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What is a Decentralized Exchange

What is a Decentralized Exchange

Bitcoin, the first blockchain-based cryptocurrency, was created as a peer to peer payment system that allows its users to transfer value with no central authority or third party involved. Since a network of distributed and mostly anonymous miners are all in charge of processing the transactions, we are ensured that problems like censorship, fraud, and others are not possible.

The automated issuance mechanism of bitcoin through mining also seeks to remove the control of money printing from privately owned banks that lend said money to governments at an interest, creating the debt-based economy that led to the crash in 2008, which in turn led to the creation of Bitcoin. However, we have become somewhat detached from the primary goal of Bitcoin, to return the control of money to its owners, and we entrust our Bitcoin with third party services daily. The most popular of these services being exchanges.

Centralized exchanges are easy to use, easy to access and they provide advanced trading functionalities like margin trading and others. However, they also represent a security risk for your funds. While some exchanges are better guarded than others, hacks are not an uncommon event in the cryptocurrency scene, and some like the recent Bitfinex hack have led thousands of users losing their savings. Some exchanges are simply incompetent or malicious, practicing fractional reserve systems that can either lead to a voluntary elimination of the excess instruments (Mt. Gox hack from June 2011), bankruptcy (the demise of mybitcoin) or a new investor bailout. The Mt. Gox case had such an impact on the Bitcoin community that it led to the term "Getting Goxed".

Nevertheless, we need to exchange our currencies. There are certain items and services that we cannot buy with Bitcoin (yet) and in order to acquire Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, most people have to exchange it for a national currency. Furthermore, some cryptocurrencies like Ether or Bitshares have special features or tools that are not present in Bitcoin. So how can we exchange our coins without entrusting them to a third party service? The answer lies with decentralized exchanges.

What is a Decentralized Exchange 

A decentralized exchange is an exchange market that does not rely on a third party service to hold the customer's funds. Instead, trades occur directly between users (peer to peer) through an automated process. This system can be achieved by creating proxy tokens (crypto assets that represent a certain fiat or crypto currency) or assets (that can represent shares in a company for example) or through a decentralized multi-signature escrow system, among other solutions that are currently being developed.

This system contrasts with the current centralized model in which users deposit their funds and the exchange issues an IOU that can be freely traded on the platform. When a user asks to withdraw his funds, these are converted back into the cryptocurrency they represent and sent to their owner. 


The most obvious benefit to using a decentralized exchange over a centralized one is their "trustless" nature. You are not required to trust the security or honesty of the exchange since the funds are held by you in your personal wallet and not by a third party.

Another advantage to the decentralized model is the privacy it provides. Users are not required to disclose their personal details to anyone, except if the exchange method involves bank transfers, in which case your identity is revealed only to the person that is selling or buying from you.

Furthermore, the hosting of decentralized exchanges is distributed through nodes meaning that there is no risk of server downtime.


Of course, there is always a downside and this case is no exception. Centralized exchanges are extremely popular for many reasons.

Some decentralized exchanges like Bitsquare require users to be online in order for an order to be listed and for the trade to take place, requiring users to perform certain actions like signaling that a payment was received.

Trading features like margin trading, lending and stop loss are currently not available in the decentralized model as they only allow the basic exchange of currency for a predetermined value. 

Decentralized Exchanges

While there is still a long way to go in order to build fully functional and convenient decentralized exchanges, there are several projects that have brought us the basic functions and an alternative way to trade currencies while keeping our funds safe from hacks, inside thefts and faulty business models.

Bitsquare: Bitsquare is a decentralized open-source exchange that allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin for cryptocurrencies and national currencies without the need to entrust funds to third-party or middleman, meaning that the transactions occur directly between the buyer and seller. Bitsquare relies on a decentralized multi-signature escrow system to ensure that all trades are carried out honestly.

Click here to see Bitsquare reviews and features on CryptoCompare. We are also preparing a "How to use Bitsquare" guide that will be released soon!

Bitshares & Openledger: Bitshares is a crypto platform with its own native currency, Bitshares (BTS). Using the Bitshares platform, users can trade BTS, Market Pegged Assets (a crypto asset pegged to another currency or commodity that always has 100% or more of its value backed by the BitShares core currency, to which they can be converted at any time) and User Issued Assets (assets that can be issued by anyone to represent shares, commodities, currencies and so on). Openledger is the Web-based version of Bitshares, running on the same underlying blockchain.

NXT: Nxt is a crypto platform (one of the first crypto 2.0 projects) that allows users to issue and trade assets. These assets, however, can only be exchanged for the coin NXTand not for other cryptocurrencies. Asset-to-asset exchange is also not possible.

CounterParty DEX: CounterParty (XCP) is a meta-coin smart contract layer that embeds data into regular Bitcoin transactions. It allows anyone to issue assets or tokens inside of the Bitcoin blockchain. When trading assets for other assets, the Counterparty protocol acts as a decentralized escrow service that holds the funds until the orders are matched. When trading an asset for Bitcoin, the asset is held in escrow and the other user must make a manual bitcoin payment using the Counterparty wallet.

In Development

New decentralized exchanges are currently being developed to provide us with the advanced features and ease of use that we so desire. Among these are the Waves Asset Exchange, one that will allow users to trade assets (including asset-to-asset exchange), fiat tokens, and cryptocurrencies. The EasyDEX exchange will allow users to trade cryptocurrencies directly without resorting to proxy tokens, while the PAX (Pegged Asset Exchange), also being developed by the SuperNET and Komodo teams, allows users to exchange national currency assets with the privacy that zero-knowledge proofs provide.


Through the efforts made in the past and the ones being made now, we can see the overwhelming need for decentralized services that allow users to be in charge of their money.

Apps to help you get privacy back on andriod

Metadata Remover (Remove metadata from your images) - https://f-droid.org/app/rocks.poopjournal.metadataremover

ClassyShark3xodus - Scan apps (Scan apps for trackers) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.oF2pks.classyshark3xodus

Simple Contacts (A contacts app for managing your contacts without ads.) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.simplemobiletools.contacts.pro

Simple Calendar (A simple calendar with events, customizable widget and no ads.) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.simplemobiletools.calendar.pro

Simple Gallery (A gallery for viewing photos and videos without ads.) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.simplemobiletools.gallery.pro

Simple Notes (A simple text field for adding quick notes, without ads.) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.simplemobiletools.notes.pro

Simple Thank You (A paid app for people who want to support Simple Mobile Tools.) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.simplemobiletools.thankyou

WiFi Manager (Manages your device's WiFi based on your location) - https://f-droid.org/app/org.secuso.privacyfriendlywifimanager

Wi-Fi Privacy Police (Prevent leaking sensitive data on WiFi) - https://f-droid.org/app/be.uhasselt.privacypolice

Scrambled Exif (Remove the metadata from your pictures before sharing them) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.jarsilio.android.scrambledeggsif

PilferShush Jammer (Block unwanted use of onboard microphone) - https://f-droid.org/app/cityfreqs.com.pilfershushjammer

Aegis Authenticator (Free, secure and open source 2FA app to manage tokens for your online services) - https://f-droid.org/app/com.beemdevelopment.aegis

use Session as your private messaging app

minds is the best social media for privacy and control of your data

Private Location (Keep your phone location private) -

Authenticator Pro (Keep your online accounts secure and protected) - https://f-droid.org/app/me.jmh.authenticatorpro

Secure Note app


How to Use Android Without Google: Everything You Need to Know

Over the past few years, I made a big change to the way I use my phone. I decided to use Android without Google.

Can I use Android without a Google account? As it turns out, giving up Google is possible, and the experience isn’t nearly as bad as you might think.

This is a look at what I’m still able to do on Android without relying on any of Google’s services, including Google Play Services, and what I have had to give up.

First, Why Use Android Without Google?
Only a particular set of people are willing to give up access to the Play Store and Google’s suite of apps. That said, you may be one of them. There are many reasons why you might want to use a Google-free Android phone; here are some of the big ones.

  1. Google Has Gotten Out of Hand

When I first started using Google, it was to perform searches. Then it became a way to manage mail, which then turned into a place for instant messaging. Later, Google became a way to look at maps, which morphed into a GPS replacement steering me around town. Still further, it became a place for writing documents and storing files.

Google became a way to browse the web and sync every page I visited. Then it turned into a way to download and manage apps, track Android devices, and wipe them remotely. Search on Android became Google Now, which then became Google Assistant, a digital assistant that uses everything Google knows about us based on our activity.

I’m not inherently against sharing any of this information with a company, but to share it all with one company is a bit much. This leads us to the next reason.

  1. You Want to Increase Your Privacy Google Play Services runs in the background on every Android device that ships with the Play Store. This helps Google perform a number of tasks, from installing apps remotely to pulling up your location. These services also give third-party apps access to some of that functionality.

Opting to use Android without signing into a Google account reduces some of the information you’re giving away. That said, it won’t suddenly turn your device into a ghost. The act of pinging and connecting to cell towers makes mobile phones inherently trackable. But making this change reduces some of the information that you generate and share.

  1. You Like Open Source Android is an open source operating system, but most of the software that we use on our phones isn’t. If you’ve ever wanted to use only the open source bits, the easiest way is to replace your phone’s default firmware with a custom ROM.

Is Android Really Open Source? And Does It Even Matter?
Is Android Really Open Source? And Does It Even Matter?
Here we explore whether or not Android is really open source. After all, it is based on Linux!

This way, you know you’re getting the parts Google contributes to the Android Open Source Project. Sure, there are some proprietary bits that get your phone’s radios and sensors to work, but that’s the same compromise many of us make when we install Linux on our PCs.

Since it’s really hard to know which apps in the Play Store are open source, avoiding it entirely decreases your likelihood of installing something closed-source. You will still need to get apps from somewhere, but we’ll come back to that.

Why Shouldn’t You Go Google-Free?
You’re curious about using a non-Google Android phone. But hold on. Here are some reasons why you might want to exercise restraint.

  1. You May Have to Give Up A Lot of Apps You might not be able to continue using much of what you rely on right now. Saying goodbye to Google means losing out on the many Android apps that Google makes.

If you choose to go a step further, and use only open source software, like I did, this is even more drastic. Say goodbye to social networks, music streaming services, popular games, most navigation tools, cloud storage providers, video streaming sites, and many productivity tools.

There are alternatives to some of these apps available, but if you want to go 100% open source, you’re going to miss out on quite a bit.

  1. Slower Updates Alternative app stores may provide access to a good number of apps you would find on Google Play, but updates don’t roll out as quickly. Some of these sources fall weeks or months behind.

This isn’t solely a matter of losing out on the latest features either.

  1. Security Risks Slow updates can leave you open to known vulnerabilities. But that’s not the primary security risk you open yourself up to. The most common way to compromise a device is to install malicious software, typically unsuspectingly. Using an alternative app store means allowing your device to install software outside of the Play Store, opening yourself up to these kind of attacks.

Unfortunately, this is a trade-off you have to consider for yourself. Do you rely on the added security that comes from only installing software from the Play Store (which, for what it’s worth, can occasionally allow a piece of sketchy software slip by)? Or do you get your apps from elsewhere and run the risk of getting your hands on something that hasn’t been vetted?

What Apps Can You Use Out of the Box?
Even without installing a single app, our smartphones are already capable of doing a great deal. You can place calls, send text messages, take photos, maintain a calendar, listen to music, solve math problems, take notes, and browse the web without looking for additional software.

This is already more than what feature phones can do, and let’s be real, millions of people are still carrying one of those around without it having a negative effect on their lives. You can turn your Android phone into an advanced dumbphone and stop there.