Some crypto exchanges have complex and unfriendly user platforms that can scare off those wanting to get started with trading. Coinbase has always aimed to do the opposite, it wants to be the world's friendliest crypto exchange for new users. 

Below we explore what else makes Coinbase one of the world's largest exchanges.

What is Coinbase?

San Francisco-based Coinbase prides itself as one of the biggest, most secure and user-friendly crypto exchanges. Its two main products are its wallet and the exchange which currently deals in 12 different digital assets. The exchange is described as “for everyone” by the company, with a platform built for beginners. But it also has facilities for more experienced traders–Coinbase Pro and Coinbase Prime–in addition to services for businesses and merchants.

Who invented Coinbase?

Developers Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam founded Coinbase in 2012. Armstrong had previously worked as a software engineer while focusing on setting up his own businesses. Ehrsam had worked at multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs. Passionate about tech, the two founded the exchange. Ehrsam is now no longer involved in the day-to-day operations side of Coinbase and is focusing on a new crypto investment firm.

Did you know?

CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong founded, a website allowing students or tutors to connect, while still studying computer science at university. He also had a short spell working at the IT company, IBM.

A brief history

  • August 2012 – Coinbase enrolls in the prestigious Y Combinator startup incubator program, becoming the first crypto company to do so
  • October 2012 – The company launches its service to buy and sell bitcoin through bank transfers
  • May 2013 – Venture capital firm Union Square Ventures leads a $5 million investment in Coinbase
  • October 2018 – Coinbase announces it has 10 million users
  • January 2019 – Co-founder Fred Ehrsam announces he will be taking a step back from working at Coinbase to focus on other projects but remains on the company’s board of directors

What’s so special about it?


  • Easy-to-use: Coinbase prides itself on being beginner friendly and its interface is a big reason why it is one of the most popular places to buy and sell Bitcoin.
  • Low fees: Coinbase has reasonably low fees – ranging from between 1.49% fees on bank purchases and 3.99% fees on credit and debit purchases, making it one of the lowest in the industry. 
  • Security: Coinbase takes great pride in its security features. Read our article that goes into detail on Coinbase's security. 
  • Worldwide: One can both buy and sell on Coinbase in over 30 countries.
  • Insured and regulated: Coinbase provides insurance for their Coinbase USD Wallet of up to $250,000 and is also registered with FinCEN as a Money Services Business.

Did you know?

Coinbase actively recruits spies to secretly infiltrate the company and try to compromise the network from within!

What’s the difference between Coinbase, Pro, Prime, Commerce and Custody?

Coinbase’s original exchange was developed to create “an open financial system”, essentially a giant on-ramp for new crypto users to start buying and selling crypto. But the company didn't stop there. 

In May 2018, the company launched Coinbase Pro with the aim of catering to customers with more experience of trading. Designed with a slightly different interface, it allows users to access a greater range of currencies as well as technical charts for more nuanced looks at price performance. 

Coinbase Prime is specifically for financial institutions looking to trade with business funds. Users are able to trade in much higher volumes, but to do so, you need to have a registered business.

Coinbase Custody meanwhile, provides financial institutions with a safe and secure means to store digital assets – with access to audit trails, withdrawal limits, and support for multiple signers. It operates as a standalone, independently-capitalized business to Coinbase, Inc.

Lastly, Coinbase Commerce is a platform which helps merchants to accept payments in a variety of digital currencies.

The future

Coinbase continues to expand and compete with other exchanges in the race to make cryptocurrencies more mainstream.

The company recently launched a debit card for its users in the UK–the first of its kind in the country–allowing them to pay for regular goods using their digital assets.

Coinbase is gradually adding more cryptocurrencies to its portfolio and the company has said it is working to offer its customers “access to greater than 90% of all compliant digital assets by market cap”.