Binance has launched its first decentralized exchange, which allows users to trade cryptocurrencies directly from their digital wallets without a custodian mediating the transactions. Though trading has not yet officially begun, users can sign up for an account to unlock a wallet. The release follows a two-month long test-net period, in which some 8.5 million transactions were made.
“You are solely responsible for keeping your funds,” reads a caution on the registration screen. “No one else, not even Binance, can help you recover your wallet if you lose it.”
The so-called DEX, which was released earlier than scheduled, lives on Binance Chain, a new blockchain protocol launched by Binance last week. To achieve decentralization, it uses “Byzantine Fault Tolerance,” a protocol developed by Cosmos architect Tendermint.
Eleven “validators” described as “trusted members of the Binance community” collect small fees by verifying transactions, according to the threadbare documentation on Binance’s website,
Though it’s not clear exactly which “trusted members” of the Binance community will be validating the network, its nominal decentralization supposedly makes it more secure than the easily hacked centralized exchanges.
Those DEXes that already exist, meanwhile, suffer from UX problems—a trusted intermediary, users often find, makes things simpler. And others, like EtherDelta, unwittingly violated US securities laws.
But some observers note that Binance DEX’s reliance on the traditional “bid/ask” system of managing trades—in which each trader has to find an equal and opposite trade—shuts out all but the most wildly popular tokens.
“Because Binance's DEX still relies on the traditional bid/ask system, it won't do much to solve the liquidity barrier preventing low-volume tokens from offering frictionless conversions for their users,” said Nate Hindman, communications director for Bancor, a DEX that runs on Ethereum and EOS.
Unsurprisingly, Hindman suggested that such low volume tokens—the sort that Binance prides itself on listing—would be served better by Bancor’s model, which maintains a “liquidity pool” that investors can tap into at any time.
Nevertheless, Binance DEX promises a laundry list of other benefits: for a start, it purports to offer significantly cheaper transaction fees than centralized exchanges, including its own, which charges 0.1 percent fees per transaction.
It has also fully abandoned fees for withdrawal, depositing and order placement, according to the Binance DEX website, which also notes that “[Binance Coin] holders benefit even more.”
According to Binance CFO Wei Zhou, the move will also serve to align Binance with the industry’s ideological roots. “Decentralization is a process,” he told Decrypt last week. “It’s a path. It’s a good step one for us to start moving that way.”
And it appears to be making good on this. Signing up, for instance, requires no KYC documentation, and a checkbox even cautions users to remember that no third party has control over their funds.
“I understand that Binance cannot recover or reset my password or the keystore file [username],” it says. “I will make a backup of the keystore file/password, keep them secret, complete all wallet creation steps and agree to all the terms.”
Binance has no official control over the network. But with a handful of “trusted members” verifying it, it probably doesn’t need to.