While centralized exchanges like Binance and Coinbase dominate the field of cryptocurrency trading, the co-founder of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin is telling the “king makers” to “burn in hell” as he advocates for decentralized exchanges.
In a recent interview with TechCrunch, Buterin criticized the central exchanges for their practices in accepting new listings. He stated that these exchanges are now charging tremendous listing fees that keep out the smaller start-ups, and which go against the original intent of Bitcoin and other early cryptocurrencies. He said that the exchanges are charging ten to fifteen million dollars to list a new coin, which results in increased centralization, and decreased openness and transparency.
Buterin wishes to eliminate the “stupid king-making power” of centralized digital currency exchanges, and that “I definitely personally hope centralized exchanges burn in hell as much as possible.” He minces no words about his detest for centralization, and goes on to describe the problems with centralized exchanges.
According to Buterin, one of the most prominent aspects of centralized exchanges is their influence over the entire market by picking winners and losers, and that this process is based solely on which projects have the money required to get listed. To this end, these exchanges act as middlemen between traders and the small number of cryptocurrencies listed, much in the way that banks act as middlemen between people and their fiat money. With such control out of the hands of the traders themselves, the owners of these exchanges get to decide the direction of the entire industry, and in Buterin’s view, this means more centralized projects and a move far away from the concept of decentralization that so many purists would prefer.
Decentralized exchanges are not without their potential issues. On these exchanges, the traders set the take orders on their own, meaning that liquidity becomes problematic. In terms of decentralization, Buterin’s own Ethereum platform has been criticized for its lack of decentralization when it comes to mining pools, where specific groups of miners have dominated the ETH network through their production of the valuable coin.
There are numerous decentralized exchanges that may be used today. These include Idex, Waves, OpenLedger, CryptoBridge, Oasis, and others. However none of these exchanges has had the explosive growth in popularity that their centralized counterparts have experienced. This is purely due to market forces acting as a voting mechanism for which exchanges will survive, and which ones will thrive. The reality is that most people who are investing their fiat into the crypto marketplace are not advocates for decentralization; they are investors. Combine this with the fact that centralized exchanges have an incentive to build their customer base that’s based on profitability, where decentralized exchanges theoretically don’t have such an incentive. What you’re left with is the harsh reality that Buterin’s vision for the world isn’t as people who understand the original intent of Bitcoin would prefer. People are interested in making money, and decentralization is secondary. That said, bringing people into cryptocurrency trading first by showing them the potential investment opportunity might be a good way to build a community which may then be shifted in the direction of decentralization and its many benefits. Buterin may very well be correct in his assessment, but he may also be a bit too early. Given a bit more time, decentralization may pick up enough steam to drive decentralized exchanges to the top of the list.