Digging Up Data on Decentralized Exchanges

Data for this article was primarily taken from the Etherscan DEX tracker, Dune Analytics, DEX 24 Hour Volume Bot and CoinMarketCap. As always, comments and further analyses are welcome!

In the last analysis article, we took an overall look at Ethereum explorer data in 2019. This time, we drill further down into one specific area: decentralized exchanges (DEXs).


  • 2020 starting out strong for DEX market
  • Uniswap and Kyber in a close contest to be the leading DEX in 2020
  • Opposite trends between USDT and DAI
  • Trading of Compound and Synth tokens small but growing

One of the most stark paradoxes with cryptocurrencies have been exchanges. “Not your keys, not your coins” is a phrase familiar with many, yet billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies continue to be left in the hands of centralized exchanges. We persisted with them even through the countless hacks and lost funds, as there were no viable alternatives.

Enter DEXs. Utilizing smart contracts, DEXs allow users to trade cryptocurrencies directly from their wallet — without trusting any exchange or counterparty to hold on to them. Their invention brings us closer to the ethos of decentralization held dearly by the community (more on DEXs here).

Overall Growth

2020 has seen tremendous growth in DEX transactions so far. Year-to-date (YTD), the first two months of 2020 have delivered USD 600 million in volume, 4x the amount transacted in YTD 2019. Monthly volume in February is already higher than at any point in 2019!

Even more encouraging are the numbers since the turn of the year. Month-on-month growth in volume was +38% and +62% in January and February respectively, while number of transactions similarly saw a rise beating 2019’s high.

Market Share

In the previous article, we highlighted how Uniswap had gradually gotten higher number of transactions on its exchange over the course of 2019. It ended 2019 just shy of IDEX’s December numbers.

Using this measure, Uniswap has grown even more in 2020. It recorded almost half of all DEX trades (2x the number of IDEX in 2nd place and 3x of Kyber Network in 3rd). To put its growth into context, only six months ago it had only 1/6th of IDEX‘s number of trades! The top 3 collectively made up 84% of all DEX trades in 2020.

However, looking at the numbers from the lens of volume traded gives a markedly different view. Here, it is Kyber reigning at the top of the tree. Furthermore, the 2nd largest DEX by number of transactions — IDEX — has a relatively tiny fraction of total volume, placing at a distant 5th. Oasis Dex showed the opposite trend, with USD 100M in volume from only 22k transactions.

Putting the 2 measures together, the USD value per transaction shows the disparity between the DEXs more clearly. Oasis Dex clearly plays host to some large traders while IDEX and Uniswap serve higher frequency, smaller scale ones.

All of the above point to Uniswap and Kyber looking set to battle it out for the title of biggest DEX in 2020, with Oasis Dex a dark horse in the race. Should Uniswap be able to grow their current users’ traded amounts, they may be able to get their foot in front. On the flip side, Oasis Dex can catch up to the top 2 if they are able to attract more traders of a similar profile to their current ones.

Other Observations


USDT is the stablecoin with the largest volume by far on centralized exchanges (CEXs), with a total of USD 2.55 trillion traded from Jan to Feb 2020 alone. However, only 0.002% of that volume is traded on DEXs.

DAI on the other hand leads in terms of volume on DEXs with USD 224 million traded in the same time period. It has the strongest ratio of DEX:CEX volume at 9.23%, more than 60x higher than the next highest stablecoin USDC.

It is clear that USDT is the choice of stablecoin on CEXs while DAI is the one for DEXs.

All of the above stablecoins are traded almost entirely on 5 DEXs. DAI and USDC is relatively diversified, with healthy volumes across 4 exchanges. Interestingly, despite having the 2nd largest volume, USDT is primarily traded on only 2 DEXs: Kyber Network and Tokenlon.

DeFi on DEX

As DeFi is currently the talk of the town, we take a look at trading of some ‘DeFi’ tokens — Compound and Synth tokens. Almost all (97%) of these are done on Uniswap.

Out of 8 Compound and 14 Synth tokens, 5 have been actively traded so far. cSAI was the earliest traded, and made up the bulk of trades in the first few months. cDAI and sETH taken over in recent months. In February alone, each of the 2 tokens grew in transaction count by about 70%, making up 82% of Compound and Synth trades in that month.

Ending Note

While it has been more than 2 years since the inception of DEXs, it is still in its infancy. 2020 has started off well for the space, and with new advances coming — from the IPFS-hosted and DAO-governed to those with cross-chain atomic swaps and built with zkRollup — expect to see wildly different numbers this time next year!

We hope this article gave you some new insights. Any feedback is welcomed and appreciated 🙏.

Harith Kamarul
Harith Kamarul
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