Bitcoin traders have long been skeptical of the reliability of available exchange data – but that uncertainty has been on the rise in recent days.
To recap, up until recently, China-based exchanges BTCC, Huobi and OKCoin dominated the landscape in terms of volume (though these figures were long observed with skepticism). However, this reign was cut short earlier in January when the startups came under the scrutiny of the People's Bank of China (PBOC), the country's central bank.
The result has been a series of policy changes, the abrupt end to popular trading features like margin trading and a rapid decline in the volume at the three exchanges, developments that are now impacting the wider market.
In recent days, new no-fee exchanges are now ranking among the top 10 in volume, resulting in a bitcoin exchange leaderboard that looks markedly different than it did last week.
At first, no-fee exchanges such as BTC100 and CHBTC moved to the front of the pack in terms of trading volume, but this, too, is now shifting.
As of today, BTC100, a no-fee exchange, held the top spot with roughly 32,600 BTC worth of trading volume during the 24 hours through roughly 22:00 UTC, CoinMarketCap data shows.
XBTCe and Poloniex, which both charge trading fees, held second and third place with more than 17,100 BTC and less than 17,100 BTC, respectively.
But while there is a fair amount of market confusion, what the takeaway might be is that the PBOC has effectively created new opportunities for smaller operations to compete by pushing for changes only for certain market participants.
Chris Burniske, blockchain products lead for investment manager ARK Invest, spoke to these recent developments, and drew a similar conclusion.
"Since liquidity is king for exchanges, and liquidity begets liquidity, the decrease in trading volumes on Chinese exchanges has opened up the market for exchanges around the world to stake a claim as one of the most liquid exchanges in the world," he told CoinDesk.
Burniske further commented on how he expects some exchanges to take advantage of the situation by cutting prices. London-based Coinfloor, for example, is one such exchange that has already slashed fees since the PBOC's actions first began.
Petar Zivkovski, COO of leveraged bitcoin trading platform Whaleclub, offered a similar view on how marketplaces may respond to the situation.
"Many exchanges may be using this as a marketing opportunity: by offering zero fees and pumping their volumes up, they appear at the top of the charts," he told CoinDesk.
As of now, there are signs the exchanges themselves are aware of the current environment, signaling further updates could be ahead.
BTCTrade co-founder and CEO Zhang Shousong, for example, acknowledged that his China-based exchange has seen new volumes because it has yet to increase fees for users, though he said that he has been in talks with other major exchanges about its policies.
He said the exchange is considering following the lead of the other exchanges, in part, because their heightened volumes were what drew scrutiny from regulators.
"We all want to reduce the heat of China's bitcoin trading," he said.
When asked if BTCTrade could move to alter its fees, Zhang told CoinDesk:
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