Part of the Continuous Optimisation of High Performance Blockchain (HPB) Infrastructure
In this article I want to introduce the new High Performance Blockchain (HPB) Block Explorer; something I am quite excited about. It is not fully launched just yet because it is going through some final testing. This New Block Explorer is led by a HPB community development team, furthermore, aligning to the DAO culture of the HPB community, the team consulted the wider community during its development; I want to cover this aspect of the explorer in this article. This gives me a positive feeling as an investor, HPB listened to their community on their concerns with the current block explorer and acted on it.
In this article we will explore how block explorers are a vital tool for all types of users such as developers, node operators and everyday users of token-driven DApps. Each user type requires different features in an explorer, and all blockchains require a blockchain explorer to give the required transparency. From my research it is evident that the current HPB Scan block explorer lacks features in certain areas, causing some frustration for users. HPB’s new block explorer Hscan will be a much-needed addition for the community and hopefully it will solve the pain points experienced by the community at present with the current explorer.
Keeping with the style of my articles, I want this to be an educational article which also gives a quick overview of why a good blockchain explorer is essential in the crypto sphere.
The History of Block Explorers
Software Testing Help, (2021) states that the Block Explorer emerged simultaneously with blockchains (circa 2010). People needed to have the ability to prove a person had sent a transaction to you as claimed, to see if it was pending or something had occurred to prevent it going through. This was a necessity that was very swiftly recognised, for obvious reasons.
Transparency became critical in a system that was designed to be “trustless” i.e. not needing a 3rd party intermediary to verify transactions. What would be the point in trusting a transaction system that claimed to deliver or receive your assets without the ability to provide proof? Because within early blockchains there was no 3rd party intermediary (typically a bank) who fulfilled this role. A Blockchain Explorer became an essential tool in this new decentralised world to provide this essential service.
Soon after the above became a widely accepted basic requirement, came the need to extrapolate more detailed information on blockchains for different user types and the concept of today’s Blockchain Explorers was born.
The Importance of Block Explorers
The easiest way I can describe Block Explorers is that they act like a search engine for data on a particular blockchain. Software Testing Help, (2021) state that they can be used to extrapolate virtually any information on a particular blockchain. Keep in mind most blockchains are designed to be fully transparent and immutable and the whole ethos is for the blockchain ledger to be unalterable so users need to be able to verify this; Block Explorers give users the ability to check transactions.
In short, Blockchain Explorers utilise APIs.
“Application Programming Interface (API) is a software intermediary that allows 2 applications to speak to one another” (MuleSoft, 2021)
The chart above shows how all of this works. API links can be inserted within any web interface to draw out and present particular live data from a database like a blockchain. depending on the Block Explorer design, data can be displayed in various ways, either numerically, or as graphs on the user interface.
The very minimum information most explorers show is information on recently mined blocks and recent transactions on chain. Overall, they provide the transparency demanded by communities utilising a particular chain.
Wiesflecker, (2020) states that a blockchain explorer is essential for a good blockchain project to thrive. They are vital in the cryptocurrency sphere as transparency is a critical requirement to ensure trust in a network. Block Explorers allow us to view the Blocks and transactions on the particular chain, each blockchain in the space has an explorer of some type. As blockchains become ever more complex in terms of nodes and transaction capability, the need for a good explorer becomes even more critical.
An all-singing, all-dancing block explorer might provide all the following:
- Tracking functions for transparency: In the blockchain era we all need the basic ability to track our transactions to see if they have arrived or not.
- Provide block information: Users need to know when a new block is added at a given time, with other information shown such as “block height, block hash, contained transactions, block output in tokens, transaction fees, and the miner or mining pool's name” (Wiesflecker, 2020).
- Provide the history of specific addresses: This again gives the user the ability to track every single transaction linked to a particular public address, an essential transparency requirement.
- Evaluation Features: These give specific data such as the largest transaction in a certain period, block processing times and fee costs.
- History of double issues and orphaned blocks: This is vital for security and transparency.
- Mempool: This is a useful feature that lists the transactions which are yet to be confirmed and groups them into blocks for verification. Some explorers list this, giving information such as block fees, transaction fees, data size and global distribution.
- Genesis Block: This is the first block of the particular chain, usually listed to showcase the date, time and miner who kicked it all off.
Users Of Block Explorers
Everybody in the space will require the use of a blockchain explorer, in the same sense that everybody in “traditional finance” needs to check their bank account statement at regular intervals. Less experienced retail users usually just need the ability to check if their transaction went through, or to investigate what went wrong (not enough gas!). The more experienced users such as miners need the ability to calculate profit margins by evaluating block information, such as the last block mined and the transactions within it and the fees made from the same. Developers may need to access even more technical data.
At the end of the day all blockchains need a good explorer that provides users with their required data. At a core level they need to offer all user types the transparency they demand, so they can investigate for themselves the operational performance of the chain. This is a vital requirement for open source blockchain use because it is the reason we are all drawn to this decentralised way of transacting. We have the ability to protect our personal identities as our public addresses are all that is on display, but with full transparency so we can track everything on-chain. Imagine a bank giving that level of transparency about the big picture!
HPB Scan- HPB’s Current Block Explorer
HPB like all other blockchains has always had a block explorer to carry out the basic functions explained above and this basic explorer offers many of the features most users would require, albeit with some limitations. The link to this explorer is:
Hscan - HPB’s New Block Explorer
The new block explorer being launched on HPB called Hscan (Hscan.org) is in beta mode as of 15th Nov 2021, with its full launch tbc. Whilst it is awaiting official launch and the final testing is being concluded it can be previewed through:
Personally, I believe Hscan offers a much fresher interface, however in typical fashion my curiosity does not stop at appreciating this new interface. In my research I have discovered that the journey of this new block explorer has been a relatively long road; I will try explain this roadmap as best I can in chronological order below.
The Journey to the new Hscan Block Explorer
A new community explorer (https://explorer.myhpbwallet.com) was released in 2021.
According to the initial introductory post to this on Reddit around June 2021, Stefan, who is a professional developer, executed this new block explorer (HPB Global, 2021) to Niceman’s original brief for a new faster and more customisable explorer for the community. This was all devised out of necessity due to a number of issues users had with HPB Scan.
I believe that the year previous (circa mid-2020), the idea for the new explorer was proposed by Nicemans who had envisaged doing this as far back as 2018. In 2021 the basic and much faster community explorer was shared and wider consultation was commenced to ensure pain points were solved going forward.
The table above was put together to showcase the pain points with the current HPB Scan explorer and represents improvement areas the new community explorer targets; essentially these represented the main areas of frustration within the community at the time. HPB community members wanted a faster explorer, without the need to refresh the page, and also wanted the ability to add new features via updates in future. Also, there was also demand for easier access to HRNG data in blocks and the ability to export transactional data to Excel.
What came next was an AMA within the community, to get input from users and a community survey ensured further viewpoints could be incorporated in the future development process. This was to ensure all users, be it retail users, developers or node operators could have their say. The idea was to programme in all the use cases and put a fresh design on the explorer.
On the 10th June Stefan answered the questions posed to him during the AMA in the HPB Telegram channel. I am going to give a quick overview of the answers to the questions below, but I would advise checking out the full AMA in the TG channel, which I will link in the further reading below.
- The community explorer was confirmed to not be a replacement to HPB Scan, but as a way to give the community additional features and much faster speeds.
- The community explorer is built with “.NET 5”, a cross-platform framework from Microsoft, in short making it far superior and allowing much faster speeds that can handle more interfaces. This should give users more flexibility to add what they want on the explorer.
- Block Synchronisation is fast, so now once a block is minted its data is instantly displayed on-screen.
- There is no longer a need to refresh the page to see updated transactions, thanks to the implantation of a side server stream doing auto updates.
- Developers will also be able to avail of HRNG data to get random numbers, via the new explorer, via an API which will query this for a given block/range of blocks.
- This is a relatively open-source explorer due to the open API architecture, meaning new developers can easily add features.
- The explorer can also present API information. The timestamp of the explorer will be in UTC.
- The community explorer allows the export of transactions from addresses to Excel, from there you can further filter down data.
Other Q&A’s during the AMA pointed towards the usefulness of being able to add various filtering/ sorting of address data information in future - the ability to view, read and write contract source code like is possible in Etherscan and the ability to add live graphics. Following the above AMA, a further survey helped to prioritise the requirements of the community.
These were summarised the following week. I think there was 35 responses in total and the results were subdivided into themes. In short, the users prioritised the following features they wanted for the next iteration of the explorer.
- Accessibility: Users want pages to load faster, to have a short and simple URL address and have 100% uptime.
- Design: Users want a pro-designed look and feel to the interface, a mobile compatible layout and the ability for auto updates of data without needing to refresh the page.
- Priority audience: The majority of users want the explorer to meet the needs of node operators, developers and normal users in an equal manner and not favour any of their respective features over others.
- Stats: The ability to show total wallets, circulating supply and total txns information.
- Features: The ability to search via address, block and Txhash information. The ability to clear status success/failure. To be able to see Txn time in days, hours and minutes to get more exact information.
- Benefits: The ability to quickly identify the explorer’s key purpose, reassurance of the value of your transactions and when blocks are being written.
- Developer features: Developers request the ability to code and submit improvements. They also want the ability to view, read and write contract code and add new app/interface to the backend.
- Other wishes: The ability to see rewards offered by nodes for voting (and history of the same for visibility), tagging wallet information, videos on the use of APIs, network health status information, staking information, information on HRC-20 and HRC-721 tokens with their dollar value shown.
All of the above was up for discussion, allowing anyone to voice their viewpoint.
The new Hscan
Fast forward to today (Mid Nov 2021) and Hscan - the teams response - is close to release and currently in Beta mode as mentioned above. The chart below was produced just recently to showcase the current differences between the current “HPB Scan” and the new “Hscan”.
The chart above shows the advantages Hscan will bring for the various user types discussed throughout this article; It is pretty much self-explanatory in this chart. It certainly seems Hscan offers a far superior platform.
HScan - What's New?
There will be a full preview of the new Hscan coming soon. This article was written just prior to the beta release when there was a preview version on the web (https://hscan.org). According to HPB (2021) the features in the preview mode of the site so far are:
- Homepage: There is a top bar menu including a sign in feature for added functions (more below). Also, on the top bar users have the ability to search by address, block, txnhash and token. There will also be information on token price, market cap and txns over 14 days on the homepage. Also shown in information on the latest blocks and transactions with a scroll down option.
- Search: This explorer adds the ability to search by token name.
- Block View: Users can view the latest block number and some block information on the homepage.
- Transaction Query: Users can see the total transaction volume and partial transaction information on the homepage, can click on a particular transaction there to quickly see its details in full, and can click the “View All Transactions” button to enter the transactions page. For convenience, users can also filter for “Pending Transactions” and “Contract Internal Transactions”.
- Account Information: The Top 10,000 wallets by HPB holdings are listed with their balance, percentage and number of txns.
- Token: Users can search for particular HRC-20 and HRC-721 tokens, and view the corresponding smart contract details.
- Contract Verification: The function of smart contract verification and release are added, and audit code is provided for users to independently verify what the contract actually does.
- Login: A login function enables the user to create a profile and add a watch list, to add private notes against txns and addresses, to hide tokens of no interest, and also to create API-KEYs and custom ABIs (useful for bringing live data into DApps and debugging smart contracts).
HPB, (2021) state in their most recent October Progress report that the new HPB Block Explorer (Hscan) has been tested and that during testing they have fixed bugs with contract verification, login functions, and database issues. They also state they have optimised the limit on the number of open files on the synchronization node to cope with the expected large volume of access pressure. In short, testing is on-going. The beta version is now live (just before I published this) and may differ slightly to what is contained above, but I believe all of the above will be released with the full version.
My Opinion on Hscan
Personally, I think the homepage offers a far fresher and more modern look, giving a nice overview from the outset when you land on the page. I like the fact that I can instantly see the HPB current price and corresponding market cap and the latest block information. It is also nice to have the latest transaction data on the home page, and a nice neat drop-down menu on the top ribbon for further links into blockchain, tokens and other tabs. This should make the tracking of different HRC20 tokens a lot easier for me.
I also like the sign in function as depicted in the above section, this will give users a nice level of control in how they use the block explorer. This feature was evident in the preview version when writing this article, however I don’t see it on the beta version just yet, so the team will need to clarify if this will follow in the later versions, I would be under the impression it will be. It is also pretty cool to see the top wallets ranked in order on HPB holdings.
Furthermore, it seems from my research, that the new Hscan explorer API functionality should make the listing of HPB assets on Coinmarketcap and other such sites easier. This would be a huge advantage!
As depicted above I feel that the new Hscan block explorer will be a very welcome addition to the HPB community due to the benefits it will bring to the various user types, solving many of the pain points experienced with HPB Scan. I also love the very sleek and modern appearance.
Personally, as an “average Joe” user of blockchain I feel that my own needs are fulfilled with the current HPB Scan explorer as I merely ever need to verify a transaction here and there, however, improved speed on the Hscan explorer will be convenient for average users. I also like the greater monitoring and functionality for HRC-20 and HRC-721 assets.
This new explorer will make life a lot easier for developers, node operators and normal users in an equal fashion, not favouring one over another, but at the same time targeting improvements for each cohort’s core requirements.
Overall, this will be a great addition to HPB. I am glad to see that this development was conducted with advance input from the Western community.
- HPB Website: http://www.hpb.io/
- HPB Twitter: https://twitter.com/HPB_Global
- HPB Telegram: https://t.me/hpbglobal
- HPB LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/high-performance-blockchain/
- HPB GitHub: https://github.com/hpb-project
- HPB Medium:1 https://medium.com/@HPB_Global
- HPB Medium 2: https://medium.com/hpb-foundation
- HPB Full White Paper: http://www.hpb.io/static/file/whitepaper/HPB_Whitepaper_English.pdf
- HPB 1 Page Summary Whitepaper: http://www.hpb.io/static/file/whitepaperA4/HPB_A4_en_%E8%8B%B1%E8%AF%AD_English.pdf
- HPB Scan (Current Explorer): https://hpbscan.org/
- HScan (New Explorer): https://hscan.org
- HPB, 2021. Comparison of Functions between New and Old HPB Explorer. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/@HPB_Global/comparison-of-functions-between-new-and-old-hpb-explorer-977f36ad1739 [Accessed 3 November 2021].
- HPB, 2021. HPB Monthly Progress Report - October 2021. [online] Hpb.io. Available at: https://www.hpb.io/post-665 [Accessed 8 November 2021].
- HPB Global, 2021. HPB Block Explorers AMA - What's New? What's Possible? Best Questions by 7 June Win!. [online] Reddit.com. Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/HPB_Global/comments/ns4u1e/hpb_block_explorers_ama_whats_new_whats_possible/ [Accessed 8 November 2021].
- HPB Scan, 2021. [online] Hpbscan.org. Available at: https://hpbscan.org/ [Accessed 8 November 2021].
- Hscan, 2021. HPB Chain Explorer. [online] Hscan.org. Available at: https://hscan.org/ [Accessed 8 November 2021].
- Lux Finance, 2021. [online] Available at: https://twitter.com/LuxFinance/status/1354055660124712960/photo/1 [Accessed 10 November 2021].
- MuleSoft, 2021. What is an API? (Application Programming Interface) | MuleSoft. [online] MuleSoft. Available at: https://www.mulesoft.com/resources/api/what-is-an-api [Accessed 10 November 2021].
- Najera, 2018. An Introduction To Block Explorers. [online] Medium. Available at: https://blog.goodaudience.com/an-introduction-to-block-explorers-404d4950deff [Accessed 12 November 2021].
- Software Testing Help, 2021. Blockchain Explorer Tutorial – What Is A Blockchain Explorer. [online] Software Testing Help. Available at: https://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/blockchain-explorer-tutorial/ [Accessed 10 November 2021].
- Wiesflecker, L., 2020. What is the Blockchain Block Explorer and why it is so important. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.datadriveninvestor.com/what-is-the-blockchain-block-explorer-and-why-it-is-so-important-cd449e5daf07 [Accessed 4 November 2021].