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Microscope: Protocol for Collaboratively Labeling Crypto Addresses

TL;DR: Microscope is an open source project that addresses the problem of isolated and costly blockchain metadata by sourcing labels from the wider crypto community, enhancing collaboration and accessibility. It aims to reduce expenses and inefficiencies associated with traditional labeling practices. This blog post provides an overview of its design and use cases.

By David Lai, Zhanwu Xiong, Tammy Yang, Leo Liang, Ming Jiang


, February 28, 2024


In the dynamic landscape of cryptocurrencies, comprehending the details of blockchain transactions is crucial. Yet, the data providing this context, known as blockchain metadata, often remains siloed within commercial entities, hindering collaboration and accessibility. Enter Microscope, an innovative protocol designed to transform the landscape of blockchain metadata.

At its core, Microscope is more than just a protocol – it's a catalyst for change within the crypto community. Built as an open-source solution, Microscope serves as a trusted repository for blockchain metadata, supporting multiple chains and enabling users to both consume and contribute metadata to onchain entities.

What sets Microscope apart is its commitment to openness and collaboration. By harnessing the collective wisdom of the crypto community, Microscope aims to break down the barriers that have long restricted access to valuable metadata. Whether you're a seasoned developer or a curious enthusiast, Microscope welcomes your participation, fostering a culture of transparency and innovation. By democratizing access to metadata, Microscope paves the way for a more inclusive and efficient crypto ecosystem.

In the next sections, we'll dive deeper into the inner workings of Microscope, explore its benefits, and examine its potential impact on the future of blockchain technology.

Blockchain Metadata and Use Cases

Blockchain metadata, also referred to as "labels," offers supplementary information that contextualizes onchain data within blocks, including details like transaction purposes, contract information, and NFT specifics. This data is crucial for analyzing blockchain activities, aiding crypto users in gaining a deeper understanding of network operations.

This information is often not embedded within transactions, thus remaining unavailable onchain. Common popular use cases for blockchain metadata include, but are not limited to:

  1. Trend analysis: Centralized exchange (CEX) flow analytics are utilized to assess trends on chains, involving understanding fund flows to and from CEX addresses on blockchains.

  2. DeFi project research: Comparing DeFi projects involves analyzing their onchain activities categorized by different user groups, such as bots, whales, and retail investors, as well as understanding user metrics like daily active users (DAU), monthly active users (MAU), churn rate, and cohort analysis.

  3. Security Investigation: Security researchers leverage blockchain metadata to track fund flows related to crypto scams and/or exploits.

Benefits of Microscope

Microscope offers a host of benefits that are poised to revolutionize the way we interact with blockchain metadata. These benefits include:

  • Enhanced Collaboration: Microscope fosters a collaborative environment within the crypto community by allowing users to contribute and access blockchain metadata. This open-source approach encourages knowledge sharing and innovation, leading to a more interconnected ecosystem.

  • Cost Efficiency: Traditional methods of gathering and curating blockchain metadata can be prohibitively expensive. Microscope offers a cost-effective alternative by leveraging community contributions and open-source principles. This lowers the barrier to entry for users and reduces the financial burden associated with metadata analysis.

  • Standardization and Consistency: With Microscope, users can expect a higher level of standardization and consistency in blockchain metadata. By adhering to predefined protocols and guidelines, Microscope helps ensure that metadata labels are accurate, reliable, and easily interpretable across different platforms and applications.

  • Enabling Innovation: By democratizing access to blockchain metadata, Microscope fuels innovation and creativity within the crypto space. Developers can leverage this rich source of information to build new applications, conduct research, and explore novel use cases. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the community.

  • Empowering Data-Driven Decision Making: In an industry driven by data, Microscope empowers users to make informed decisions based on comprehensive blockchain analytics. Whether you're analyzing market trends, assessing project viability, or tracking illicit activities, Microscope provides the tools and insights you need to stay ahead of the curve.

  • Supporting Regulatory Compliance: For organizations operating in the crypto space, compliance with regulatory requirements is essential. Microscope may facilitate compliance efforts by providing access to additional sources of blockchain metadata, informing their compliance and monitoring controls.

In summary, Microscope unlocks a wide range of potential use cases that span various sectors and disciplines. From analyzing market trends to enhancing supply chain transparency, Microscope empowers users to harness the full potential of blockchain metadata for innovation, insight, and impact.

How Microscope Works

Data Model

Microscope functions as a decentralized and community-powered protocol. Below, we outline the key fields of the standardized schema.

Screenshot 2024-02-28 at 3.53.11 PM


Another crucial aspect of standardization involves taxonomy. In the rapidly evolving onchain industry, effective data sharing and collaboration depend on speaking the same language, adhering to consistent definitions, and staying abreast of the latest concepts and technologies. 

Similarly, when it comes to sources, it's essential to distinguish their trustworthiness and confidence level in the provided metadata. Ensuring consistent definitions of sources is crucial for clarity. Various methods exist for generating blockchain metadata, and the Source value indicates how the data entry was collected. Below are examples of source values set within the data model.

Screenshot 2024-02-28 at 3.56.03 PM

High level workflow

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At a high level, Microscope operates through a collaborative process where users contribute data, which is then organized and standardized by the platform. This standardized data becomes readily available for everyone to access, fostering transparency and collaboration within the crypto community.

Coinbase actively participates in this collaborative effort by aligning its data with Microscope's standardized taxonomy. By contributing its transformed data to Microscope, Coinbase not only enriches the collective dataset but also enhances its own dataset with the broader insights provided by Microscope, ultimately benefiting from a more comprehensive understanding of blockchain activities.

Integrating with ChainMeta 

ChainMeta is Coinbase's internal blockchain metadata system powering compliance, analytics and other use cases. ChainMeta is part of the suite in ChainStack - Coinbase's enterprise-grade blockchain data platform. Thanks to Microscope's large and diverse live dataset, Microscope data flows into ChainMeta on regular bases, and ChainMeta is responsible to perform data cleaning, conflict resolution and reconciliation to provide a high quality and consistent blockchain label dataset for the downstream applications within Coinbase.

Microscope opens new doors in understanding blockchain transactions. By working together and using clear standards, we can unlock even more insights and opportunities in the world of cryptocurrencies.

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David Lai
Zhanwu Xiong
Tammy Yang
Leo Liang
Ming Jiang

About David Lai, Zhanwu Xiong, Tammy Yang, Leo Liang and Ming Jiang

Staff Software Engineer

Staff Software Engineer

Senior Blockchain Researcher

Director of Engineering

Senior Product Manager, Data