Cryptocurrencies are making steady progress in the traditional financial system. Their ascendance shines a spotlight on exchanges where people trade crypto assets and a number of them have been found wanting, due to a ‘single point of failure’ that allows hacks to occur.
The solution is decentralised exchanges (DEX), because this type of exchange allows users to keep control of their funds throughout the trading procedure. As might be expected there is more than one type of decentralised exchange to choose from, and there are three formats that are considered the most likely to be the exchange models of the future.
At the moment, decentralised exchanges are being developed in three modes:
- On-chain order books and settlements
- Off-chain order books with on-chain settlement
- Smart contract-managed reserves
On-chain order books and settlements
These are entirely blockchain based and are really the first generation model. With this DEX, every new order or adjustment to an existing order updates the state of the blockchain.
What’s the problem with this type of DEX?
Although it protects user privacy and security this form of DEX makes exchanges illiquid, slow, expensive and unable to operate with other DEX.
Off-chain order books and on-chain settlement
The Ox protocol is good example of this model. It is built on the Ethereum blockchain’s solution for off-chain orders. Execution of the trades happens on the Ethereum blockchain,which means users have control of their funds until the exchange takes place. The order books are hosted by a third party called Relayers. This enables the exchange to maintain liquidity and create a more robust infrastructure for traders. For example, after submitting an order to the Relayer, a market maker waits for an order to be filled, at which point the trade is trustlessly executed on the blockchain.
Smart contract-managed reserves
This model connects the buyer and seller function when there is low liquidity. With smart contract-managed reserves, instead of having to find a buyer for the bitcoin, a user can trade with an external reserve, depositing bitcoin into the reserve and receiving ether in return. Bancor is an example of this model.
Although the existing decentralised exchanges need work to bring them up to a comparable speed with the traditional centralised exchanges, there are several innovative entrepreneurs working on finding the best solutions, and hopefully we will see them next year, if not in 2018.