DeFi Reshapes the CoinDesk 20

The recent surge in DeFi activity is altering the crypto market.

AccessTimeIconApr 26, 2021 at 3:39 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 8, 2024 at 4:24 p.m. UTC
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Decentralized finance (DeFi) and the assets related to it have surged not just in price but in market activity, including listings and volume on some of the more liquid and established centralized exchanges. Volume on some of the largest decentralized exchanges has grown at a time when the activity of these exchanges' and lending services' native tokens has surged on their more centralized counterparts.

This has put them into the catchment of the CoinDesk 20, which ranks the most heavily traded assets in crypto, as measured by dollar volume on trusted exchanges. The top DeFi assets by volume are re-shaping the list from the bottom up.

Bar chart of the newly updated CoinDesk 20 by Q4 + Q1 volume.
Bar chart of the newly updated CoinDesk 20 by Q4 + Q1 volume.

The latest quarterly update to the list, which went live on Monday, April 26, based on Q1 and Q4 volume data, incorporates seven new assets: aave, filecoin, the graph, nucypher, polkadot, uniswap and YFI ( into the list of the market's 20 volume leaders. Six of the seven are DeFi applications or related services.

  • Aave is the native token of a decentralized lending service.
  • Filecoin is the native token of a decentralized data storage application.
  • The Graph is the native token of a blockchain data service that markets its offering to DeFi projects.
  • NuCypher is a privacy application, designed to allow users to encrypt data shared via decentralized applications.
  • Polkadot is a smart contract platform designed to integrate multiple subsidiary blockchains.
  • Uniswap is the native token of a decentralized exchange and automated market maker.
  • is the native token of a decentralized lending service.

Aave, the graph, nucypher, uniswap and are all ERC-20 tokens, running on the Ethereum blockchain. Filecoin and Polkadot run their tokens and their services on their own respective blockchains.

Many of these assets, especially those in the DeFi category, are relatively new additions to the component exchanges used to rank the CoinDesk 20 list. Nonetheless, their volume has grown quickly. Some are entering the list late, excluded previously due to an error in calculations. (See below.)

The seven new assets replace Cardano's ATOM, dai, ethereum classic, kyber network, omg network, orchid and 0x.

The CoinDesk 20 is a list of core digital assets that constitute roughly 99% of the market by volume, not an index. Its methodology uses volume data from eight exchanges, compiled by Nomics. The eight exchanges were selected, vetted and verified by all three of a trio of studies on fake and verifiable volume, published in 2019 and 2020. They are: Bitfinex, bitFlyer, Bitstamp, Coinbase, Gemini, itBit, Kraken and Poloniex. Information on CoinDesk Indexes can be found here.

Note: Polkadot, uniswap and should have been included in the 2021 Q1 update to the CoinDesk 20, but were left out due to an error in last quarter's calculation.


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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Galen Moore

Galen Moore is the content lead at Axelar, which is building interoperable Web3 infrastructure. Prior to this, Galen was the director of professional content at CoinDesk.

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