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Much of the beauty of Web3 is its ability to facilitate permissionless, trustless transactions without the intervention of a third-party intermediary or centralized authority. But how this magic really to arrive? Dubbed “The Legos Internet” by Packy McCormicksmart contracts are widely regarded as the building blocks of Web3.

A smart contract is a computer program that lives on the blockchain. It is governed by rudimentary “if/when…then” statements. For example, “if ‘a’ occurs, then perform step ‘b'”. Once these predetermined conditions are met, the transaction automatically executes and is recorded in the blockchain.

Composable in nature, these computer programs can be chained together to create full-fledged decentralized applications that plug directly into the blockchain. From best-in-class NFTs and decentralized finance protocols, to The DAOs that aim to buy the US Constitutionall of these Web3 projects are powered by smart contracts.

For NFTs in particular, smart contracts are used to execute events around the minting and burning of tokens, facilitate transactions, and distribute royalties. Under the hood, a token’s smart contract contains a wealth of important data regarding a token’s distribution, function, and transaction volume. Not only is this information useful for assessing the health of a project, but it can also make you a safer and more informed NFT enthusiast.

Surprisingly, you don’t need any programming knowledge to glean valuable insights from a smart contract, but you do need to know where to look. And that is exactly why we are here.

How to Access the Smart Contract of an NFT

The best way to see a token’s smart contract is to go through Etherscan, a block explorer and analytics platform based on Ethereum. Block explorers like Etherscan allow users to search and index real-time and historical information on a blockchain. Here, users can easily access all relevant information about specific tokens, smart contracts, transactions or individual wallets.

To access a token’s smart contract, most users take one of two routes: Etherscan research or via an NFT market listing.

Etherscan search

A large search bar features prominently on the Etherscan homepage. Here users can query the blockchain by wallet address, transaction hash, block number, token name or Ethereum Name Service Address (ENS).

For the purposes of this article, we will search by token name. Let’s take CryptoPunks as an example.

Etherscan screenshot showing a search for cryptopunks

Although it may be the the fastest method, it also leaves the greatest room for error and bad actors. Remember that this research extends all blockchain. Therefore, you may receive results for scams or inauthentic tokens with names similar to your original search query. While these are harmless to see and explore, the contract itself can be harmful to interact with. Also, if you are looking for a specific data point, it will be inaccurate.

As shown above, our search returns multiple results for CryptoPunks, but only the first collection is marked with a blue verified checkmark, indicating that it is the verified CryptoPunks collection. This will take you to the collection token page.

On the token page, navigate to the profile summary card on the right side. As a second line of defense, always be sure to verify the authenticity of the collection through the profile summary panel. This should feature the official collection site and social profiles, including an OpenSea page.

Click on the link next to the contract, which will take you to the token’s smart contract (circled in the image below).

Cryptopunks token page

Via NFT Market List

The longest (but safest) route to Accessing a token’s smart contract is done through a List of CryptoPunk Tokens on an NFT marketplace. On marketplaces like LooksRare and OpenSea, the contract address is linked in the details/properties card, which is on the left side of the NFT list.

Cryptopunk Property Map

Although marketplaces like Rarible and Foundation are not directly linked to the contract, they are linked to the mint transaction where the contract address can be quickly found. In the example below, we see the contract link for the Magnum Photos 75 collection listed on Foundation.

contractual link for the Magnum Photos 75 collection listed on Foundation
contract link

Browse Etherescan

The main contract page

The contract main page serves as the home page of the contract. In the contract overview and more information, users can find the total balance of ETH held by the contract and its respective value in USD. The more information section also includes a link to the initial minting transaction and the wallet used for the main minting.

etherscan main contract page

Scrolling deeper into the page and its respective tabs reveals a wealth of information about transactions, holders, analytics, and the contract code itself. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Transactions

The transactions tab displays a chronological list of all blockchain transactions, including timestamps, wallet addresses associated with each transaction, transaction value, and respective gas fees.

etherscan transactions tab

The Txn Hash column allows users to drill down into the details of a specific blockchain transaction. It is followed by the method column which describes the function executed in the transaction. Examples may include sale, mint, transfer, and approval settings. In this example, the functions listed are: Withdraw Offer, Enter Offer, and Withdraw.

Contracts

The contracts tab is divided into three sections: code, read contract and write contract. Before continuing, it is always important to confirm that the contract you wish to read has been verified. This ensures that the contract code provided to Etherscan by the contract owner matches the contract that lives on the Ethereum blockchain. As you can see in the image below, this contract is verified, which means it’s safe to continue.

verified contract

Coded

As the name suggests, the code tab reveals the source code of the smart contract. Unless you have the technical skills to read the Solidity programming language, it may seem indecipherable. However, there are usually comments that separate each section of code and identify its associated function.

code tab

For the curious, this might be a good way to learn basic Solidity functions.

Read code

The Read Code tab displays information not typically found on the homepage of the main contract page. While this information may vary by contract, this tab typically gives users the ability to query different smart contract functions for specific information.

For example, the balanceOf section allows users to check how many CryptoPunks a single wallet contains, simply by entering a wallet address.

Let’s try the FaZe Bank Player Wallet.

FaZe Bank Portfolio

Boom. FaZe owns nine CryptoPunks.

Write a contract

By connecting your wallet to Etherscan, authorized users can perform any function written in the smart contract directly from the Etherscan user interface. This includes the submission and withdrawal of offers, the purchase and transfer of the NFT. It’s much harder and less convenient than trading through an NFT market, but hey, different keystrokes for different people.

Token Tracker

Also located on the main contract page at the bottom of the additional info box is a link for token tracking.

token tracker

The token tracking link provides additional information about the collection itself, including the minimum token value, maximum token supply, total number of unique wallets containing the token, and total number of transfers. This information can often be used to signify the strength of an NFT collection and its respective community.

A community with a large number of unique holders and numerous transfers is often much healthier and more active than a project where a few whales own the majority of the supply and the tokens rarely change hands. Additionally, the transfers tab below provides an immutable record of each transfer of a token in the collection, capturing the date, time, sale price, and wallet addresses of the parties involved.

transfers tab

Token Holders

The tab holders, conveniently located to the right of the transfers tab, provides a full breakdown of who has the most chips in the contract. For a better visualization, click on the token holder table in the upper left corner to see the data presented in a pie chart.

table of token holders

As we can see from this example, the top 100 holders collectively own 46.48% of CryptoPunks.

Analytic

Finally, the analytics tab features additional data on transaction counts, unique senders, ETH fees, transfers, and more. Ultimately, the available data varies by collection. In the CryptoPunks chart below, we are able to sift through data regarding Ether balance, transactions, transaction fees, ETH and token transfers, and more.

analytics tab

At this point, you should have a basic understanding of smart contracts and Etherscan. With the entire blockchain at your fingertips, how you choose to use this information is ultimately up to you.



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