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A frequent question I see being asked is how Cosmos, Polkadot and Avalanche compare? Whilst there are similarities there are also a lot of differences. This article is not intended to be an extensive in-depth list, but rather an overview based on some of the criteria that I feel are most important.
For better formatting see https://medium.com/ava-hub/comparison-between-avalanche-cosmos-and-polkadot-a2a98f46c03b
CosmosCosmos is a heterogeneous network of many independent parallel blockchains, each powered by classical BFT consensus algorithms like Tendermint. Developers can easily build custom application specific blockchains, called Zones, through the Cosmos SDK framework. These Zones connect to Hubs, which are specifically designed to connect zones together.
The vision of Cosmos is to have thousands of Zones and Hubs that are Interoperable through the Inter-Blockchain Communication Protocol (IBC). Cosmos can also connect to other systems through peg zones, which are specifically designed zones that each are custom made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. Cosmos does not use Sharding with each Zone and Hub being sovereign with their own validator set.
For a more in-depth look at Cosmos and provide more reference to points made in this article, please see my three part series — Part One, Part Two, Part Three
(There's a youtube video with a quick video overview of Cosmos on the medium article - https://medium.com/ava-hub/comparison-between-avalanche-cosmos-and-polkadot-a2a98f46c03b)
PolkadotPolkadot is a heterogeneous blockchain protocol that connects multiple specialised blockchains into one unified network. It achieves scalability through a sharding infrastructure with multiple blockchains running in parallel, called parachains, that connect to a central chain called the Relay Chain. Developers can easily build custom application specific parachains through the Substrate development framework.
The relay chain validates the state transition of connected parachains, providing shared state across the entire ecosystem. If the Relay Chain must revert for any reason, then all of the parachains would also revert. This is to ensure that the validity of the entire system can persist, and no individual part is corruptible. The shared state makes it so that the trust assumptions when using parachains are only those of the Relay Chain validator set, and no other. Interoperability is enabled between parachains through Cross-Chain Message Passing (XCMP) protocol and is also possible to connect to other systems through bridges, which are specifically designed parachains or parathreads that each are custom made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. The hope is to have 100 parachains connect to the relay chain.
For a more in-depth look at Polkadot and provide more reference to points made in this article, please see my three part series — Part One, Part Two, Part Three
(There's a youtube video with a quick video overview of Polkadot on the medium article - https://medium.com/ava-hub/comparison-between-avalanche-cosmos-and-polkadot-a2a98f46c03b)
AvalancheAvalanche is a platform of platforms, ultimately consisting of thousands of subnets to form a heterogeneous interoperable network of many blockchains, that takes advantage of the revolutionary Avalanche Consensus protocols to provide a secure, globally distributed, interoperable and trustless framework offering unprecedented decentralisation whilst being able to comply with regulatory requirements.
Avalanche allows anyone to create their own tailor-made application specific blockchains, supporting multiple custom virtual machines such as EVM and WASM and written in popular languages like Go (with others coming in the future) rather than lightly used, poorly-understood languages like Solidity. This virtual machine can then be deployed on a custom blockchain network, called a subnet, which consist of a dynamic set of validators working together to achieve consensus on the state of a set of many blockchains where complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance.
Avalanche was built with serving financial markets in mind. It has native support for easily creating and trading digital smart assets with complex custom rule sets that define how the asset is handled and traded to ensure regulatory compliance can be met. Interoperability is enabled between blockchains within a subnet as well as between subnets. Like Cosmos and Polkadot, Avalanche is also able to connect to other systems through bridges, through custom virtual machines made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin.
For a more in-depth look at Avalanche and provide more reference to points made in this article, please see here and here
(There's a youtube video with a quick video overview of Avalanche on the medium article - https://medium.com/ava-hub/comparison-between-avalanche-cosmos-and-polkadot-a2a98f46c03b)
Comparison between Cosmos, Polkadot and AvalancheA frequent question I see being asked is how Cosmos, Polkadot and Avalanche compare? Whilst there are similarities there are also a lot of differences. This article is not intended to be an extensive in-depth list, but rather an overview based on some of the criteria that I feel are most important. For a more in-depth view I recommend reading the articles for each of the projects linked above and coming to your own conclusions. I want to stress that it’s not a case of one platform being the killer of all other platforms, far from it. There won’t be one platform to rule them all, and too often the tribalism has plagued this space. Blockchains are going to completely revolutionise most industries and have a profound effect on the world we know today. It’s still very early in this space with most adoption limited to speculation and trading mainly due to the limitations of Blockchain and current iteration of Ethereum, which all three of these platforms hope to address. For those who just want a quick summary see the image at the bottom of the article. With that said let’s have a look
CosmosEach Zone and Hub in Cosmos is capable of up to around 1000 transactions per second with bandwidth being the bottleneck in consensus. Cosmos aims to have thousands of Zones and Hubs all connected through IBC. There is no limit on the number of Zones / Hubs that can be created
PolkadotParachains in Polkadot are also capable of up to around 1500 transactions per second. A portion of the parachain slots on the Relay Chain will be designated as part of the parathread pool, the performance of a parachain is split between many parathreads offering lower performance and compete amongst themselves in a per-block auction to have their transactions included in the next relay chain block. The number of parachains is limited by the number of validators on the relay chain, they hope to be able to achieve 100 parachains.
AvalancheAvalanche is capable of around 4500 transactions per second per subnet, this is based on modest hardware requirements to ensure maximum decentralisation of just 2 CPU cores and 4 GB of Memory and with a validator size of over 2,000 nodes. Performance is CPU-bound and if higher performance is required then more specialised subnets can be created with higher minimum requirements to be able to achieve 10,000 tps+ in a subnet. Avalanche aims to have thousands of subnets (each with multiple virtual machines / blockchains) all interoperable with each other. There is no limit on the number of Subnets that can be created.
ResultsAll three platforms offer vastly superior performance to the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum 1.0. Avalanche with its higher transactions per second, no limit on the number of subnets / blockchains that can be created and the consensus can scale to potentially millions of validators all participating in consensus scores ✅✅✅. Polkadot claims to offer more tps than cosmos, but is limited to the number of parachains (around 100) whereas with Cosmos there is no limit on the number of hubs / zones that can be created. Cosmos is limited to a fairly small validator size of around 200 before performance degrades whereas Polkadot hopes to be able to reach 1000 validators in the relay chain (albeit only a small number of validators are assigned to each parachain). Thus Cosmos and Polkadot scores ✅✅
CosmosTendermint consensus is limited to around 200 validators before performance starts to degrade. Whilst there is the Cosmos Hub it is one of many hubs in the network and there is no central hub or limit on the number of zones / hubs that can be created.
PolkadotPolkadot has 1000 validators in the relay chain and these are split up into a small number that validate each parachain (minimum of 14). The relay chain is a central point of failure as all parachains connect to it and the number of parachains is limited depending on the number of validators (they hope to achieve 100 parachains). Due to the limited number of parachain slots available, significant sums of DOT will need to be purchased to win an auction to lease the slot for up to 24 months at a time. Thus likely to lead to only those with enough funds to secure a parachain slot. Parathreads are however an alternative for those that require less and more varied performance for those that can’t secure a parachain slot.
AvalancheAvalanche consensus scan scale to tens of thousands of validators, even potentially millions of validators all participating in consensus through repeated sub-sampling. The more validators, the faster the network becomes as the load is split between them. There are modest hardware requirements so anyone can run a node and there is no limit on the number of subnets / virtual machines that can be created.
ResultsAvalanche offers unparalleled decentralisation using its revolutionary consensus protocols that can scale to millions of validators all participating in consensus at the same time. There is no limit to the number of subnets and virtual machines that can be created, and they can be created by anyone for a small fee, it scores ✅✅✅. Cosmos is limited to 200 validators but no limit on the number of zones / hubs that can be created, which anyone can create and scores ✅✅. Polkadot hopes to accommodate 1000 validators in the relay chain (albeit these are split amongst each of the parachains). The number of parachains is limited and maybe cost prohibitive for many and the relay chain is a ultimately a single point of failure. Whilst definitely not saying it’s centralised and it is more decentralised than many others, just in comparison between the three, it scores ✅
CosmosTendermint consensus used in Cosmos reaches finality within 6 seconds. Cosmos consists of many Zones and Hubs that connect to each other. Communication between 2 zones could pass through many hubs along the way, thus also can contribute to latency times depending on the path taken as explained in part two of the articles on Cosmos. It doesn’t need to wait for an extended period of time with risk of rollbacks.
PolkadotPolkadot provides a Hybrid consensus protocol consisting of Block producing protocol, BABE, and then a finality gadget called GRANDPA that works to agree on a chain, out of many possible forks, by following some simpler fork choice rule. Rather than voting on every block, instead it reaches agreements on chains. As soon as more than 2/3 of validators attest to a chain containing a certain block, all blocks leading up to that one are finalized at once.
If an invalid block is detected after it has been finalised then the relay chain would need to be reverted along with every parachain. This is particularly important when connecting to external blockchains as those don’t share the state of the relay chain and thus can’t be rolled back. The longer the time period, the more secure the network is, as there is more time for additional checks to be performed and reported but at the expense of finality. Finality is reached within 60 seconds between parachains but for external ecosystems like Ethereum their state obviously can’t be rolled back like a parachain and so finality will need to be much longer (60 minutes was suggested in the whitepaper) and discussed in more detail in part three
AvalancheAvalanche consensus achieves finality within 3 seconds, with most happening sub 1 second, immutable and completely irreversible. Any subnet can connect directly to another without having to go through multiple hops and any VM can talk to another VM within the same subnet as well as external subnets. It doesn’t need to wait for an extended period of time with risk of rollbacks.
ResultsWith regards to performance far too much emphasis is just put on tps as a metric, the other equally important metric, if not more important with regards to finance is latency. Throughput measures the amount of data at any given time that it can handle whereas latency is the amount of time it takes to perform an action. It’s pointless saying you can process more transactions per second than VISA when it takes 60 seconds for a transaction to complete. Low latency also greatly increases general usability and customer satisfaction, nowadays everyone expects card payments, online payments to happen instantly. Avalanche achieves the best results scoring ✅✅✅, Cosmos with comes in second with 6 second finality ✅✅ and Polkadot with 60 second finality (which may be 60 minutes for external blockchains) scores ✅
CosmosEvery Zone and Hub in Cosmos has their own validator set and different trust assumptions. Cosmos are researching a shared security model where a Hub can validate the state of connected zones for a fee but not released yet. Once available this will make shared security optional rather than mandatory.
PolkadotShared Security is mandatory with Polkadot which uses a Shared State infrastructure between the Relay Chain and all of the connected parachains. If the Relay Chain must revert for any reason, then all of the parachains would also revert. Every parachain makes the same trust assumptions, and as such the relay chain validates state transition and enables seamless interoperability between them. In return for this benefit, they have to purchase DOT and win an auction for one of the available parachain slots.
However, parachains can’t just rely on the relay chain for their security, they will also need to implement censorship resistance measures and utilise proof of work / proof of stake for each parachain as well as discussed in part three, thus parachains can’t just rely on the security of the relay chain, they need to ensure sybil resistance mechanisms using POW and POS are implemented on the parachain as well.
AvalancheA subnet in Avalanche consists of a dynamic set of validators working together to achieve consensus on the state of a set of many blockchains where complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance. So unlike in Cosmos where each zone / hub has their own validators, A subnet can validate a single or many virtual machines / blockchains with a single validator set. Shared security is optional
ResultsShared security is mandatory in polkadot and a key design decision in its infrastructure. The relay chain validates the state transition of all connected parachains and thus scores ✅✅✅. Subnets in Avalanche can validate state of either a single or many virtual machines. Each subnet can have their own token and shares a validator set, where complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance. It scores ✅ ✅. Every Zone and Hub in cosmos has their own validator set / token but research is underway to have the hub validate the state transition of connected zones, but as this is still early in the research phase scores ✅ for now.
CosmosThe Cosmos project started in 2016 with an ICO held in April 2017. There are currently around 50 projects building on the Cosmos SDK with a full list can be seen here and filtering for Cosmos SDK . Not all of the projects will necessarily connect using native cosmos sdk and IBC and some have forked parts of the Cosmos SDK and utilise the tendermint consensus such as Binance Chain but have said they will connect in the future.
PolkadotThe Polkadot project started in 2016 with an ICO held in October 2017. There are currently around 70 projects building on Substrate and a full list can be seen here and filtering for Substrate Based. Like with Cosmos not all projects built using substrate will necessarily connect to Polkadot and parachains or parathreads aren’t currently implemented in either the Live or Test network (Kusama) as of the time of this writing.
AvalancheAvalanche in comparison started much later with Ava Labs being founded in 2018. Avalanche held it’s ICO in July 2020. Due to lot shorter time it has been in development, the number of projects confirmed are smaller with around 14 projects currently building on Avalanche. Due to the customisability of the platform though, many virtual machines can be used within a subnet making the process incredibly easy to port projects over. As an example, it will launch with the Ethereum Virtual Machine which enables byte for byte compatibility and all the tooling like Metamask, Truffle etc. will work, so projects can easily move over to benefit from the performance, decentralisation and low gas fees offered. In the future Cosmos and Substrate virtual machines could be implemented on Avalanche.
ResultsWhilst it’s still early for all 3 projects (and the entire blockchain space as a whole), there is currently more projects confirmed to be building on Cosmos and Polkadot, mostly due to their longer time in development. Whilst Cosmos has fewer projects, zones are implemented compared to Polkadot which doesn’t currently have parachains. IBC to connect zones and hubs together is due to launch Q2 2021, thus both score ✅✅✅. Avalanche has been in development for a lot shorter time period, but is launching with an impressive feature set right from the start with ability to create subnets, VMs, assets, NFTs, permissioned and permissionless blockchains, cross chain atomic swaps within a subnet, smart contracts, bridge to Ethereum etc. Applications can easily port over from other platforms and use all the existing tooling such as Metamask / Truffle etc but benefit from the performance, decentralisation and low gas fees offered. Currently though just based on the number of projects in comparison it scores ✅.
CosmosCosmos enables permissioned and permissionless zones which can connect to each other with the ability to have full control over who validates the blockchain. For permissionless zones each zone / hub can have their own token and they are in control who validates.
PolkadotWith polkadot the state transition is performed by a small randomly selected assigned group of validators from the relay chain plus with the possibility that state is rolled back if an invalid transaction of any of the other parachains is found. This may pose a problem for enterprises that need complete control over who performs validation for regulatory reasons. In addition due to the limited number of parachain slots available Enterprises would have to acquire and lock up large amounts of a highly volatile asset (DOT) and have the possibility that they are outbid in future auctions and find they no longer can have their parachain validated and parathreads don’t provide the guaranteed performance requirements for the application to function.
AvalancheAvalanche enables permissioned and permissionless subnets and complex rulesets can be configured to meet regulatory compliance. For example a subnet can be created where its mandatory that all validators are from a certain legal jurisdiction, or they hold a specific license and regulated by the SEC etc. Subnets are also able to scale to tens of thousands of validators, and even potentially millions of nodes, all participating in consensus so every enterprise can run their own node rather than only a small amount. Enterprises don’t have to hold large amounts of a highly volatile asset, but instead pay a fee in AVAX for the creation of the subnets and blockchains which is burnt.
ResultsAvalanche provides the customisability to run private permissioned blockchains as well as permissionless where the enterprise is in control over who validates the blockchain, with the ability to use complex rulesets to meet regulatory compliance, thus scores ✅✅✅. Cosmos is also able to run permissioned and permissionless zones / hubs so enterprises have full control over who validates a blockchain and scores ✅✅. Polkadot requires locking up large amounts of a highly volatile asset with the possibility of being outbid by competitors and being unable to run the application if the guaranteed performance is required and having to migrate away. The relay chain validates the state transition and can roll back the parachain should an invalid block be detected on another parachain, thus scores ✅.
CosmosCosmos will connect Hubs and Zones together through its IBC protocol (due to release in Q1 2020). Connecting to blockchains outside of the Cosmos ecosystem would either require the connected blockchain to fork their code to implement IBC or more likely a custom “Peg Zone” will be created specific to work with a particular blockchain it’s trying to bridge to such as Ethereum etc. Each Zone and Hub has different trust levels and connectivity between 2 zones can have different trust depending on which path it takes (this is discussed more in this article). Finality time is low at 6 seconds, but depending on the number of hops, this can increase significantly.
PolkadotPolkadot’s shared state means each parachain that connects shares the same trust assumptions, of the relay chain validators and that if one blockchain needs to be reverted, all of them will need to be reverted. Interoperability is enabled between parachains through Cross-Chain Message Passing (XCMP) protocol and is also possible to connect to other systems through bridges, which are specifically designed parachains or parathreads that each are custom made to interact with another ecosystem such as Ethereum and Bitcoin. Finality time between parachains is around 60 seconds, but longer will be needed (initial figures of 60 minutes in the whitepaper) for connecting to external blockchains. Thus limiting the appeal of connecting two external ecosystems together through Polkadot. Polkadot is also limited in the number of Parachain slots available, thus limiting the amount of blockchains that can be bridged. Parathreads could be used for lower performance bridges, but the speed of future blockchains is only going to increase.
AvalancheA subnet can validate multiple virtual machines / blockchains and all blockchains within a subnet share the same trust assumptions / validator set, enabling cross chain interoperability. Interoperability is also possible between any other subnet, with the hope Avalanche will consist of thousands of subnets. Each subnet may have a different trust level, but as the primary network consists of all validators then this can be used as a source of trust if required. As Avalanche supports many virtual machines, bridges to other ecosystems are created by running the connected virtual machine. There will be an Ethereum bridge using the EVM shortly after mainnet. Finality time is much faster at sub 3 seconds (with most happening under 1 second) with no chance of rolling back so more appealing when connecting to external blockchains.
ResultsAll 3 systems are able to perform interoperability within their ecosystem and transfer assets as well as data, as well as use bridges to connect to external blockchains. Cosmos has different trust levels between its zones and hubs and can create issues depending on which path it takes and additional latency added. Polkadot provides the same trust assumptions for all connected parachains but has long finality and limited number of parachain slots available. Avalanche provides the same trust assumptions for all blockchains within a subnet, and different trust levels between subnets. However due to the primary network consisting of all validators it can be used for trust. Avalanche also has a much faster finality time with no limitation on the number of blockchains / subnets / bridges that can be created. Overall all three blockchains excel with interoperability within their ecosystem and each score ✅✅.
CosmosThe ATOM token is the native token for the Cosmos Hub. It is commonly mistaken by people that think it’s the token used throughout the cosmos ecosystem, whereas it’s just used for one of many hubs in Cosmos, each with their own token. Currently ATOM has little utility as IBC isn’t released and has no connections to other zones / hubs. Once IBC is released zones may prefer to connect to a different hub instead and so ATOM is not used. ATOM isn’t a fixed capped supply token and supply will continuously increase with a yearly inflation of around 10% depending on the % staked. The current market cap for ATOM as of the time of this writing is $1 Billion with 203 million circulating supply. Rewards can be earnt through staking to offset the dilution caused by inflation. Delegators can also get slashed and lose a portion of their ATOM should the validator misbehave.
PolkadotPolkadot’s native token is DOT and it’s used to secure the Relay Chain. Each parachain needs to acquire sufficient DOT to win an auction on an available parachain lease period of up to 24 months at a time. Parathreads have a fixed fee for registration that would realistically be much lower than the cost of acquiring a parachain slot and compete with other parathreads in a per-block auction to have their transactions included in the next relay chain block. DOT isn’t a fixed capped supply token and supply will continuously increase with a yearly inflation of around 10% depending on the % staked. The current market cap for DOT as of the time of this writing is $4.4 Billion with 852 million circulating supply. Delegators can also get slashed and lose their DOT (potentially 100% of their DOT for serious attacks) should the validator misbehave.
AvalancheAVAX is the native token for the primary network in Avalanche. Every validator of any subnet also has to validate the primary network and stake a minimum of 2000 AVAX. There is no limit to the number of validators like other consensus methods then this can cater for tens of thousands even potentially millions of validators. As every validator validates the primary network, this can be a source of trust for interoperability between subnets as well as connecting to other ecosystems, thus increasing amount of transaction fees of AVAX. There is no slashing in Avalanche, so there is no risk to lose your AVAX when selecting a validator, instead rewards earnt for staking can be slashed should the validator misbehave. Because Avalanche doesn’t have direct slashing, it is technically possible for someone to both stake AND deliver tokens for something like a flash loan, under the invariant that all tokens that are staked are returned, thus being able to make profit with staked tokens outside of staking itself.
There will also be a separate subnet for Athereum which is a ‘spoon,’ or friendly fork, of Ethereum, which benefits from the Avalanche consensus protocol and applications in the Ethereum ecosystem. It’s native token ATH will be airdropped to ETH holders as well as potentially AVAX holders as well. This can be done for other blockchains as well.
Transaction fees on the primary network for all 3 of the blockchains as well as subscription fees for creating a subnet and blockchain are paid in AVAX and are burnt, creating deflationary pressure. AVAX is a fixed capped supply of 720 million tokens, creating scarcity rather than an unlimited supply which continuously increase of tokens at a compounded rate each year like others. Initially there will be 360 tokens minted at Mainnet with vesting periods between 1 and 10 years, with tokens gradually unlocking each quarter. The Circulating supply is 24.5 million AVAX with tokens gradually released each quater. The current market cap of AVAX is around $100 million.
ResultsAvalanche’s AVAX with its fixed capped supply, deflationary pressure, very strong utility, potential to receive air drops and low market cap, means it scores ✅✅✅. Polkadot’s DOT also has very strong utility with the need for auctions to acquire parachain slots, but has no deflationary mechanisms, no fixed capped supply and already valued at $3.8 billion, therefore scores ✅✅. Cosmos’s ATOM token is only for the Cosmos Hub, of which there will be many hubs in the ecosystem and has very little utility currently. (this may improve once IBC is released and if Cosmos hub actually becomes the hub that people want to connect to and not something like Binance instead. There is no fixed capped supply and currently valued at $1.1 Billion, so scores ✅.
All three are excellent projects and have similarities as well as many differences. Just to reiterate this article is not intended to be an extensive in-depth list, but rather an overview based on some of the criteria that I feel are most important. For a more in-depth view I recommend reading the articles for each of the projects linked above and coming to your own conclusions, you may have different criteria which is important to you, and score them differently. There won’t be one platform to rule them all however, with some uses cases better suited to one platform over another, and it’s not a zero-sum game. Blockchain is going to completely revolutionize industries and the Internet itself. The more projects researching and delivering breakthrough technology the better, each learning from each other and pushing each other to reach that goal earlier. The current market is a tiny speck of what’s in store in terms of value and adoption and it’s going to be exciting to watch it unfold.
For more information see the articles below (each with additional sources at the bottom of their articles)
Avalanche, a Revolutionary Consensus Engine and Platform. A Game Changer for Blockchain
Avalanche Consensus, The Biggest Breakthrough since Nakamoto
Cosmos — An Early In-Depth Analysis — Part One
Cosmos — An Early In-Depth Analysis — Part Two
Cosmos Hub ATOM Token and the commonly misunderstood staking tokens — Part Three
Polkadot — An Early In-Depth Analysis — Part One — Overview and Benefits
Polkadot — An Early In-Depth Analysis — Part Two — How Consensus Works
Polkadot — An Early In-Depth Analysis — Part Three — Limitations and Issues
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Founded by HDR Global Trading Limited (which in turn was founded by former bankers Arthur Hayes, Samuel Reed and Ben Delo) in 2014, BitMEX is a trading platform operating around the world and registered in the Seychelles.
Meaning Bitcoin Mercantile Exchange, BitMEX is one of the largest Bitcoin trading platforms currently operating, with a daily trading volume of over 35,000 BTC and over 540,000 accesses monthly and a trading history of over $34 billion worth of Bitcoin since its inception.
Unlike many other trading exchanges, BitMEX only accepts deposits through Bitcoin, which can then be used to purchase a variety of other cryptocurrencies. BitMEX specialises in sophisticated financial operations such as margin trading, which is trading with leverage. Like many of the exchanges that operate through cryptocurrencies, BitMEX is currently unregulated in any jurisdiction.
How to Sign Up to BitMEXIn order to create an account on BitMEX, users first have to register with the website. Registration only requires an email address, the email address must be a genuine address as users will receive an email to confirm registration in order to verify the account. Once users are registered, there are no trading limits. Traders must be at least 18 years of age to sign up.
However, it should be noted that BitMEX does not accept any US-based traders and will use IP checks to verify that users are not in the US. While some US users have bypassed this with the use of a VPN, it is not recommended that US individuals sign up to the BitMEX service, especially given the fact that alternative exchanges are available to service US customers that function within the US legal framework.
How to Use BitMEX
BitMEX allows users to trade cryptocurrencies against a number of fiat currencies, namely the US Dollar, the Japanese Yen and the Chinese Yuan. BitMEX allows users to trade a number of different cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Litecoin, Monero, Ripple, Tezos and Zcash.
The trading platform on BitMEX is very intuitive and easy to use for those familiar with similar markets. However, it is not for the beginner. The interface does look a little dated when compared to newer exchanges like Binance and Kucoin’s.
Once users have signed up to the platform, they should click on Trade, and all the trading instruments will be displayed beneath.
Clicking on the particular instrument opens the orderbook, recent trades, and the order slip on the left. The order book shows three columns – the bid value for the underlying asset, the quantity of the order, and the total USD value of all orders, both short and long.
The widgets on the trading platform can be changed according to the user’s viewing preferences, allowing users to have full control on what is displayed. It also has a built in feature that provides for TradingView charting. This offers a wide range of charting tool and is considered to be an improvement on many of the offering available from many of its competitors.
Once trades are made, all orders can be easily viewed in the trading platform interface. There are tabs where users can select their Active Orders, see the Stops that are in place, check the Orders Filled (total or partially) and the trade history. On the Active Orders and Stops tabs, traders can cancel any order, by clicking the “Cancel” button. Users also see all currently open positions, with an analysis if it is in the black or red.
BitMEX uses a method called auto-deleveraging which BitMEX uses to ensure that liquidated positions are able to be closed even in a volatile market. Auto-deleveraging means that if a position bankrupts without available liquidity, the positive side of the position deleverages, in order of profitability and leverage, the highest leveraged position first in queue. Traders are always shown where they sit in the auto-deleveraging queue, if such is needed.
Although the BitMEX platform is optimized for mobile, it only has an Android app (which is not official). There is no iOS app available at present. However, it is recommended that users use it on the desktop if possible.
BitMEX offers a variety of order types for users:
Futures and SwapsA futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a given asset in the future at a predetermined price. On BitMEX, users can leverage up to 100x on certain contracts.
Perpetual swaps are similar to futures, except that there is no expiry date for them and no settlement. Additionally, they trade close to the underlying reference Index Price, unlike futures, which may diverge substantially from the Index Price.
BitMEX also offers Binary series contracts, which are prediction-based contracts which can only settle at either 0 or 100. In essence, the Binary series contracts are a more complicated way of making a bet on a given event.
The only Binary series betting instrument currently available is related to the next 1mb block on the Bitcoin blockchain. Binary series contracts are traded with no leverage, a 0% maker fee, a 0.25% taker fee and 0.25% settlement fee.
Bitmex LeverageBitMEX allows its traders to leverage their position on the platform. Leverage is the ability to place orders that are bigger than the users’ existing balance. This could lead to a higher profit in comparison when placing an order with only the wallet balance. Trading in such conditions is called “Margin Trading.”
There are two types of Margin Trading: Isolated and Cross-Margin. The former allows the user to select the amount of money in their wallet that should be used to hold their position after an order is placed. However, the latter provides that all of the money in the users’ wallet can be used to hold their position, and therefore should be treated with extreme caution.
The BitMEX platform allows users to set their leverage level by using the leverage slider. A maximum leverage of 1:100 is available (on Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash). This is quite a high level of leverage for cryptocurrencies, with the average offered by other exchanges rarely exceeding 1:20.
BitMEX FeesFor traditional futures trading, BitMEX has a straightforward fee schedule. As noted, in terms of leverage offered, BitMEX offers up to 100% leverage, with the amount off leverage varying from product to product.
However, it should be noted that trading at the highest leverages is sophisticated and is intended for professional investors that are familiar with speculative trading. The fees and leverage are as follows:
However, there are additional fees for hidden / iceberg orders. A hidden order pays the taker fee until the entire hidden quantity is completely executed. Then, the order will become normal, and the user will receive the maker rebate for the non-hidden amount.
Deposits and WithdrawalsBitMEX does not charge fees on deposits or withdrawals. However, when withdrawing Bitcoin, the minimum Network fee is based on blockchain load. The only costs therefore are those of the banks or the cryptocurrency networks.
As noted previously, BitMEX only accepts deposits in Bitcoin and therefore Bitcoin serves as collateral on trading contracts, regardless of whether or not the trade involves Bitcoin.
The minimum deposit is 0.001 BTC. There are no limits on withdrawals, but withdrawals can also be in Bitcoin only. To make a withdrawal, all that users need to do is insert the amount to withdraw and the wallet address to complete the transfer.
Deposits can be made 24/7 but withdrawals are processed by hand at a recurring time once per day. The hand processed withdrawals are intended to increase the security levels of users’ funds by providing extra time (and email notice) to cancel any fraudulent withdrawal requests, as well as bypassing the use of automated systems & hot wallets which may be more prone to compromise.
Supported CurrenciesBitMEX operates as a crypto to crypto exchange and makes use of a Bitcoin-in/Bitcoin-out structure. Therefore, platform users are currently unable to use fiat currencies for any payments or transfers, however, a plus side of this is that there are no limits for trading and the exchange incorporates trading pairs linked to the US Dollar (XBT), Japanese Yen (XBJ), and Chinese Yuan (XBC).
BitMEX supports the following cryptocurrencies:
Trading Technologies International PartnershipHDR Global Trading, the company which owns BitMEX, has recently announced a partnership with Trading Technologies International, Inc. (TT), a leading international high-performance trading software provider.
The TT platform is designed specifically for professional traders, brokers, and market-access providers, and incorporates a wide variety of trading tools and analytical indicators that allow even the most advanced traders to customize the software to suit their unique trading styles. The TT platform also provides traders with global market access and trade execution through its privately managed infrastructure and the partnership will see BitMEX users gaining access to the trading tools on all BitMEX products, including the popular XBT/USD Perpetual Swap pairing.
The BitMEX Insurance FundThe ability to trade on leverage is one of the exchange’s main selling points and offering leverage and providing the opportunity for traders to trade against each other may result in a situation where the winners do not receive all of their expected profits. As a result of the amounts of leverage involved, it’s possible that the losers may not have enough margin in their positions to pay the winners.
Traditional exchanges like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) offset this problem by utilizing multiple layers of protection and cryptocurrency trading platforms offering leverage cannot currently match the levels of protection provided to winning traders.
In addition, cryptocurrency exchanges offering leveraged trades propose a capped downside and unlimited upside on a highly volatile asset with the caveat being that on occasion, there may not be enough funds in the system to pay out the winners.
To help solve this problem, BitMEX has developed an insurance fund system, and when a trader has an open leveraged position, their position is forcefully closed or liquidated when their maintenance margin is too low.
Here, a trader’s profit and loss does not reflect the actual price their position was closed on the market, and with BitMEX when a trader is liquidated, their equity associated with the position drops down to zero.
In the following example, the trader has taken a 100x long position. In the event that the mark price of Bitcoin falls to $3,980 (by 0.5%), then the position gets liquidated with the 100 Bitcoin position needing to be sold on the market.
This means that it does not matter what price this trade executes at, namely if it’s $3,995 or $3,000, as from the view of the liquidated trader, regardless of the price, they lose all the equity they had in their position, and lose the entire one Bitcoin.
Assuming there is a fully liquid market, the bid/ask spread should be tighter than the maintenance margin. Here, liquidations manifest as contributions to the insurance fund (e.g. if the maintenance margin is 50bps, but the market is 1bp wide), and the insurance fund should rise by close to the same amount as the maintenance margin when a position is liquidated. In this scenario, as long as healthy liquid markets persist, the insurance fund should continue its steady growth.
The following graphs further illustrate the example, and in the first chart, market conditions are healthy with a narrow bid/ask spread (just $2) at the time of liquidation. Here, the closing trade occurs at a higher price than the bankruptcy price (the price where the margin balance is zero) and the insurance fund benefits.
Illustrative example of an insurance contribution – Long 100x with 1 BTC collateral
(Note: The above illustration is based on opening a 100x long position at $4,000 per BTC and 1 Bitcoin of collateral. The illustration is an oversimplification and ignores factors such as fees and other adjustments.
The bid and offer prices represent the state of the order book at the time of liquidation. The closing trade price is $3,978, representing $1 of slippage compared to the $3,979 bid price at the time of liquidation.)
The second chart shows a wide bid/ask spread at the time of liquidation, here, the closing trade takes place at a lower price than the bankruptcy price, and the insurance fund is used to make sure that winning traders receive their expected profits.
This works to stabilize the potential for returns as there is no guarantee that healthy market conditions can continue, especially during periods of heightened price volatility. During these periods, it’s actually possible that the insurance fund can be used up than it is built up.
Illustrative example of an insurance depletion – Long 100x with 1 BTC collateral
(Notes: The above illustration is based on opening a 100x long position at $4,000 per BTC and 1 Bitcoin of collateral. The illustration is an oversimplification and ignores factors such as fees and other adjustments.
The bid and offer prices represent the state of the order book at the time of liquidation. The closing trade price is $3,800, representing $20 of slippage compared to the $3,820 bid price at the time of liquidation.)
The exchange declared in February 2019, that the BitMEX insurance fund retained close to 21,000 Bitcoin (around $70 million based on Bitcoin spot prices at the time).
This figure represents just 0.007% of BitMEX’s notional annual trading volume, which has been quoted as being approximately $1 trillion. This is higher than the insurance funds as a proportion of trading volume of the CME, and therefore, winning traders on BitMEX are exposed to much larger risks than CME traders as:
This system may appear controversial as first, though some may argue that there is a degree of uniformity to it. It’s also worth noting that the exchange also makes use of Auto Deleveraging which means that on occasion, leveraged positions in profit can still be reduced during certain time periods if a liquidated order cannot be executed in the market.
More adventurous traders should note that while the insurance fund holds 21,000 Bitcoin, worth approximately 0.1% of the total Bitcoin supply, BitMEX still doesn’t offer the same level of guarantees to winning traders that are provided by more traditional leveraged trading platforms.
Given the inherent volatility of the cryptocurrency market, there remains some possibility that the fund gets drained down to zero despite its current size. This may result in more successful traders lacking confidence in the platform and choosing to limit their exposure in the event of BitMEX being unable to compensate winning traders.
How suitable is BitMEX for Beginners?BitMEX generates high Bitcoin trading levels, and also attracts good levels of volume across other crypto-to-crypto transfers. This helps to maintain a buzz around the exchange, and BitMEX also employs relatively low trading fees, and is available round the world (except to US inhabitants).
This helps to attract the attention of people new to the process of trading on leverage and when getting started on the platform there are 5 main navigation Tabs to get used to:
In addition, BitMEX provides a variety of educational resources including an FAQ section, Futures guides, Perpetual Contracts guides, and further resources in the “References” account tab.
For users looking for more in depth analysis, the BitMEX blog produces high level descriptions of a number of subjects and has garnered a good reputation among the cryptocurrency community.
Most importantly, the exchange also maintains a testnet platform, built on top of testnet Bitcoin, which allows anyone to try out programs and strategies before moving on to the live exchange.
This is crucial as despite the wealth of resources available, BitMEX is not really suitable for beginners, and margin trading, futures contracts and swaps are best left to experienced, professional or institutional traders.
Margin trading and choosing to engage in leveraged activity are risky processes and even more advanced traders can describe the process as a high risk and high reward “game”. New entrants to the sector should spend a considerable amount of time learning about margin trading and testing out strategies before considering whether to open a live account.
Is BitMEX Safe?BitMEX is widely considered to have strong levels of security. The platform uses multi-signature deposits and withdrawal schemes which can only be used by BitMEX partners. BitMEX also utilises Amazon Web Services to protect the servers with text messages and two-factor authentication, as well as hardware tokens.
BitMEX also has a system for risk checks, which requires that the sum of all account holdings on the website must be zero. If it’s not, all trading is immediately halted. As noted previously, withdrawals are all individually hand-checked by employees, and private keys are never stored in the cloud. Deposit addresses are externally verified to make sure that they contain matching keys. If they do not, there is an immediate system shutdown.
In addition, the BitMEX trading platform is written in kdb+, a database and toolset popular amongst major banks in high frequency trading applications. The BitMEX engine appears to be faster and more reliable than some of its competitors, such as Poloniex and Bittrex.
They have email notifications, and PGP encryption is used for all communication.
The exchange hasn’t been hacked in the past.
How Secure is the platform?As previously mentioned, BitMEX is considered to be a safe exchange and incorporates a number of security protocols that are becoming standard among the sector’s leading exchanges. In addition to making use of Amazon Web Services’ cloud security, all the exchange’s systems can only be accessed after passing through multiple forms of authentication, and individual systems are only able to communicate with each other across approved and monitored channels.
Communication is also further secured as the exchange provides optional PGP encryption for all automated emails, and users can insert their PGP public key into the form inside their accounts.
Once set up, BitMEX will encrypt and sign all the automated emails sent by you or to your account by the [[email protected]itmex.com](mailto:[email protected]) email address. Users can also initiate secure conversations with the support team by using the email address and public key on the Technical Contact, and the team have made their automated system’s PGP key available for verification in their Security Section.
The platform’s trading engine is written in kdb+, a database and toolset used by leading financial institutions in high-frequency trading applications, and the speed and reliability of the engine is also used to perform a full risk check after every order placement, trade, settlement, deposit, and withdrawal.
All accounts in the system must consistently sum to zero, and if this does not happen then trading on the platform is immediately halted for all users.
With regards to wallet security, BitMEX makes use of a multisignature deposit and withdrawal scheme, and all exchange addresses are multisignature by default with all storage being kept offline. Private keys are not stored on any cloud servers and deep cold storage is used for the majority of funds.
Furthermore, all deposit addresses sent by the BitMEX system are verified by an external service that works to ensure that they contain the keys controlled by the founders, and in the event that the public keys differ, the system is immediately shut down and trading halted. The exchange’s security practices also see that every withdrawal is audited by hand by a minimum of two employees before being sent out.
BitMEX Customer SupportThe trading platform has a 24/7 support on multiple channels, including email, ticket systems and social media. The typical response time from the customer support team is about one hour, and feedback on the customer support generally suggest that the customer service responses are helpful and are not restricted to automated responses.
The BitMEX also offers a knowledge base and FAQs which, although they are not necessarily always helpful, may assist and direct users towards the necessary channels to obtain assistance.
BitMEX also offers trading guides which can be accessed here
ConclusionThere would appear to be few complaints online about BitMEX, with most issues relating to technical matters or about the complexities of using the website. Older complaints also appeared to include issues relating to low liquidity, but this no longer appears to be an issue.
BitMEX is clearly not a platform that is not intended for the amateur investor. The interface is complex and therefore it can be very difficult for users to get used to the platform and to even navigate the website.
However, the platform does provide a wide range of tools and once users have experience of the platform they will appreciate the wide range of information that the platform provides.
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