WhatsOnChain adds Merchant API support to view fee info

In another step towards establishing a fee market for transaction processors, Bitcoin blockchain data site WhatsOnChain has added Merchant API (M/API) to its feature list. Supplying this information live to Bitcoin SV (BSV) applications will make it far easier to choose the right processor based on price, speed, and reliability.

Calling WhatsOnChain’s M/API gives merchants—which includes app developers or any organization that broadcasts transactions in high volumes to the BSV network—fee quotes for specific transaction processors. In addition, it allows them to submit a transaction directly from their own app to the processor, and check the status of their transactions.

Search engines for blockchains

Blockchain data explorers, commonly known as “block explorers,” are like search engines for blockchain information. They have been a useful resource for almost as long as Bitcoin has existed. They’re used by everyone from the simply curious, to researchers, investigators and developers who need to know exactly what’s going on inside each transaction and block.

Since transaction data includes nearly all information sent to the blockchain, is publicly viewable, and is available for the entire history of Bitcoin, they’ve become an essential part of the ecosystem.

WhatsOnChain is one of the earliest BSV-specific services. Co-founder Simon Ordish said he and his team developed the site soon after Bitcoin regained its independence in November 2018. It wasn’t just so there’d be a BSV block explorer—BSV aims to be for purposes far broader than just payments, and it was going to need a resource to view and interpret the different types of data on its network.

The site has always been eager to add new functionality as fast as BSV protocol developers have enabled (or re-enabled) it. In March 2019 it added statistics for OP_RETURN data, an original Bitcoin feature that gained new life thanks to BSV’s increased block size. WhatsOnChain is also adding the ability to view the data in OP_RETURN functions, where it is publicly available.

Given the increasing prominence of transaction processors in Bitcoin’s economic structure, data relevant to them and their clients becomes just as important as ordinary users checking the number of confirmations, or watching how the network is being used overall.

WhatsOnChain’s code is on GitHub, and it also publishes a site for developers to see the kinds of data it provides.

How Merchant API fits into Bitcoin’s vision

Merchant API, currently in its beta release phase following release in April 2020, is part of a strategy in BSV to professionalize the transaction processing industry.

To achieve this, it’s important for users to know how much they’ll have to pay for a transaction, and get a better idea of how well the network can handle the load. Transaction processors will compete with each other based on the fees they charge, as well as their reliability. This in turn allows app developers and the organizations sending data to the Bitcoin blockchain to choose specific processors, reliably predicting how much they’ll have to pay and how long it will take.

Processors and clients alike will be able to set prices and service level guarantees in advance for their own users. It also allows for differing fee/time structures depending on use cases. This is vital for a technology that aims to attract large enterprises, government institutions, and scientific researchers.

M/API works in tandem with Miner ID, another process that adds verifiable proof of who processed what data, and when. Being able to point to this information, and prove it, is important for establishing professional reputations. Historically, transaction processors and block reward miners have been able to post their name on a block, but this information wasn’t verifiable and wasn’t obligatory.

Transaction processors like TAAL are encouraging high-volume data users to join the M/API beta and engage in negotiations over costs and service level guarantees. Since April, several projects have come on board and additional tools have been built to utilize the data, such as Planaria’s “Minercraft” toolset.

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