An exciting unexplored world, much like the Internet when it first became open to the public, awaits those who are willing and able to take the plunge…
While reports of the revolutionary and vast nature of blockchain innovations may occasionally be exaggerated, one thing is certainly true: Like any undiscovered territory, the crypto space demands, but also rewards, agency and self-reliance. As much as service providers like MEW take security measures on their side, a reliably positive crypto experience still depends heavily on precautions taken by the users themselves.
Harder than it has to be?
One of the main advantages of cryptocurrencies, especially when using client-side decentralized solutions, is the full control over one’s funds. No one is monitoring your account, no one keeps custody of your coins and and no one can freeze your assets.
Ironically, this freedom from third party control, combined with patchy customer support and limited availability of beginner guidance, leaves new users in a vacuum of helplessness — the exact opposite of the autonomous feeling crypto is supposed to impart.
Meanwhile, a lot of the information that users are frantically trying to find through help channels (many of which, sadly, can turn out to be phishing operations) is already available — if only they knew where to look and understood what they were looking at.
Enter the blockchain explorer.
A blockchain explorer — NOT an IE update
Over time, we have noticed that many questions received by the MEW support team can be answered by a brief perusal of an Ethereum explorer like Etherscan or Ethplorer.
Where are my tokens?
Why can’t I see my balance?
Did the transaction go through?
How do I know the custom token contract number?
How much is my token worth?
Given the fairly large volume of such questions, we set out to find out how many of our users refer to block explorers for information.
We were excited to learn that most of the 339 Twitter respondents use block explorers regularly — almost a third of them do so on a daily basis! — and only 15 percent have never used one at all.
This is great news, but we realize that there is self-selection at play. Our active Twitter followers, the ones most likely to take part in a poll, are also likely to be more experienced users.
We believe that understanding and troubleshooting details of crypto management via the capabilities of a block explorer should be a universal skill for crypto investors. A lot of panic, confusion and uncertainty can be taken out of the user experience when there is an accessible source of “blockchain truth” they can consult without waiting for a support reply and spending some very unpleasant hours (or days) wondering what is happening to their funds.
This is exactly why MEW has created its own open-source block explorer EthVM, to be integrated with our suite of wallet services.
In search of lost transactions: what does the block explorer do?
So, what is it that most people look up on the block explorer?
We always say that MEW is not a bank and we don’t manage accounts — which means that we don’t have any information beyond what anyone, including the users themselves, can view on the blockchain via the explorer.
All the transactions, all the balances, all the wallet histories.
Here’s how our Twitter followers use the blockchain explorer most:
Not surprisingly, most people are viewing balances and checking the status of transactions. Seems like a small thing, but when newbies are just beginning to use crypto wallets, sometimes interface bugs can cause major panic — if balances are not viewable, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and this is something that a user can ascertain all by themselves.
Similarly, there’s more to the transaction hash than just whether the transfer was successful or not. The information provided by transaction details can give clues to why it may not have gone through, how much the fee was and how the blockchain handled it’s validation. Understanding this data can help a user fix a faulty transaction without relying on anyone else.
The hunt for the perfect explorer
Of course, crypto management does involve issues that are more complex than balances and transactions, and the block explorer is always helpful. After all, it’s the interface for the ledger of everything that happened in the blockchain’s ecosystem — nothing goes undocumented.
Contract data and analytics are somewhat of a deeper cut in terms of explorer use, but as decentralized financial instruments and decentralized applications become more available, every user will benefit from understanding smart contracts and market trends.
Traders and miners, HODLers and speculators, developers, influencers and investors — all use block explorers to find the information they need for the success of their undertaking. We’d like to hear from everyone, the power users and the casual dabblers — what kind of information do you need to see on the block explorer? How do you want it to look? What blockchain and market analytics would be useful, or just fun, to have? Which features might give you the most peace of mind and which might get you most excited?
Thanks to everyone who has already participated in our Twitter polls and do look out for a more comprehensive blockchain explorer survey coming out soon — with giveaways, of course!
Although our EthVM explorer is still in Alpha, you can already view details and contribute on Github.
We are looking forward to building this explorer with you!
Team MEW and team EthVM