Cryptocurrency exchange Binance's latest experiment to integrate decentralized finance with its centralized platform, Binance Smart Chain, is not here to beat DeFi, said the company’s CEO, Changpeng "CZ" Zhao. Instead, it aims to accelerate crypto and DeFi’s mass adoption.
“Today, 99.9% of the money is still in fiat,” said Zhao in a one-on-one session with CoinDesk’s Leigh Cuen, during CoinDesk’s invest: ethereum economy virtual conference Wednesday. “So in order to get those money in, we still need (fiat) gateways.”
Too early for 'meaningful' competition
Binance announced the launch of Binance Smart Chain, its version of a decentralized public blockchain, in early September. Some argued the biggest centralized exchange’s aggressive moves into the rapidly growing DeFi space was its attempt to become an Ethereum killer.
Zhao defended his company, saying that crypto adoption is in its early stages and thus any competition within the space is meaningless.
“Competing within the 0.1% is not that meaningful,” Zhao said. “So from a high-level perspective, we don’t really view other projects as competition.”
As of now, the majority of so-called DeFi projects – decentralized, blockchain-based trading and lending applications that theoretically could one day take over the traditional financial market – have been built on the Ethereum blockchain, the second-largest blockchain by market capitalization. With the rise of the DeFi sector, many more are looking to build Ethereum alternatives as an effort to take at least part of that market share.
Zhao claims Binance Smart Chain, although much less decentralized than Ethereum due to its Proof-Of-Staked-Authority (PoSA) consensus, mitigates the scalability problem of Ethereum, which has significantly slowed down the growth of the DeFi sector.
“I think Ethereum 1.0 is pretty much fully congested,” Zhao said. “Even if we don’t do anything, even if there is no competition, there is not going to be a lot more traffic on the blockchain. … So we view that Binance Smart Chain is taking some load off Ethereum, the volumes that were supposed to get on that but couldn’t get on there.”
Zhao said he and his company are “very hopeful” about Ethereum 2.0 but added that Ethereum 2.0’s answer to the scalability issue will be “long-winded.”
'Many degrees of decentralization'
Zhao praised the innovation of DeFi projects but said they only target certain users, making it still “a niche thing,” while centralized exchanges like Binance appeal to novice crypto users who are not comfortable with holding their own crypto keys.
“If we look at the number of users, the most popular DeFi, Uniswap, is about 10,000 to 30,000 users maximum,” Zhao said, “whereas most others are 1,000 or a couple hundred users per day.”
Zhao said he hopes Binance Smart Chain could attract more people into the crypto space by taking advantage of features centralized and decentralized exchanges can offer. He had previously called the idea "CeDeFi," a portmanteau of centralized and decentralized finance.
In developing Binance Smart Chain, Binance had to sacrifice elements of decentralization, which is one of the major criticisms of the public blockchain, yet Zhao argued that decentralization is not always “black and white.”
Binance Smart Chain is controlled by 21 node operators, which are elected by Binance Coin (BNB) holders. And the company is one of the largest holders of the BNB Tokens, meaning it still has significant control over the blockchain.
“I view that there are many degrees of decentralization,” he added.
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