The Pros and Cons of Cryptocurrency Decentralized Exchanges

Trading crypto on a decentralized exchange can be a blessing and a curse

Asian man in glasses with a laptop, trading cryptocurrencies
Loads of people are trading crypto in exchanges but should you?.  primeimages / E+

Decentralized exchanges are a popular way to trade Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies without the restrictions of larger centralized platforms. They allow users to buy and sell cryptocoins from each other without the involvement of a middleman or a third-party.

All decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges require users to register for an account before they can trade however once they do they can list cryptocoins to sell, or buy someone else's, almost immediately.

Here are some of the positives and negatives relating to selling crypto on a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange.

Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchange Benefits

  • Decentralized Servers: Many decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges are hosted on decentralized servers. This means that all of their servers aren't located within a single location and are often spread out around the world. Some servers can even be truly decentralized by existing solely in the cloud. This method of hosting can make decentralized exchanges much harder to hack than traditionally hosted exchanges, thus making user data and funds more secure.
  • Not Restricted by Law: Not being restricted to one physical location, decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges are much harder to regulate or even shut down. This can be good news for users of Bitcoin and other cryptocoins who live in countries where cryptocurrency is illegal.
  • More Privacy: Most decentralized exchanges do require the creation of an account before you can begin trading. However, unlike more centralized exchanges such as Coinbase which needs to confirm users' identities via various forms of official government ID, most decentralized exchanges allow anyone to create an account under any name they choose with very little or no approval process. This can be admittedly bad for governments and the finance sector but it is a feature that is becoming more attractive to those citizens who are weary of Big Brother tracking their every move.
  • Coin Responsibility: Centralized exchanges store all of the crypto funds placed on their exchanges which can potentially make them vulnerable to hackers. Decentralized exchanges on the other hand often leave ownership of cryptocurrency in the hands of their users and simply act as a place for peer-to-peer trading.

Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchange Dangers

  • Still an Option B: Traditional centralized cryptocurrency exchanges are generally much more popular than decentralized ones and as a result often have many more users and active trades. Centralized exchanges also tend to have more money behind them and can afford a better user experience, customer support, and sense of professionalism.
  • Mysterious Ownership: Because decentralized exchanges can be used to avoid regulation, many choose to keep their founders' identities anonymous. Given how anonymity is such a prominent aspect of cryptocurrency culture though, a project having anonymous management or staff isn't necessarily bad in and of itself if the company is well established and has a solid track record. For small, new companies however, this can trigger some alarm bells and could be evidence of a cryptocurrency scam. Users should still be sceptical at all times when it comes to their finances.
  • Not Regulated: The lack of regulation, as mentioned above, can be a positive but it also means that there will be very little support from outside parties if a decentralized exchange goes down or is suspected of stealing funds from users.
  • Intimidating to New Investors: Decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges don't have the mainstream appeal of centralized ones and this can scare away many potential users who only want to work with companies that are officially approved by their country's government and can be held responsible for a poor customer experience. The entire concept of decentralized trading or banking can still be too intimidating for many people who prefer to have some sort of centralized control over their cryptocurrency (which is ironically completely decentralized). Less users means less active trades on a decentralized platform.

Who Should Use Decentralized Exchanges

Decentralized exchanges should only be used by those with experience in cryptocurrency trading due to its anonymity and potential risk. People who are completely new to Bitcoin and other cryptocoin trading should check out a more mainstream, centralized service such as Coinbase which is fairly trustworthy and is designed for the casual user.

Decentralized Cryptocurrency Exchange Examples

Three examples of popular decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges are BitShares, Altcoin Exhange, and Ethfinex.

A good alternative to using a dedicated exchange web service though is to use a cryptocoin software wallet that has ShapeShift integration such as Exodus. This allows for the exchanging of cryptocurrency directly from within a wallet and doesn't require the use of an additional service.