How do block explorers interface with a chain differently than full nodes? Would it be possible to integrate block explorer features into a full node implementation in the future?

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    Block explorers work on top of full nodes. They index all blocks and transactions and store it in a separate database suited for the explorer needs and serve that to some web application displaying the data.
    – q9f
    Aug 12, 2016 at 9:28
  • Thanks. I was hoping for more of a resource/discussion on how blockexplorers are able to retrieve and return the granular transaction data they do which a node can't or currently does not. Actually surprised this fell flat. Maybe it's something this is either universally known or universally unknown. Maybe you can help me with the question formatting for a more successful outcome? I still believe it's potentially valuable for this stack's knowledge base. Aug 12, 2016 at 17:30
  • Re: Index all blocks... Isn't that what a full node does, minus the ability to explore transactions on a granular level? A more technically detailed resource for understanding would be appreciated Aug 12, 2016 at 17:36
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    I totally agree, it's an interesting question. I've build a block crawler a few years back, and all I can say that the full in full node refers to full capability to do everything on the blockchain. A block explorer just queries the node for the information it needs and usually stores more data than a full node.
    – q9f
    Aug 12, 2016 at 18:26
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    Ah, what format is that data stored in? How did your explorer retrieve it? Edit: either in the context of whatever chain you built for, or ethereum, i realize the question is possibly mixed Aug 12, 2016 at 18:34

2 Answers 2


Block explorers run instrumented EVMs, as opposed to the vanilla EVM that is run by a full node. If you want the same level of detail yourself, then you'll need to know how to create and instrument your own EVM.

A good place to start - which includes links to the relevant areas of code - would be this previous thread: Instrumenting EVM


Would it be possible to integrate block explorer features into a full node implementation in the future?

Yes that would be definitely possible. It is not unlikely that some ethereum node implementations will add explorer features in near future. It would also be possible to run your own block explorer locally besides the node (https://github.com/etherparty/explorer). A good chunk of the block explorer functionality can be drawn from the RPC interface of a node. Also, the interface will be more extensive in the future, for example to allow receiving information on contract internal transactions. Parity has recently added a feature to trace these messages (https://github.com/ethcore/parity/wiki/JSONRPC-trace-module).

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