For anyone who entered the crypto space over the last two years, it’s hard to imagine how things have changed since the earlier days of Bitcoin, and not only in terms of price. Today’s crypto users have a vast range of tokens and exchanges to choose from. This doesn’t just mean more choice – it increases security for the entire crypto market.
Security may seem like an odd word, particularly when price volatility and exchange hacks are more prevalent than ever. However, bear with it. The crucial point is, with so many more exchanges and a bigger market cap overall, the markets these days have a far better cushion against attacks.
This is evident when we compare two of the biggest exchange hacks of all time. At the time it was breached in early 2014, Mt. Gox handled a staggering 70% of all the Bitcoin transactions in the entire world. Hackers broke into the exchange and made off with around 850,000 BTC from customers’ accounts.
At the time, this was around 7% of all bitcoins in circulation. The price impact was devastating. In January 2014 one BTC was trading for around $950 — by the end of March, it was down to $450.
Better or Worse?
Although Mt. Gox is still the biggest BTC hack of all time, it isn’t actually the biggest exchange hack of all time. That award goes to Coincheck, which was breached in January 2018. Hackers stole 500 million NEM tokens worth around $530 million, in contrast with the Mt. Gox hack, which was worth $470m.
So, why didn’t the Coincheck hack achieve the same infamy as the Mt. Gox hack? Pure numbers. At the time of the Mt. Gox attack, it was one of the only exchanges, trading on a total global crypto market cap of around $10 billion. In January 2018, when Coincheck got stung, the total global market cap was around $800 billion, and Coincheck was one of about 200 exchanges. Of course, with far more crypto users as well, the proportion affected by the Coincheck incident was far smaller too.
The contrast drives home the dramatic difference between the crypto worlds of 2014 and 2019. These days, there’s a bustling and competitive market for exchanges. In 2014, you’d have been hard pushed to find many alternatives for buying your BTC.
Why This is Great News for Crypto Users?
While exchange hacks are bad news regardless of when they happen, the growth in the crypto and exchange markets has many more upsides for users than downsides. When a hack does happen, the potential for market disruption is greatly reduced.
The recent Binance hack is a great example. In May this year, hackers lifted 7,000 BTC, equivalent to around $40m. The markets didn’t so much as flinch. Binance was quickly back up and running again, having assured users that their funds would be covered by its SAFU insurance fund.
Binance has also been one of the exchanges leading the pack on standout offers to attract new users to its trading platform. It was already pretty competitive on trading fees and support for a wide range of altcoins.
However, offers such as the BNB token with further discounts on trading fees have set the bar for other exchanges in competing for new customers. Trading fees on Mt. Gox with its captive audience in 2014 was around 0.6% — a rate that would make the average 2019 Binance traders eyes water, given they’re paying 0.1% at the upper end.
Attracting New Users
The sheer number of new exchanges entering the market now means that all of them need to create a compelling offer to attract new users. That may be lower fees, better security, or some kind of a launch contest to get people through the door. XCOEX is one example of a new exchange with an attractive prospect for new traders.
For each day during June, the exchange is gifting one lucky user with $1,000 worth of Bitcoin Cash to trade on XCOEX. That’s $30k in total for the full month. All you need to do is register for an account, deposit $20, and then follow the XCOEX Twitter account and join their Telegram group. Each day, the exchange team will select someone at random to win that day’s bounty.
XCOEX is banking on new users being impressed by its intuitive and fast trading platform. It’s designed to be as simple as possible, to appeal to new users but perhaps also some more seasoned traders looking for a more straightforward user interface.
A busy exchange market may mean that users need to spend a little more time doing their homework to choose the right platform. However, the benefits of having exchanges competing for user attention, and the safety cushion this gives to the overall market, far outweigh the drawbacks.