This very interesting article is written by Alex Weirn, CEO of IDEX, and it’s worth reading. Very clear and to the point. It was published yesterday on Cointelegraph.
I would love to see a similar article on media like Cointelegraph, written by the ash team or by some core member from our community !
I’m curious to hear feedback from our community and from the ash team on this article. I have the feeling that a few topics and problems mentioned in this article, also apply for ash. On the other hand, it seems that ash already created solutions for some bottlenecks mentioned by Alex Weirn.
ash and our community could take the opportunity to write and publish a similar article as a professional feedback to this article, but with answers and solutions, in stead of questions and problems
Here is a summary with the most important statements and opinions from the article:
The vast majority of crypto trading still takes place on centralized exchanges. DEXs offer a clear set of benefits in terms of fund security, flexible custody and transparency, so why is it that the majority of the market still shuns them in favor of centralized alternatives ?
1. It’s all about the market makers
Market makers drive the crypto market. They bring much-needed liquidity to platforms, without which it’s impossible to attract traders and end users. Market makers are the linchpin of the exchange flywheel. Additional liquidity brings more traders, which brings more market makers, which brings more liquidity — and so on.
The glaring issue is that market makers have spent millions of dollars and working hours to build technology and human capital that interface with existing exchanges. These systems are built with certain assumptions around performance and features — assumptions that are broken by all existing DEXs. We can’t expect market makers to rebuild their systems from the ground up for a tiny slice of the overall market. If we want to tackle centralized exchanges with any level of success, we have to meet these important participants where they are today.
2. What’s missing from DEXs?
Everyone has heard the criticism that the current generation of DEXs doesn’t scale. Multiple teams are seeking to address this by implementing layer-two systems that can lower transaction costs for trade settlement.
These new developments are great and bring much-needed room for growth — provided anyone uses the product in the first place. Layer-two systems only remove limitations on growth; they don’t do anything to make the exchange an attractive product in the first place. Any serious trading product must first meet the bar set by existing alternatives before it is able to compete on a unique selling proposition, which in the case of DEXs is custody flexibility and transparent fund security.
Three primary issues are plaguing DEXs and preventing wider adoption and use:
2.1. High latency and low performance
An exchange must have a high-performance, in-memory trading engine. It must also be able to handle bursts of traffic and hundreds of thousands of orders per second with low millisecond latency. A simple layer-two system is not sufficient to provide the performance and execution guarantees that the market demands.
2.2 Lack of features and non-standard formats
DEXs need to be 100% plug-and-play in order for new participants to join and provide liquidity with minimal effort. This includes offering the same advanced order types as other top tier exchanges, and an API format and documentation that adheres to the unofficial standards that have emerged.
2.3 Lack of compliance
Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering policies are a reality for all participants with significant amounts of capital. Whether we like it or not, it’s impossible for high net worth individuals and institutional players to trade on platforms that don’t meet their basic compliance needs.
Analyzing current products through this lens, we can see why DEX adoption is still limited. We used off-chain execution to eliminate on-chain front-running and trade collisions, but it did not have the matching engine necessary to provide the execution guarantees that top participants demanded. The API did not adhere to industry standards, which led to unnecessary complexity and stifled development efforts.
Automated market makers, or AMMs, are a clever solution to circumvent some of the latency and performance issues that make it impossible to host a liquid order book on-chain (pricing in AMMs is only updated when someone takes an order). However, these pricing curves are, by definition, a less flexible option than order books and far from ideal for professional market makers who have the capacity to make markets more efficiently. Additionally, due to the use of on-chain execution, these platforms suffer from front-running and manipulation.
Existing layer-two DEXs have a similar set of issues. The lack of a proper matching engine leads to inefficient pricing and robs market makers of necessary execution guarantees. User friction such as the need to register separate keys, asset quanta and other factors makes it time-consuming for developers to adapt their operations to support layer-two DEXs. In addition, market makers still need to contend with the security implications of using relatively immature cryptography to secure valuable crypto assets.
Ultimately, scalability still matters, but only if you have something worth scaling. The issue at the moment for central limit order book DEXs is not so much that we can’t fit enough transactions on-chain but that the process for creating these settlement transactions is clunky and unintuitive. This said, we believe the upcoming release of layer two will address current DEX performance needs and accelerate the adoption of decentralized trading.
By offering the industry an innovative approach to DEX development, DEXs will be able to compete with centralized exchanges where it matters most: at the user experience level.
To conclude, I want to highlight 1 quote from Alex Wearn (author of this article and CEO of IDEX) regarding point 2.3 above (lack of compliance):
We’ve had multiple conversations with market makers that declined to engage with us under the assumption that, as a DEX, we weren’t compliant.
This is obviously a strong point of ash, where ash is already making the difference with competing DEXs or non custodial exchanges ! We should clearly address this in the reply-article, which I hope someone will write.