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Lots of articles about bitcoin say that anyone can see all the transactions that have ever taken place, and they call that "the ledger." But none of those articles give a link for where to actually see this ledger.

I found something that looks like it might be the ledger. On Blockchain.com, if I click on "Explorer", the resulting page has a section, "Latest Transactions", and that has a link for "View All Transactions". However, clicking on that link brings up a page called "Unconfirmed Transactions". Each row there shows a time, an amount in both BTC and a selected fiat currency, and a link for more information. So this looks like a ledger, except for two problems:

  • The title indicates that this is not a list of completed transaction, and next to the title is an information tip that explains: "Submitted to network but have not yet been included in a block." So it looks like this is a list of offers that may or may not have been executed and turned into actual transactions. So it is not a list of completed transactions.

  • The list has several dozen entries from the past second or two, and that's all, with entries constantly scrolling off the page to be replaced by new ones. There is no continuation link to see older entries.

So that's not the ledger.

The Explorer page also has a section, "Latest Blocks", which has a link for "View All Blocks". Clicking on that brings up a page called "Blocks", with the information tip, "Blocks contain validated Bitcoin network transactions." The rows on this page have links to pages with data on each block. Each of those pages has two sections, first some data about the block, and then a list of transactions. Each entry in this list contains a timestamp and an amount of BTC on the left side, broken down into a list of BTC amounts on the right side, followed by the sum of that list shown in green, and a fee in BTC back on the left. The sum of the list of BTC on the right plus the fee add up to the first BTC amount on the left.

So this looks like it could be the ledger, except for another problem. Blockchain.com is a commercial enterprise selling cryptocurrency services. So this list cannot be the official ledger, but is a compilation of data put together as a public service. So where is the official ledger with the data that this comes from? From another question I asked yesterday, it appears that running Bitcoin Core provides all the data of the ledger.

So the conclusion I've come to is:

  • The official ledger is available by running Bitcoin Core.

  • For people who don't want to install that, the data from it are provided in an unofficial ledger at Blockchain.com, consisting of the "Blocks" page plus its subsidiary pages on each individual block.

Have I got that right?

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Blockchain.com is a commercial enterprise selling cryptocurrency services. So this list cannot be the official ledger

Ledger vs Journal

The word "ledger" is a commonly used misnomer. If we want to use accounting terms we ought to say "journal" as the Bitcoin blockchain is much more like a transaction journal than an accounting ledger.

Take the Wikipedia definition

A ledger[1] is the principal book or computer file for recording and totaling economic transactions measured in terms of a monetary unit of account by account type, with debits and credits in separate columns and a beginning monetary balance and ending monetary balance for each account.

The bitcoin blockchain has no accounts, no account types, no starting or ending balances.

Official vs Unofficial

Every bitcoin node either has a copy of the full blockchain, a pruned copy of the full blockchain, or access to nearby copies.

There is no central repository, there is no official copy (all copies are equally official).


The official ledger is available by running Bitcoin Core.

Bitcoin core is not special

The blockchain is available in many places, you don't have to run Bitcoin core. Other programs written independently by other independent groups of people are just as capable of providing an accurate copy of the blockchain.

Bitcoin core has some history attached that give it some emotional weight but it has no special privileges or abilities (in fact it has fewer abilities than some others).

Since Bitcoin has no officials it also has no official software.

Bitcoin has rules but it has no rulers (it deliberately prohibits rulers)


For people who don't want to install that, the data from it are provided in an unofficial ledger at Blockchain.com, consisting of the "Blocks" page plus its subsidiary pages on each individual block.

All sources of blockchain data, all copies, are equal

There are many different businesses that provide a blockchain explorer. Blockchain.com is just one of them. They should all provide the same information even though they vary in presentation details.

You can also get the blockchain data by using the public network protocols in the same way as any wallet software does.

No business and no software have any special status or privileges.

It is consensus that matters.

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The UTXO (unspent transaction output) set is what is being referred to as the “ledger”.

This is a table that lists all the unspent outputs along with their value. Each unspent output corresponds to an address but each address can contain multiple outputs. The sum of unspent outputs equals the total coins in circulation (around 18.600.0000 BTC as of now)

Each node arrives to this table independently by applying all the transactions that ever occurred.

This table is too big to show in a single webpage but you can query it by address in all block explorers and they will show you how many unspent bitcoins this address contains.

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  • The "ledger" is usually referring to the list of "all confirmed transactions on the Bitcoin network", not just the UTXOs. Even after a transaction's outputs have all been spent, we would still call that transaction apart of the "ledger". – ieatpizza Jan 15 at 14:11
  • No, the blockchain is the transaction journal, the UTXO set is the ledger of balances. – Murch Jan 15 at 16:17

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