The Beginner’s guide to Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

The term Decentralized Finance or DeFi is already quite popular, but most people are still unaware of what it actually means! The fact that DeFi Industry has exploded to over 100 billion USD in the year 2021 and is expected to grow over 800 billion this year, that’s an 800% jump in a single year!

To understand decentralized finance, we first need to understand what Centralized finance or CeFi is. We all do a lot of online transactions daily. All these transactions are regulated/ governed by a central authority such as banks – so all those transactions and the ecosystem in which they operate comes under the umbrella of centralized finance.

The idea of decentralized finance is that, instead of having a central authority to regulate these transactions, we have everything being recorded and automated on blockchain networks through smart contracts.

Here we don’t have any centralized intermediary to facilitate the transaction like a bank, which often needs other personal details of yours and has limitations like transaction time, amount limit, etc., around the transactions. Instead, everything is automated and trustless.

The whole DeFi ecosystem is built so that transactions can be done and accounted for on a peer-to-peer network, where the system is not only created for the people but also owned by the people.

Now you might be thinking about what this system is and how it can facilitate all this? So, the answer to this question is that the core thing which enables everything is just the CODE! Yes, that’s it. Here everything is being governed by the code. That’s why we say in the world of crypto, “Code is the Law.” The whole ecosystem of decentralized finance consists of elements like protocols, digital assets, and decentralized apps running on top of a blockchain.

So, what’s blockchain? In easier terms, blockchain is the distributed yet interconnected nodes/ computers which run all the codes and store everything that the network requires on a public ledger. These individual computers/ nodes are called blocks and every block contains a copy of this ledger.

The Decentralized Finance (DeFi) Ecosystem and its Elements

The DeFi ecosystem provides many services complementary to each other, like centralized and decentralized exchanges (DEXes), lending and borrowing, betting, insurance, NFTs, and many other services that rely partially or fully on the concept of decentralized finance.

Here are some of the primary DeFi applications/ecosystem elements that you must know

  1. Centralized Exchanges – Here, people can swap their cryptocurrencies with real-world currencies like the US dollar, pounds, etc. They are usually regulated by the government/central authority. Examples of these are Coinbase, Binance, Bitfinex, etc.
  2. Decentralized Exchanges – Also known as DEXes, they are the marketplace of various cryptocurrencies where people can interchange their cryptocurrency with the others listed on the platform. They are not regulated by any central authority. Examples of these are Bitsquare, Uniswap, etc.
  3. Stable coins – These are also cryptocurrencies but what makes them distinct is that their value is stable and tied to a real-world (fiat) currency like the US Dollar, UK Pound, etc. To name a few, Tether and USDC are two stable coins with their value tied with the US dollar.
  4. NFTs – Non-fungible Tokens. These are among the hottest topics in the industry, with mixed feelings among enthusiasts and skeptics. They are any digital asset with proof of its own stored on the blockchain. Nowadays, they are mainly being referred to as Digital Art NFTs, which primarily provide the holder only with the proof of ownership of that digital art, but there are more advanced NFTs that are more than just digital art. They are referred to as utility NFTs. Utility NFTs come with smart contracts which could be linked to many other functionalities.

Bright and Dark side of Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

A large part of the DeFi ecosystem is open source and based on the idea of having the right to privacy. The users just need a wallet to access the whole ecosystem without needing to share any personal information about themselves. Users also don’t have limitations with a centralized authority like spending limits, high transaction fees, long waiting hours to complete international payments, etc.

The fact that the whole ecosystem of decentralized finance provides a lot of freedom in the hands of individuals is undeniable. But we also can’t deny that freedom always comes with a fear of unintended consequences due to exploitation of the given independence.

Despite the criticisms against the centralized finance, the rules and regulations enforced by the regulatory authorities in the traditional fiat system were done so for a reason; like to stop illegal international transactions, maintain the equilibrium of money within the country, etc. Furthermore, we have already seen big scams within this domain, like the one by Garry Cotten, the Co-founder of QuadrigaCX. When Cotten mysteriously died in 2018, $250 million worth of Canadian cash and cryptocurrency also went missing.

DeFi will need to regulate itself with a set of governance rules so as not to fall foul of regulators. That’s why the whole Web 3.0 world is still an emerging and evolving industry that will only get better with time. Many countries are working to fix the issues so that they can accept and partake in the whole web 3.0 revolution.

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WRITTEN BY

Shivam Kumar

Shivam is an intrapreneur with a fusion of Tech and Marketing. He has done his engineering graduation from Delhi Technological University and has expertise & experience in content research, creation, and marketing, especially for emerging tech domains like data science and web 3.0. From the marketing front, creating, delivering, and optimizing s… Read more
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