It has been said countless times, but let me reiterate! — Centralised exchanges (CEXes) are the killer apps of the blockchain. When I say “killer”, I mean the destroyers of the DeFi space.
With their current design and business model, they will inevitably make the freedom that blockchain technology promises very difficult to achieve. They are actively contributing to the rollback of achievements the industry has gained in the past decades. The fact remains that they are making everyone in Web3 look like idiots — to friends, family, colleagues and regulators. Talent considering this space will no doubt question their decision or sanity. Ultimately, the actions of CEXes will fully invite regulators prematurely and with hurriedly crafted rules.
As proven by the recent collapse of the FTX exchange and the inability of many other exchanges to prove their reserve, it is suicidal to trust a centralised exchange with your coins. It does not matter much if they are of excellent standing today. They are designed to cause pain, eventually. It only takes an irresponsible CEO, board or regulator to change things for the worse. Look, the moment you move your coins into their custody, you have accepted the following:
- Loss of ownership: “Not your keys, not your coins” — you are subject to their public and hidden terms. They chose when to grant you access. They can withhold your coins for random reasons or at the request of a third party (e.g. state actors, other users & companies).
- Inaccessibility: you lose control over when and how you wish to use your coins. In times of significant events, when you need to move your coins out of centralised exchanges, you may find that you cannot exit because withdrawals have been disabled or your account has been flagged for reasons that need further clarification.
- Leverage risk: the FTX catastrophe demonstrates that many exchanges must prove their reserves. Many users own virtual coins or IOUs on centralised exchanges because in reality the actual coins have been loaned off, lost or locked in deals depositors did not approve or are aware of. You only learn these deals when the exchange loses your coins in failed ventures. While FTX is the latest to have fallen, many other exchanges operate similarly to FTX.
- Privacy loss and violations: Nowadays, you cannot use most centralised exchanges without sharing your identity, life history and live video of yourself. Many users also face discrimination or get preferential treatment based on the information shared with exchanges. In many cases, users still get rejected after completing the KYC; all that days spent filling out forms and waiting for approval go to waste. Moreover, there is no way to verify if the data shared in their failed application has been deleted.
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