Let’s start at the basics. To develop on Ethereum and use the Etherscan API, you first need to understand what Ethereum is. As a quick recap, Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts. These contracts are how tasks are completed on the Ethereum ecosystem. These tasks can then be automatically executed, based on the lines of code. A smart contract also acts as the foundation for decentralized apps (dApps). In comparison to Bitcoin, Ethereum shows us everything that is possible for blockchain technology including decentralization and the development of dApps. As a result, it is more commonly known as a smart contracts platform. This is in comparison to Bitcoin which is primarily a cryptocurrency.
Since Ethereum is a platform that other developers can use to build off of, accessing the platform can be done in a few ways. First, developers can choose to use the Etherscan platform. This platform hosts a collection of web-based tools for exploring the Ethereum network. As a result, you can refer to Etherscan as a block explorer, search engine, analytics platform, and most importantly an API platform. For front end developers, you might think of the Ethereum network as a public, distributed database that can be accessed using an API. So how exactly does one use the Etherscan API?
What is an API?
An API is a set of guidelines for building an application. The name literally stands for an application programming interface. When you use an API, you can let your product or service communicate with other products and services. This is done without knowing exactly how they are implemented. This might sound confusing but bear with us. If you’ve ever booked a flight you’ve likely used an API. To scroll through your flight options, you interact with the airline’s website which is just the front end. Behind the scenes, your request is sent back to the airline’s database to see if the seat you want is available and what it will cost. To have the information retrieved, the airline uses an API.
In alignment with APIs, you may also hear the term, API request. The request is the information that is rendered in response to your request. For example, a webpage request will produce a webpage in response. Taking these concepts, we can now apply it more specifically to an Etherscan Ethereum Developer API. The dAPP acts as the interface in which you (the user) makes a request for information. The API then processes the request and delivers data from the Ethereum database. Once found, the information is delivered back to the dApp. The dApp then facilitates the interaction between the interface and the database. Some think of the API as a waiter who delivers information to the kitchen and comes back with food.
Why use an API?
In general, APIs are built with the intention that anyone in a developer community can use 3rd party developers to build applications with a company’s data. In this case, providing an Ethereum API encourages the community to build applications and encourages greater use of the Ethereum platform altogether. This is great for Ethereum since their aim is to position it as the platform for blockchain technology. Therefore, the more people using Etherscan APIs, the better. Additionally, as external developers build products that are reliant on the business, they will continue to come back to the Ethereum blockchain.
APIs are not only great for companies, but also for developers. When using the Etherscan API, your Ethereum dApp will be able to easily access the Ethereum blockchain data. This includes information about the balance, internal or external transactions, events, and well, you get the idea. An API also comes in handy since it allows a specific audience to use data more quickly, easily, and efficiently. It also provides the basis for developers to “stitch together” different functionality rather than try to build something from scratch (which will likely take a lot longer). The result will be a dApp with greater functionality than one that doesn’t use an API.
Decentralized Application Summary
Hold up. When we say decentralized application, what exactly are we referring to? A decentralized application and a regular application are only different in that one exists on the Ethereum network. A decentralized peer-to-peer network acts as the dApp’s backend. Alternatively, the blockchain can also be the backend of the dApp. This differs from a traditional application that is managed by one centralized server. This centralized server is typically operated by an organization. This organization can give full authority over the app and how it works. One example is the company Uber. While coding is similar on a dApp, connecting it to a blockchain requires developers to use a smart contract. Therefore, we could say that a dApp is the equivalent of a front end interface and a backend smart contract.
For example, Investopedia explains it this way. “A developer can create a Twitter-like dApp and put it on a blockchain where any user can tweet messages. Once posted, no one – including the app creators – can delete the tweets. Editing may be possible by the sender, but the original tweet would be retained forever.”
Use the Etherescan API
To get started, a couple of key steps are required. First, you will need to create a FREE API-key token. To register you can visit https://etherscan.io/register. Here you can create a new account. After doing so, you will be required to confirm this account before proceeding. Once confirmed, you can log back into your account. Here you can locate a tab titled, API-KEYs.
This can be done by visiting ClientPortal. Here you can navigate to MyApiKey where you can then view all your API requests. If your requested API is for personal or private usage, you will also be required to use a source attribution link back to Etherscan or include a mention that your app is, “Powered by Etherscan.io APIs”. Clicking on this tab will give you the option to create a maximum of three ApiKey tokens.
Using an Account API
At some point of time or another, you might require an API that will allow you to get the details of an account. Etherscan offers API’s for a few different scenarios including getting:
- An Ether Balance for a single address
- Ether Balance for multiple Addresses in a single call
- A list of normal transactions from a single address
- List of internal transactions from a single address
- A list of internal transactions by transaction hash
- “Internal Transactions” by Block Range
- A list of “ERC20 – Token Transfer Events” by Address
- List of “ERC721 – Token Transfer Events” by Address
- A list of Blocks Mined by Address
Using an API for General Stats
Alternatively, you might require an API for a specific Ethereum stat. Some that you might want to use include getting:
- The daily total transaction fee
- Daily ENS registration count
- The daily network utilization
- Daily average network difficulty
- The daily uncle block count
- Daily uncle block rewards
- The daily total gas used
- Daily block rewards
- The daily block counts and block rewards
Narrowing down a list of APIs can prove to be more difficult. Especially since you might also require token APIs, contract APIs, or transaction APIs (not covered in this article). To see a full list of Etherscan Ethereum APIs you can visit the official APIs list.
Becoming an Ethereum Developer
As we touched on earlier, it is an Ethereum developer who creates the code for dApps and smart contracts on the blockchain. This industry continues to grow and offer careers where employees will earn a minimum of $50,000/year (but often much more).
There are a couple of free resources that you can use to get you started. First, you will need to have a basic understanding of Ethereum. How does this connect? If we remember correctly, smart contracts run on the Ethereum blockchain. Consequently, dApps are run by smart contracts. So you get the picture. There are many great blog posts that you can read for free. Once you grasp the basic concepts, you can try your hand at coding. By simply doing it you can learn the majority of the basic concepts. Therefore, taking an example code to test with this programmer’s guide will only be to your benefit. After mastering these test codes, you will be ready to take the plunge into the official smart contract programming language, Solidity.
These free resources are all a great place to start (and test) to see if Ethereum developing is for you. Once you have a basic knowledge and have decided you want to proceed you might want to look at official positions. In most cases, companies like to see some sort of blockchain or coding credentials to seal the deal. There are a few that you might select such as the B9labs certificate or the Blockchain Institute of Technology’s “Certified Blockchain Professional” program.
Use A Etherscan API Today
With our short guide to becoming an Ethereum developer, you might decide it’s time to further leverage the Ethereum blockchain. If so, look no further than the Hedgetrade site. Here, we use the Ethereum blockchain to distribute the HEDG token and create smart contracts that allow you to profit on the price changes of cryptocurrency. To get started, head over to app.hedgetrade.com/signup.