The barriers to DEX adoption

There is a lot of talk about the decentralised exchange (DEX) concept and the attendant benefits and problems. The primary benefit of a DEX is that it cuts out the middlemen in all kinds of transactions, which tends to lower costs and speed up processes. In addition, there is no single, central entity that can impose regulations on a DEX on a sudden whim; this might include banning cryptocurrencies for example, or the DEX itself. This is quite important when you look at countries where exchanges and currencies have been banned, or their use restricted.

Furthermore, when this type of exchange does not exist, people wishing to invest in cryptocurrencies are subject to government regulations as applied to existing financial markets – so you end up having ‘more of the same’. A decentralised exchange also offers better security. In a DEX each user is in private control of their own funds, so there is no central point for hackers to attack, as they did with Mt Gox.

And, a DEX potentially has the means to facilitate faster and cheaper transactions than a centralised exchange, since there is no third party authenticator. However, this has yet to be tested out on a big scale.

What is stopping DEX adoption?

One of the biggest downsides of DEXs as we currently know them is that they lack the functionality of centralised exchanges. At the moment they only offer the most basic functions and don’t have any of the frills, like a stop-loss mechanism. The other issue that acts against them being more widely used is that they lack they can’t convert to fiat currencies due to existing KYC and AML regulations. If they did, they would become centralised exchanges. So, anyone using a DEX can only use cryptocurrency deposits.

And there are other barriers, at least in the eyes of governments and financial regulators. One of the most difficult to overcome is taxation.  Because a DEX doesn’t have any centralised function, authorities such as taxation and regulation bodies have no power over a DEX. If there was mass adoption of DEXs and they replaced centralised exchanges, hundreds of billions of dollars would be hidden from the view of taxation and regulation bodies. We’ve already seen countries like China and India banning crypto because the governments see this as a major issue.

There are some existing exchanges that claim to be shifting towards a decentralised model, saying that the fact they are currently centralised helps to speed up their development. That idea is one that causes heated debates, because we know that to truly be decentralised these exchanges will have to radically rewrite the platform protocols. But, while there may be barriers to wider adoption of decentralised exchanges right now, this is not to say it will remain this way forever – this is a sector of the blockchain world that will continue to be of interest to everyone involved in it.




3 types of decentralised exchanges

Image result for decentralised exchanges

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:

  1. On-chain order books and settlements
  2. Off-chain order books with on-chain settlement
  3. 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.