From what I understand, blockchains are not optimised for searching for past transactions. Does Etherscan download the data into another database for more performant querying? If so, how can it download the data and what does it use the query it?


If you want to do analytics, the trick is scrapping the whole blockchain into an indexed database. My advice is that you get a SQL database, and write a program that queries a node for its blocks, one by one, then you get the transactions and the transactions receipts, which you can query again for more data. Is up to you which fields interest you the most, to which you want to apply the right indexing.

Here is the structure of a block

From https://github.com/ethereum/wiki/wiki/JSON-RPC#eth_getblockbyhash

// Request
curl -X POST --data '{"jsonrpc":"2.0","method":"eth_getBlockByHash","params":["0xe670ec64341771606e55d6b4ca35a1a6b75ee3d5145a99d05921026d1527331", true],"id":1}'

// Result
"result": {
    "number": "0x1b4", // 436
    "hash": "0xe670ec64341771606e55d6b4ca35a1a6b75ee3d5145a99d05921026d1527331",
    "parentHash": "0x9646252be9520f6e71339a8df9c55e4d7619deeb018d2a3f2d21fc165dde5eb5",
    "nonce": "0xe04d296d2460cfb8472af2c5fd05b5a214109c25688d3704aed5484f9a7792f2",
    "sha3Uncles": "0x1dcc4de8dec75d7aab85b567b6ccd41ad312451b948a7413f0a142fd40d49347",
    "logsBloom": "0xe670ec64341771606e55d6b4ca35a1a6b75ee3d5145a99d05921026d1527331",
    "transactionsRoot": "0x56e81f171bcc55a6ff8345e692c0f86e5b48e01b996cadc001622fb5e363b421",
    "stateRoot": "0xd5855eb08b3387c0af375e9cdb6acfc05eb8f519e419b874b6ff2ffda7ed1dff",
    "miner": "0x4e65fda2159562a496f9f3522f89122a3088497a",
    "difficulty": "0x027f07", // 163591
    "totalDifficulty":  "0x027f07", // 163591
    "extraData": "0x0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000",
    "size":  "0x027f07", // 163591
    "gasLimit": "0x9f759", // 653145
    "gasUsed": "0x9f759", // 653145
    "timestamp": "0x54e34e8e" // 1424182926
    "transactions": [{...},{ ... }]
    "uncles": ["0x1606e5...", "0xd5145a9..."]

Then you get hashes for transactions, which you can perform for each, two queries


// Request
curl -X POST --data '{"jsonrpc":"2.0","method":"eth_getTransactionByHash","params":["0xb903239f8543d04b5dc1ba6579132b143087c68db1b2168786408fcbce568238"],"id":1}'

// Result
"result": {
    "blockHash": "0xbeab0aa2411b7ab17f30a99d3cb9c6ef2fc5426d6ad6fd9e2a26a6aed1d1055b",
    "blockNumber": "0x15df", // 5599
    "transactionIndex":  "0x1", // 1
    "value":"0x7f110" // 520464
    "gas": "0x7f110" // 520464


// Request
curl -X POST --data '{"jsonrpc":"2.0","method":"eth_getTransactionReceipt","params":["0xb903239f8543d04b5dc1ba6579132b143087c68db1b2168786408fcbce568238"],"id":1}'

// Result
"result": {
     transactionHash: '0xb903239f8543d04b5dc1ba6579132b143087c68db1b2168786408fcbce568238',
     transactionIndex:  '0x1', // 1
     blockNumber: '0xb', // 11
     blockHash: '0xc6ef2fc5426d6ad6fd9e2a26abeab0aa2411b7ab17f30a99d3cb96aed1d1055b',
     cumulativeGasUsed: '0x33bc', // 13244
     gasUsed: '0x4dc', // 1244
     contractAddress: '0xb60e8dd61c5d32be8058bb8eb970870f07233155' // or null, if none was created
     logs: [{
         // logs as returned by getFilterLogs, etc.
     }, ...]
  • 1
    Wow thanks! Can I use contractAddress to get the ABI of a contract and to find out its state at any time like here etherscan.io/address/…? Thanks – migu Feb 23 '17 at 20:44

A blockchain explorer is simply an interface to the data contained on the blockchain.

Software like Geth and Parity also act as an interface to this data.

Both implement JSON RPC endpoints which can be queried to get data about blocks, or transactions.

The problem is that JSON is not particularly easy to read, and interacting with the command line is not necessarily easy for people without a technical background.

Blockchain explorers like EthTools.com (disclaimer - this is my companies product), Etherscan.io and EtherChain.org work by collating this data, indexing it appropriately, and presenting it in an easy to view/search format.

  • 1
    FYI EthTools.com gets flagged by MetaMask for phishing (as of 01/06/2018) – Vervious Jan 6 '18 at 5:02

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