Bisq Co-Founder Chris Beams: There's a Fundamental and Ultimately Fatal Flaw In the Centralized Cryptocurrency Exchange Model


ForkLog: Do you have any advice to the traditional players regarding security and other aspects of running a crypto exchange business?

Chris Beams: Not really. My understanding is that the NEM stolen was in a hot wallet, which is a classic mistake, and they don’t need me at this point to scold them into doing it differently in the future. There are plenty of things that can be done to mitigate the risk of theft, and Coincheck now has 500 million reasons to look into them. I’m sure they will.

But while security risk can be mitigated to a degree, what cannot be mitigated at all in most cases is privacy risk. Almost all centralized exchanges have to collect personally identifying information about their users in order to comply with financial surveillance laws like AML/KYC in the United States. There is no mitigation strategy here, because the companies are forced to collect the information, and are forced to hand it over to governments when they ask for it.

This is a fundamental and ultimately fatal flaw in the centralized exchange model. Today, users have even less awareness about the privacy problem than they do about the security problem, but that will change too as governments get more aggressive in their attempts to collect tax.

In most jurisdictions, there is no way to operate a custodial centralized exchange and protect users’ privacy while complying with the law. So if I were going to give advice to “traditional players”, I’d say get busy innovating and finding ways to preserve your business model without having to take custody of user funds. I wouldn’t envy that task, and I think they’d still be playing a losing game, but they might get to play it a bit longer that way.

ForkLog: How are things are going with Bisq in general? Recently, you’ve had the latest client release, what new does it bring? What other plans and hopes do you have for 2018 and beyond?

Chris Beams: Things are going well! Bisq has been in production for nearly two years now, and trading volumes have grown steadily throughout. It’s a great time to give Bisq a try.

We did recently ship a new release of the Bisq desktop client—v0.6.5—and we tend to ship them every few weeks now. Each release includes a variety of features and fixes, but a general theme lately has been around improving usability and the overall user experience. We now have dedicated contributors working on this area, which is really exciting.

Our most important effort right now is growing the community of contributors to Bisq. Bisq operates as a DAO, or decentralized autonomous organization, where contributions of all kinds—not just code!—are eligible for compensation. Contributors start out working on bounties, and can eventually take on dedicated roles. If you’re interested in getting involved, or just want to learn more, check out the document. It gives an introduction to Bisq, lays out our current challenges, and details how we’re bootstrapping the Bisq DAO.

Ultimately, Bisq’s mission is to provide a safe, private and censorship-resistant way to exchange bitcoin for national currencies. We think this this mission is vital to Bitcoin’s long-term success, and while we’re proud of how far Bisq has come in that mission so far, there is still a long way to go. So whether you simply want to use Bisq or also want to contribute to it, welcome! We hope to see you on the network soon.

Chris Beams was interviewed by Andrew Asmakov

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