How Optimism’s commitment to rewarding public goods is helping Blockscout thrive

Optimism is driving open-source innovation with their Retro Funding grants initiative. This post highlights the Blockscout ⛓ Optimism collaboration, providing a brief history and detailing some of the new features we're developing thanks to RetroPGF.

Optimism Block Explorer

Working in open source software is rewarding, but the rewards don’t often take the form of big $$$ corporate earnings, multi-million dollar development contracts, or airdrops (though that may be changing). They come in other important ways. Developing open-source public goods brings transparency, community, higher-quality code, flexibility, speed and the ability to work on something good and necessary for the world. You can’t put a price on these rewards, AND they don’t always pay the bills. 

At Blockscout we are fortunate to have a passionate community of developers and projects who have helped us survive over the past 6 years while we’ve developed open-source software. Backers have included Gitcoin grants donators, ecosystem grants from the Ethereum Foundation, Ethereum Classic, Gnosis, and many others, generous donations and payments from projects for hosting and development, and sponsorships from individuals and teams who have contributed to the Blockscout mission to provide a full-featured block explorer. We appreciate each and every one of these projects who support open source and have helped us provide an explorer for the community.

When we first started on the Optimism ecosystem block explorer in the summer of 2022, we approached it as we do with all of our valued clients. We spec’d out needed customizations, determined the scope and resources needed, and put our heads down to provide the Optimism ecosystem with the best explorer experience we could develop. 

Little did we realize our collaboration with Optimism would result in multiple game-changing retro grants, including the largest grant we’ve ever received!

A briefish history of the Blockscout - Optimism collaboration

It was July of 2022 when the first iteration of the Optimism Goerli explorer was pushed out for OP developers. It was a basic explorer, crucial for development but not the prettiest UI. We quickly found out this would be a challenging project when our default database parameters were not nearly large enough to process the DB transactions happening on this test explorer! 

We took a minute to optimize our processes, and once we had the initial framework deployed, started on some bigger tasks. Blockscout and Optimism share a commitment to open-source development, and we began diving into the Optimism codebase to support the upcoming Bedrock upgrade. 

In tandem with designing our backend structure to support Bedrock, we also spun-up a Blockscout instance for OPCraft, an amazing project deployed in time for DevCon 2022 by the Lattice team. This fully on-chain 3D voxel world was built using Lattice’s open-source game engine on top of the OP Stack, and developed in less than a month! Since the game was 100% on-chain, Blockscout was able to provide real-time transparency into all transactions and interactions as they occurred with our customized explorer. 

In Q1 of 2023, Optimism’s RetroPGF Round 2 and a grant of over 65K OP helped beef up our team and expedite OP development. By the time Bedrock debuted on OP Mainnet in May of 2023, Blockscout was ready to roll with a new UI, the DAppscout marketplace, and the L1 <> L2 views required for Optimism users. 

Through the remainder of 2023 we continued to refine the Blockscout deployment process with the Optimism team, and worked closely with them to define features they needed to support their rollup ecosystem. In September 2023, we rolled out the Sepolia instance to replace Goerli, and began working on new milestones.We also became closely involved with other chains in the Superchain ecosystem (notably Base) thanks to introductions from the team and our success with the Optimism explorer. Every chain using the OP stack needed a dedicated explorer, and our common tooling connecting multiple ecosystems made Blockscout a perfect fit for the Superchain narrative. As RaaS providers like Conduit and Gelato started using OP for many of their clients, it also made sense for them to incorporate Blockscout into the primary deployment flow.

2024 - The year of the Superchain

In 2024 it’s clear the vital role Optimism and the Superchain ecosystem are playing to scale Ethereum. To support scalability, we’ve doubled down on features necessary to make Blockscout the premier explorer for L2s and L3s as they continue to proliferate. Some of these include:

  • Support for smart wallet transactions (UserOps)
  • Advanced API support
  • Human readable transactions
  • EIP support for 4337 (AA) and 4844 (blobs)
  • Improved statistics
  • License and audit info
  • Metadata inclusion
  • Universal smart contract verification
  • IDE (remix) integration
Optimism stats

Blockscout has been able to develop these and future features with a huge boost from RetroPGF-3, our biggest grant to date! This latest grant is now helping us create a next-gen explorer built to rival (and surpass) any closed-source solution.

When redundancy paid off

While we favor Blockscout for our on-chain transactions 😄, we also believe that no one block explorer should be the only one available. Personal preferences or unique features may drive day-to-day usage, but diversity is absolutely key in a decentralized environment. We see it with the push for diversity for execution clients (Geth, Erigon, Nethermind), and this same ethos should apply to all infrastructure, including L2s and block explorers. 

We recently saw why this is of vital importance, when on April 4, 2024 Etherscan experienced a localized, widespread outage for more than 12 hours on many chains. Fortunately, Optimism-based chains were able to utilize Blockscout to get needed data while Etherscan was down. The fact that there were multiple explorers at the ready made this problem much less severe, and explorers like Blockscout, Otterscan and others helped to minimize and prevent larger issues.

No one solution is immune to an outage, bug or security issue, and redundancy and increasing diversity is more important than ever. We appreciate Optimism’s broad support through their retro-funding grants for solutions that address problems exacerbated by centralized services.

Retro Funding and the Virtuous Cycle

The impact of Optimism’s retro grant program for Blockscout has been huge. It’s helped us develop new features, bring on new developers, and expedite our roadmap. Like many bootstrapped and open-source projects, Blockscout’s resources are often stretched. These grants have helped us bring on more resources, which in turn has helped us build a better product, which is bringing in more funding, and allowing us to add more resources! This virtuous cycle was jump-started by the retro grant program, and we’re grateful to the Optimism ecosystem and Retroactive Public Goods Funding badgeholders for recognizing and rewarding the contributions so many projects have brought to the space.

643 projects received grants thanks to RetroPGF-3! Combined, these projects are creating another virtuous cycle on Optimism. With the growing availability of apps and a maturing ecosystem, more chains are attracted to the Superchain network (recent announcements include Worldcoin and Celo), which brings in more users, who need more apps, etc. etc. 

At Blockscout, we’re excited to be a part of this larger virtuous cycle, supporting the new chains and apps that utilize Optimism with an open-source, community-driven, and ever-evolving block explorer.

For interested projects, Retro Funding 4 signups begin May 23, 2024: