Trans-Fee Mining Exchanges Have Poor Traffic to Volume Ratios, yet Their Market Share Is Rising

Cryptocurrency exchanges using the trans-fee mining (TFM) revenue model have, according to available data, poor traffic to volume ratios, meaning a small number of traders see large amounts of crypto change hands on their platforms. Despite using incentivized trading schemes to generate 'fake volume' these exchanges have grown their market share.

According to CryptoCompare’s January 2019 Exchange Review, cryptocurrency exchanges using the controversial mining model have grown to represent 15% of the crypto ecosystem’s trading volume, up from 12%. In January alone they traded $25 billion worth of crypto in the first month of the year.

The number one trans-fee mining exchange was CoinBene, which by itself traded $10 billion. It was followed by ZBG, which traded $6 billion, and by EXX, which traded $5.5 billion. These platforms’ trading volumes have grown, although overall crypto exchange traffic went down.

Per the report, traffic notably dropped 13.5% in January, with spot trading volumes accompanying it with a 12.4% drop. The total amount of unique visitors cryptocurrency exchanges received in January was 10.4 million, down from 12 million in December.

Crypto exchanges' volumes and traffic in January of 2019Source: CryptoCompare Research

While their trading volumes are high (red for TFM exchanges), the amount of traffic their platforms see is noticeably low. Traders on these platforms are incentivized by the revenue model to trade large amounts, in order to be rewarded in tokens.

The controversial revenue model was initially introduced by FCoin, which managed to see an over $5 billion daily trading volume at the time thanks to it. Some called it a “disguised ICO” over its nature. Its incentives may be questionable, as CryptoCompare’s report puts it, grouping it to zero-fee exchanges:

Transaction fee mining exchanges rebate 100% of transition fees in the form of their own exchange tokens. This might give traders an incentive to trade more to receive more tokens which often have valuable features such as voting rights on the platform or a dividend. Both of the above can lead to wash trading.

Although these crypto exchanges have large trading volumes, this doesn’t mean their order books are secure. CryptoCompare analysis from October showed that on TFM exchanges it would take a very small amount of their daily trading volume to see prices drop 10% on their platform.

Specifically, an analysis of CoinBene’s order books showed it would take just 0.3% of its trading volume to see the price of a crypto drop 10% on it. In comparison, it would take over 30% of the daily trading volume exchanges like Kraken and Bitstamp see to see prices drop 10% showing much greater stability in the more established and trusted exchanges.

CNBC’s Brian Kelly Explains the ‘Huge Difference’ Between Libra and Bitcoin

On Tuesday (June 18), the day that Facebook unveiled Libra, its new global cryptocurrency,  CNBC's Brian Kelly, who is also the founder and CEO of crypto hedge fund BKCM LLC, explained the "huge difference" between Libra, which he thinks of as digital fiat, and Bitcoin, which he thinks of as digital gold, and said that this was the reason that he does not consider Libra to be a real cryptocurrency.

In a segment titled "Facebook Goes Full Crypto" on CNBC's "Fast Money" show, the host, Melissa Lee, asked Kelly to explain why he does consider Facebook's Libra to be a real cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin or Litecoin).

Kelly started his "crypto class" with a super simple explanation of how Libra works from the point of view of a user:

  • You exchange some of your local fiat currency (say, dollars) for Libra tokens
  • You can then pay for goods/services using your Libra tokens
  • Whenever you want, you can convert some/all of your Libra tokens back to fiat currency

This all sounds fine, but Kelly says that one unspoken truth here is that as a user you need to trust the Libra Association to do everything behind-the-scenes correctly and honestly. In contrast, he says, a real cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, is trustless. As Satoshi Nakamoto explained in the Bitcoin white paper (which is titled: "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System"), Bitcoin is "an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party."

According to Kelly, the main difference between Libra and Bitcoin is that Libra is trying to be essentially digital fiat (although he used the term "digital dollar" because he was addressing mainly a U.S. audience) and so it has all the "characteristics" of traditional fiat currencies, whereas Bitcoin is "digital gold" (and it is "probably a lot better than gold") and unlike Libra does not need a trusted third party, and to him "trustlessness" is what makes crypto "revolutionary". He said that this is why we can say that Libra "keeps the existing system" while Bitcoin "does away with it."

Kelly went on to say that Libra is not substantially different from systems such as PayPal or Venmo; it's the "next iteration of them". 

Meanwhile, David Marcus, who is the Co-Creator of the Libra currency and the Head of the Calibra project (a custodial wallet for Libra) at Facebook, thinks that it is wrong to compare Libra and Bitcoin since they do not belong to the same category:

One of the people who replied to Marcus' tweet was Dr. Saifedean Ammous, an economics professor and the author the book "The Bitcoin Standard":

 

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