A crypto exchange is just what it sounds like: a platform where you can trade cryptocurrencies, either for one another or with standard fiat currencies (and vice versa). There are hundreds of these exchanges out there today, but the most popular ones have become some of the most capitalized businesses in the crypto world.
That’s due in part to the fact that the volumes crypto exchanges handle in general have rocketed over time; charts at The Block indicate that while trading volume has declined from the $2.23 trillion it reached in the spring of 2021, it is still nearly double what it was in 2020. But it’s also important to note that as this volume increase has sustained, the top handful of exchanges has come to dominate the market. According to an analysis at Bloomberg, top exchanges have grabbed some 96% of the market share.
This has essentially established a top class of exchanges that the vast majority of crypto traders use. To help you get a feel for the options though, he’s a closer look at some of the specific names in this class.
Binance doesn’t enjoy its typical lofty status here in the UK, likely due to different regulatory hurdles such as the clampdown reported by the BBC last year. Globally, however, it is by far the biggest of the exchanges by market cap.
A review and how-to at Decrypt point out that Binance’s decentralized exchange (DEX) has all of the typical advantages of avoiding central nodes, like lower fees and higher security –– but also the usual downside of being a little less user-friendly for beginners. Although DEXs are faster growing in popularity, centralized (CEX) exchange platforms like Binance’s primary offering are still larger for the time being.
Selling points of Binance include a breadth of available coins and low fees on trading.
Although Binance may be the top dog worldwide with Coinbase in a clear second, in the UK it’s the other way around.
One reason for the popularity of Coinbase is that it’s widely considered to be one of the easiest exchanges to use for those just dipping their toes into the world of crypto –– with the main trade-off being relatively high fees. Although this platform offers a centralized exchange only, it is actually (somewhat confusingly) a decentralized company. That is, it has no headquarters –– a concept that has actually caused some confusion surrounding Binance, with crypto news site Coindesk having reported that CEO Changpeng Zhao has struggled to answer questions about operations (though legally his company is based in the Cayman Islands).
Ultimately though, it’s the perceived reliability of Coinbase that has led it to become one of the leading exchanges. A recent beginner’s guide to Coinbase that was posted on the financial advice platform AskMoney pointed out that since it started in 2012 (which makes it one of the oldest active exchanges) it has come to offer over 100 cryptocurrencies –– including the major players like Bitcoin and Ethereum as well as some smaller but trendy options like SushiSwap and Shiba Inu. Notably, the platform started off only trading Bitcoin and dollars. That may not be the largest selection of any exchange, but it is more than enough for anyone just getting started with crypto.
This exchange is actually slightly older still than Coinbase, and many feel that it has some advantages by comparison. For instance, its mobile app is generally better regarded, and its purchasing fees are flat –– as well as lower than those on Coinbase. This makes Kraken more suitable for the lower volumes that more casual users might be trading on their phones, although the exchange does have a substantially higher daily withdrawal limit.
One of the main downsides as compared to Coinbase for beginners is the lack of certain features like a built-in “hot wallet” where you can store your coins (although these are considered a higher security risk than offline “cold” wallets, as Techradar explains). This minor inconvenience notwithstanding, Kraken is largely about offering simplicity and competitive fees.
These are not the only exchanges in town, but as explained they are among the very few that command the vast majority of market activity. Particularly if you’re new to the world of crypto, it’s worth giving these an in-depth look as you determine where you’d like to trade.
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