NEAR Block Explorer – The NEAR Tutorial Set

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Data works best when it is organized. Sure, with blockchain you have a structure that collects and organizes all the transactional data from a network, but how can a user access or view this data? How can they know the current state of things in the network without going through the hassle of writing long lines of code or better yet, how can one browse through the information in a blockchain network without knowing much about coding at all?

Well, for all this and much more, you have a neat little tool called the block explorer. A block explorer is a staple in every blockchain developer’s arsenal. As indicated by the name, a block explorer helps you explore the data in a blockchain network. Along with the information about all the transactions and blocks that get generated in a blockchain network, the explorers also provide detailed overviews regarding the network activities themselves. This can include the time it takes to generate a block, the number of transactions in a day, etc. Every blockchain platform comes with its own block explorers and they provide the users (both technical and otherwise) with organized data regarding the network. 

Understanding a block explorer not only helps us understand the data in the network but also provides insights into the working of the network itself.  With a clever, intuitive design and neatly presented data, block explorers are one of the best first tools to learn in order to understand a blockchain network.  

The Near Block Explorer 

In our NEAR tutorial, we discussed how the NEAR protocol stands out in terms of scalability, performance, and, of course, seamless end-user experience. With features like readable addresses, wallet-less (initial) interactions, etc., NEAR makes it easy for anyone to get started with the network. Another cool feature of the NEAR protocol is the availability of highly useful tools that help us in our development journey and the focus of this article is on one such tool, the NEAR explorer (in case it wasn’t obvious).

The NEAR block explorer is a blockchain explorer for the NEAR network. It was built by the NEAR team itself and it helps you explore and view the details of all the NEAR transactions, smart contract interactions, account and block details, etc. The NEAR explorer comes with a sleek design that highlights the network information. 

Near Explorer Home Page

Understanding the block explorer 

The search bar 

As with many other block explorers, the key element of the NEAR explorer is a search bar that allows you to search for transactions, blocks and account details using their corresponding identification elements. 

Search bar

Due to the readable account address feature, searching the details of an account is especially easy in NEAR. 

Search account details gif

The node and block details 

Right below the search bar, the explorer provides specific details about the network itself, here the information is divided based on the elements (nodes and blocks) that it represents. Within the Nodes section, you can see the details like Nodes online, which tell you the number of active nodes currently running in the NEAR network. The section also displays the number of nodes that are participating in the validation process. 

Node Section

The Blocks section gives you a general overview of block generation in the network. It shows you the current block height, i.e., the index of the most recent block 

Note: The total number of blocks in the network will be block height + 1, as the block count starts from the genesis block, which is block 0. 

While observing the block height, you might see that the number gets frequently updated and the reason for this constant updation can be found in the next bit of information that is provided in the block section, which is the Avg block time.

The average block time tells you the amount of time it takes to generate a single block within the network and given the performance of the NEAR network, a new block gets generated every second (approximately). 

Block height

NEAR network transaction details 

The Transactions section gives information regarding the transactions happening in the network. The 24hr Total gives the total number of transactions that took place in the past 24-hour window.

Note: The 24-hour window is calculated per second and thus the 24hr total field is updated every second. This causes fluctuations in the number of transactions following the change in the Avg block time, i.e., a decrease in the average block time will show an increase in the 24hr total and vice versa. 

Number of transactions GIF

As with many other protocols, NEAR calculates the amount of computation required for a transaction execution using a unit called the gas. Users should pay for the gas to execute their transaction and the price of the gas is given in the gas price field. In NEAR, you pay for the gas using the native NEAR currency and the price is given as the amount of NEAR per Tgas.  One Tgas equals 1012 units of gas. 

Digging deeper into the blockchain explorer 

Right, now that we have covered the “first-page” of the NEAR explorer, let’s dig deep and see what else we get to explore.

The Explore button in the top right corner of the page shows us specific elements that we can “explore”: 

  • Accounts 
  • Blocks  
  • Transactions 
  • Nodes  
  • Charts and Stats 
Explore Options GIF

Accounts 

The accounts option takes you to a page that lists all the accounts that were created in the NEAR network. The page displays:

  • The account ID 
  • The native currency balance in the account  
  • Date of creation  

The account IDs can be in both readable format and otherwise (64-character string):

account list

If you click on any of the accounts, the explorer will show you the details specific to that account. This includes the following:

Field Function
TransactionsNumber of transactions sent and received by the account
Storage UsedThe amount of storage used by the account (Bytes)
Native Account Balance The NEAR balance
Validator Stake The NEAR balance in case you are staking NEAR to participate in the validation process
Created At The date of creation
Created by Transaction  The ID of the transaction that created the account

The balance profile field on the page helps you track the placement of your NEAR tokens, i.e., whether you have staked it, locked it in a contract, etc. The transaction section shows the list of transactions to and from the account.

account details

Blocks 

The blocks option shows you the list of all the blocks that are generated in the network, the page shows the: 

  • Block index 
  • Number of transactions in the block 
  • Block hash 
  • Status 
Block list

As with accounts, clicking on one of the blocks will give you the details regarding the block, which include: 

Field Function
TransactionsThe number of transactions
ReceiptsThe number of “actionable” objects included in the transactions (we will be discussing this in the upcoming tutorials) 
StatusThe status of the block
AuthorThe author of the block
Gas UsedThe total amount of gas used
Gas PriceThe price of gas
CreatedThe time of the block creation
HashThe hash of the Block
Parent Hash The hash of the previous block
details of the block

The transaction section on the page will include the details of all the transactions included in the block. 

Transaction

The transaction option lists the details of all the transactions happening in the network. The details include: 

  • The action 
  • Transaction identifier 
  • Transaction status 
  • The account that sent the transaction 
Transactions List

When you click on the transaction identifier, it will show you the following details of the transaction: 

Field Function
Signed ByThe account that sent the transaction
ReceiverThe account that is receiving the transaction
StatusThe status of the transaction
Transaction FeeThe fee that was paid for the transaction
Deposit ValueThe total amount transferred between the accounts
Gas UsedThe unit of gas used by the transaction
Attached GasThe gas included with the transaction
CreatedTime of transaction creation
HashTransaction Hash
Block HashThe hash of the block that the transaction is a part of
details of the transaction

On the transaction page, you can also find the details of the action of the transaction and the plan of transaction execution. 

Nodes

The nodes option gives you the list of all the nodes that are either participating or in line for participating in the validation process. The page also gives you certain stats regarding: 

  • The number of validating nodes 
  • The Total supply of NEAR tokens 
  • The total amount of NEAR that is staked 
  • The current price(stake) to become a block-producing validator (seat price) 

The list of nodes includes the details like: 

  • Node location 
  • Node status 
  • Validator details 
  • The fee 
  • Number of delegators, i.e., people entrusting their tokens with these validators for staking 
  • Amount staked 
  • The cumulative stake details 

The details of the nodes that are actively participating in the validation process will be provided first, followed by the nodes that are in line. The set of validators remains constant for a specified amount of time. In NEAR, this time interval is called an Epoch. The nodes page provides the details regarding the current Epoch at the start of the page. 

Charts and stats  

As the name suggests, the charts and stats option provides various graphical charts and statistics related to various network activities. You can use this page to get a consolidated view of all the network activities. Some of the major data include: 

  • Total number of transactions 
  • Daily gas usage 
  • Account and contract creation details 

The graphical representation of the data makes it easier for the user to understand the history and the current state of the network. 

Stats image

Exploring testnet 

You can use the same NEAR explorer to explore the details of the NEAR testnet. To explore the testnet, all you need to do is select the network from the dropdown list at the top left corner of the NEAR explorer page. 

Change network gif

Since the testnet is a mirror of the mainnet that is used for testing and deployment purposes, the testnet explorer also follows suit when it comes to functionality. The testnet explorer works the same way as the NEAR explorer and you can retrieve all the given information as the ones mentioned above. 

Conclusion 

A block explorer is an integral tool when it comes to blockchain development. Understanding the tool and the data presented using it will help you understand a lot about the network itself. The NEAR explorer provides an easy way to access the data that is stored within the NEAR network and understanding the NEAR explorer will help you better understand NEAR and ease up your NEAR development journey. 

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