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Bridging the gap between sovereignty and performance



Again in 2019, an estimated 99% of crypto-asset transfers occurred on centralized exchanges (CEXs), in keeping with the quantity that was utilized by most important crypto critic Nouriel Roubini. CEXs are prone to stay a central fixture of the crypto buying and selling panorama for the foreseeable future. CEXs are quick and handy, however usually require merchants to deposit funds in an account managed by the alternate. Sadly, historical past illustrates that this lack of sovereignty over a consumer’s digital belongings might be an excessive and pricey compromise. 

Decentralized exchanges (DEXs) provide an intriguing various and are gaining momentum, however are nonetheless not but prepared for prime time. Due to this fact, there should be a technique to bridge the gap between consumer sovereignty and alternate performance.

Associated: DeFi proved resilient throughout the March 2020 and Could 2021 market crises

In the case of custody, management is healthier than belief

The nightmare situation for merchants utilizing CEXs is that they could fall sufferer to hacking or fraud and lose their deposited funds. Though seven years have handed since the collapse of Mt. Gox in 2014, its identify nonetheless stays synonymous with the risks of cryptocurrency fraud. As soon as the world’s largest Bitcoin (BTC) alternate, it filed for chapter in 2014 after Bitcoin of an estimated 650,000 prospects went lacking. The victims are nonetheless trying to obtain partial compensation from the insolvency course of in 2021.

Sadly, this type of counterparty danger stays a risk to today. In April, the founding father of Turkish alternate Thodex absconded with $2 billion of investor belongings unaccounted for. A 12 months earlier than that, China’s FCoin and Australia’s ACX each closed with out warning. Whether or not these failures had been on account of fraud, a hack, or issues with the enterprise mannequin, it doesn’t matter a lot to the traders neglected of pocket. In a really perfect world, the alternate operator (or a hacker who has compromised an alternate) ought to be denied the capability to maneuver consumer funds discretionarily between accounts.

Associated: Belief continues to be a should in the trustless world of cryptocurrency

The established order: Managing danger brings larger prices

For well-capitalized or well-connected merchants, there are methods to mitigate these dangers, however the options include their very own drawbacks.

Credit score is one technique to keep away from having to pre-fund an account. Sure, that’s attainable in case you are prepared to pay excessive charges to a dealer or if you will get a credit score line with a selected alternate by establishing your self as a prime buyer. Both means, it’s costly (and in the latter case, sluggish), and solely the largest of spenders stand any likelihood of creating such relationship with a number of exchanges.

Off-exchange settlement networks present a substitute for loading funds straight onto exchanges. These intermediaries maintain the dealer’s funds and tackle the counterparty danger for every alternate. In the present surroundings, such intermediaries present a priceless service for establishments, however they nonetheless symbolize an added layer of expense. A lot for frictionless buying and selling.

DeFi and the hassle with transparency

If the downside is the lack of asset sovereignty on CEXs, might DEXs be the resolution? Sure and no. By utilizing good contracts and decentralized liquidity swimming pools to allow asset swaps, DEXs take away intermediaries and allow merchants to retain sovereignty over their belongings. Nonetheless, DEXs additionally contain heavy compromises, notably for bigger merchants.

On a DEX, as a substitute of consumers and sellers being paired by way of a centralized matching engine, a sensible contract performs the trades. Members referred to as “yield farmers” can lock their belongings right into a liquidity pool and earn yields in return. Every liquidity pool facilitates buying and selling for a selected pair of belongings, equivalent to Bitcoin and Tether (USDT), for instance. The good contract will alter yields in keeping with the relative quantity of belongings in the pool, with a purpose to entice extra of the scarcer asset and keep a wholesome stability. At the identical time, the transaction charge a dealer pays will range relying on the relative shortage of the belongings concerned.

Though modern, this method doesn’t scale properly. Relying on the measurement of the liquidity pool, massive trades can instantly have a powerful impact on buying and selling charges. As well as, DEXs are extremely prone to frontrunning. Frontrunners are merchants (usually bots) who scan for data that implies a giant commerce is coming, then leap in with their very own transaction to revenue from the anticipated value transfer. After all, these exploitative trades have their very own impact on the market value, lowering the revenue of the initially deliberate transaction. On CEXs, the danger is that if prefunding is performed on-chain, third events might be able to infer {that a} massive commerce is about to occur. Nonetheless, these dangers are vastly magnified when utilizing a DEX.

Because of the networking delay when processing transactions, pending transactions could flow into amongst validating nodes earlier than they’re lastly dedicated to a block. Certainly, on smart-contract-based DEXs, bids are despatched transparently, so a frontrunner merely wants to look at incoming bids and place their very own bid with greater charges or with much less networking delay with a purpose to revenue. Moreover, as validators resolve on the order of transactions for the blocks they produce, it might introduce one other alternative for manipulation.

Thus, whereas DEXs are a tantalizing concept and current the alternative to earn passive yield, they’re at present not properly suited to the wants of most merchants.

Associated: Yield farming is a fad, however DeFi guarantees to vary the means we work together with cash

Can we construct a greater DEX?

So, can the pursuits of merchants be higher protected with out the downsides of present DEXs?

One attainable method right here could be to make use of blockchain as the supply of belief and mix it with off-chain confidential computing {hardware} to deal with order matching. For instance, trusted execution environments (TEEs) can set up an remoted space inside a pc processor, working individually from the commonplace working system that’s not accessible to the system admin.

The matching engine and commerce execution software program for an alternate could possibly be positioned inside a TEE, eradicating it from the management of the alternate proprietor. Every dealer might then decide an allowance that the TEE might spend to settle trades on their behalf, eliminating the want for prefunding or intermediaries. As well as, as matching could be carried out off-chain, the danger of frontrunning would even be decreased.

Considering extra long run, a mixture of different rising strategies equivalent to multi-party computation or zero-knowledge proofs would possibly be capable of be used to realize related outcomes, however these approaches are at present much less mature and could be troublesome to implement in actual world situations.


The necessity for prefunding on cryptocurrency exchanges introduces issues and dangers that pose a major barrier to the adoption of digital belongings. Whereas DEXs provide an modern various that leaves the dealer accountable for their funds, in addition they entail important trade-offs. To drive the mainstream adoption of digital belongings and achieve a aggressive benefit, cryptocurrency exchanges must discover methods to protect consumer sovereignty with out compromising on performance.

This text doesn’t comprise funding recommendation or suggestions. Each funding and buying and selling transfer entails danger, and readers ought to conduct their very own analysis when making a choice.

The views, ideas and opinions expressed listed here are the creator’s alone and don’t essentially mirror or symbolize the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Alain Brenzikofer is a co-founder of Integritee AG, a hardware-enabled confidential computing resolution that mixes blockchain and trusted execution environments. Lively in blockchain since 2013, he contributed to the Quartierstrom peer-to-peer power markets initiative and based Encointer, a crypto-based common fundamental earnings mission. In 2020, he led the workforce that received the Vitality Internet Innovation Problem for a mission that used trusted execution environments for off-chain computation.

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