Coronavirus has gripped the globe, with fear and ambivalence seemingly in equal measure. Because here in crypto our apparent modus operandi is “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” we now have a 4chan-developed CoronaToken, because of course we do. And I intend to buy a couple, in the interests of science.

Image via Coronatoken.org

To do this, I head over to the Saturn Network, which, it turns out, is on the D List of decentralized exchanges. Like other decentralized exchanges and token swap platforms, Saturn  allows users to swap one type of a token for another, without the need to go through a centralized entity.  While on most decentralized exchanges, this means that you can swap Ether for an ERC20 token, say, or one ERC20 token for another ERC20 token.  The “innovation” that Saturn brings to the equation? It can also handle Ethereum Classic  and its ERC20 equivalents.

Not that there are any Ethereum Classic tokens of note at this juncture in time…

But nevermind!

To the exchange then...

A tour of the Saturn Network

Saturn Protocol’s dirty little secret, is that—just as with  most of these decentralized exchanges—there is still a man behind the curtain. In the case of Saturn Network, its “DAO” seemingly consists of tokens, 90%+ being held by two addresses... So while there are certainly some benefits to the way that DEXs operate, when compared with centralized exchanges, the fact of calling these things “decentralized” is already a stretch. In fact it’s highly unlikely that they could demonstrate the Hinman goals of “sufficient decentralization.” Whatever that means.

Let's have our first glimpse at the Saturn Network…

Well first, we need to load it up, which for some reason was stupidly slow. To the point that I was checking my calendar to make sure it wasn’t 1997, and I wasn’t connected on AOL.

At other times I was met with:

But eventually I got there:

Upon arrival I found it... underwhelming. The design is dripping with the hokeyness that one can only find in Reno, Nevada, or maybe Tron.

What is it about the design that I find so unappealing? Hard to put my finger on it, but start with the colorful ads for free lists and trade mining on the home screen that just drip with professionalism… Or maybe it’s that they use terms like “Atomic,” “Arbitrage” and “Limit Orders” incorrectly.

Undeterred, I scroll down, and find a list of assets available for trading on the Saturn Network. Half hoping expecting that CoronaCoin would be buried on the last page of a list of other more well known assets to trade, I again am left with a deep feeling of misanthropy when it I find it’s the first token listed:

Buying CoronaCoin on Saturn Network

I’m not sure if that speaks more to the popularity of the CoronaToken, or the lack of popularity of Saturn Network. Looking at the volumes and the lack of other “brand name tokens,” I assume the latter.

Holding my nose—and my Reporter’s Notebook—I descend further into the Fourth Ring of Dante’s Inferno, and click the “Trade Now” button. That takes me to the accursed trading page dedicated to buying and selling this atrocity against humanity.

My hands shake as I go to hit the buy button next to what I assumed was the first asking price (not that they ever bothered labelling it) on the absolutely putrid user interface of an orderbook. Like why would I ever want to hit the Buy or Sell button to not execute against the best price? Did they pay their devs by the button?

As my finger hovers over my mouse, I ponder whether I should have worn a medical mask before opening this site. I pull the trigger.

My screen immediately lights up with a quick… “How to Start Trading” guide. What?

Typically, web-based Dapp services automate the back end of a function required to get permission from Metamask to read details about your wallet. But Saturn, apparently, never bothered to setup this feature, and required that I do it myself.

While it’s not difficult to do, it is 2020! This is a workflow aspect that I shouldn’t have to deal with myself. I feel very put upon, but a professional does what takes. Damn the annoying fingerwork.

With that begrudgingly done, I’ve now passed from a state of profound remorse to bleeding anger at this site and am determined to get this thing done. I smash the “Buy” button again, and am taken to the next step which allows me to enter the order details.

I cue up 0.1 ETH for 10k NCOV tokens, hit the “Exchange Now” button, and verify the transaction on Metamask.

Like a bad joke in a 1980s movie following a minor plane crash, the Saturn Network thanks me for choosing to use its services. I give my screen a one-fingered salute.

Selling CoronaCoin

Now the proud owner of 10,000 NCOV tokens, I take a 30-second break to wash my hands, in keeping with health authority guidance. Then I go to look at where I can offload these digital war crimes.

Image via uniswap.exchange

Luckily, someone else with a sick sense of humor has set up a market in Uniswap, and has managed to misprice the CoronaToken tokens. This means that I can sell them back for a higher price than I bought them!

Uniswap throws up warnings to double check that these are really the right tokens. I, of course overlook details in an effort to rid myself and my wallet of these wretched coins. Uniswap sends up a warning about price slippage, or the likelihood that the price will drop. I quickly proceed.

Moments later, the “ding” of my notifications comes through and my hands are washed of CoronaTokens. In the process, I managed to net about $1.25 of ETH. Woo-hoo!

Wait, if this is such a good deal, why didn’t you keep doing it Mr Genius? It all comes back to that “slippage.” There isn’t much liquidity—fewer than a million people are trading this awful CoronaToken.  So with my one little trade I managed to nudge the price back in line. The trade of the century is now history.

Saturn Network: The bottom line

Looking beyond the distastefulness of the CoronaCoin and callousness in which I’ve treated the subject. The prospect of a pandemic is a horrible thing, and my heart goes out to all those who’ve been affected by it. Do your part and stay safe, keep up your hygiene and avoid contact with others if you worry that you may have been infected.

But coming back to DeFi: the entire experience on Saturn Network was lamentable,  end to end. From poor design, to lack of basic functionalities, to lack of labelling or intuitive placement of key features, the only redeeming factor was that the process was over relatively quickly.

It makes me scratch my head when I see that this DappRadar ranks this dapp #7 by number of users in the exchange section. However, when I see that there are only about 240 users—and ~20 ETH “locked”—I guess that doesn’t mean too much.

So while I may seem nitpicky, it’s important to remember that these tools are literally dealing with your (or in this case my) money. That means that, like the infectious disease ward of a hospital, it’s the little things you see that matter, and make one question how well—or poorly—a platform handles areas you can’t see. I have no reason to believe that Saturn Network has a gaping security hole. But based on what I do see, I won't be coming back to find out.