A decentralised exchange (DEX) is a type of cryptocurrency exchange that operates on a decentralised platform, typically built on blockchain technology. Unlike traditional centralised exchanges, which rely on intermediaries to facilitate transactions and hold custody of users' funds, DEXs allow users to trade cryptocurrencies directly with each other on a peer-to-peer basis.
1. Non-Custodial Nature: DEXs are non-custodial, meaning they do not hold users' funds. Instead, users retain control of their cryptocurrencies in their personal wallets, maintaining ownership and eliminating the need to trust a centralised exchange with custody.
2. Smart Contracts: DEXs employ smart contracts, which are self-executing agreements that automatically execute transactions based on predetermined conditions. These smart contracts facilitate the exchange of assets between buyers and sellers. They contain the rules and logic of the exchange, including order books, trade matching, and settlement mechanisms.
3. Order Books and Trading Pairs: DEXs may have order books, similar to centralised exchanges, where buyers and sellers can place buy or sell orders for specific trading pairs. These trading pairs consist of two assets that can be exchanged, such as ETH/DAI (Ethereum/Tether) or BTC/USDC (Bitcoin/USD Coin).
4. Liquidity Pools: Some DEXs utilise liquidity pools instead of traditional order books. Liquidity providers deposit their assets into these pools, which are then used to facilitate trades. Users can trade against the available liquidity within the pool, and prices are determined algorithmically based on the pool's reserves.
5. Peer-to-Peer Trading: When a trade is executed on a DEX, it is matched directly between buyers and sellers. The DEX's smart contract ensures that the assets are swapped securely and that both parties receive their agreed-upon tokens.
6. Transparency and Security: DEX transactions are transparent and recorded on the underlying blockchain, providing verifiability and immutability. Since users retain control of their funds in their wallets, the risk of hacks or security breaches at a centralised exchange is significantly reduced.
7. User Experience and Interface: DEXs offer different user interfaces, ranging from simple interfaces that resemble traditional exchanges to more advanced interfaces catering to experienced traders. Users connect their wallets to the DEX platform to interact with the smart contracts and execute trades.
8. Interoperability: DEXs can interact with other DeFi protocols, enabling users to access a wide range of decentralised financial services. This interoperability allows for composability, where users can combine different protocols to create sophisticated financial strategies.
Decentralised exchanges provide increased privacy, control over funds, and resistance to censorship. However, they may face challenges related to liquidity, user experience, and the limitations of blockchain scalability. Nonetheless, they have become an integral part of the DeFi ecosystem, providing alternatives to traditional centralised exchanges and promoting the vision of a more decentralised and inclusive financial system.