How Decentralized are DEXs? A Classification System for Decentralized Exchanges.

Is Binance DEX decentralized?

Totle
Totle
Jun 18, 2019 · 5 min read

Decentralization is a popular term used to market products and services in the cryptocurrency space. However, an exact definition for what classifies a product or service as decentralized is still hotly debated. There are numerous financial tools, exchanges, and blockchains that tout being decentralized but have a considerable amount of centralization in their infrastructure.

Image for post
Image for post

Binance DEX, for example, has recently undergone scrutiny for blocking America and 28 other countries from accessing their service — an action indicative of centralization — despite their claim to decentralization.

Image for post
Image for post

To answer the question of whether Binance DEX can be considered decentralized or not, we’ve created a framework to classify how decentralized a given exchange is.

We picked some of the most popular exchanges used in the cryptocurrency space and analyzed their operations. Our criteria for a service to be included in this analysis involved it needing to facilitate the exchange of one cryptocurrency for another and be marketed as an exchange.

Image for post
Image for post

The factors we considered when evaluating a given exchange’s degree of decentralization includes:

  • Custody
  • KYC requirements
  • Control of transactions
  • Censorship
  • Settlement
  • Order matching
  • Liquidity
  • Infrastructure
  • Development

The Classes

Image for post
Image for post

These exchanges take custody of users’ funds, require users to provide information about their identity, have the ability to censor access, manage order matching, liquidity, and settlement using internal resources, and are built using centralized infrastructure.

Image for post
Image for post

These exchanges never take custody of users’ funds and have on-chain settlement. They do, however, require users to provide information about their identity.

Image for post
Image for post

A permissioned exchange does not take custody of users funds, does not require users to provide information about their identity, but does have the ability to reverse transactions and censor who has access to their services.

Image for post
Image for post

A permissionless exchange does not take custody of users’ funds, does not require users to provide information about their identity, cannot reverse transactions, but has limitations on which tokens can be traded and/or which users can access their services.

Image for post
Image for post

These exchanges do not take custody of users’ funds, do not require users to provide information about their identity, cannot reverse transactions, and have not censored access to their services. Order matching and liquidity pools are managed off-chain.

Image for post
Image for post

These exchanges are what crypto developers consider true DEXs. They are non-custodial, permissionless, do not censor access, and settlement, order matching, and liquidity are managed on-chain.

Image for post
Image for post

In a fully decentralized DEX, development and infrastructure are decentralized too. MetaMask using Infura and development teams depending on a few key developers are factors that prevent any DEX from being considered fully decentralized.

Although ShapeShift markets itself as non-custodial, there is a point where users funds are in their possession. During a swap, ShapeShift accepts users’ tokens as payment and then compensates the user with tokens from their internal reserve. This means users need to trust that ShapeShift will compensate them with funds after the funds are in ShapeShift’s possession.

ShapeShift is being truthful about being non-custodial: they do not require you place funds into a hot wallet in order to trade with them as most CEXs do. However, the transaction process could be less centralized.

Within our classification system, Binance DEX displays a level of decentralization equal to a permissioned DEX.

Since Binance DEX does not have full node open-source code, Binance maintains full control of its blockchain and has made it impossible to verify whether Binance DEX has back doors or not. Until there is an increase in transparency, we cannot consider Binance DEX decentralized.

Although ideally a DEX would be transparent and accessible to everyone, companies pioneering the blockchain space will need to avoid legal hurdles that could threaten their stability. Using centralized technology is a reliable way to stay flexible in order to overcome unpredictable legal hurdles.

Totle’s DEX Evaluation Process

For Totle to consider adding a DEX into our network, they need to have atomicity. This means we need the ability to swap tokens atomically (the exchange of tokens without the involvement of a centralized intermediary) in a completely permissionless manner.

Therefore, only exchanges with the classification of permissionless or higher are included in our services.

Image for post
Image for post

Totle manages decentralized liquidity so that developers can stay laser-focused on building powerful, decentralized products that can beat out centralized solutions.

We’ve aggregated the top DEXs in the cryptocurrency space and built an API that automatically routes orders to the best prices available. Totle is non-custodial, peer-to-peer, transparent, and does not require KYC.

Image for post
Image for post

Get Started

To start using Totle, access the API here: Build with Totle

If you have any questions, you can email Totle at hello@totle.com

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Telegram, or Medium for the most up-to-date news on Totle.

Thank you to Kyle J Kistner for inspiring this article. We recommend checking out How Decentralized is DeFi? A Framework for Classifying Lending Protocol

Totle

Decentralized Liquidity on Autopilot.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store