DeFi Demystified Part 1 - The Basics

by Filip Blagojević, February 22, 2024
In our exploration of blockchain technology, we've delved into its origins, the emergence of cryptocurrencies, and the transformative power of smart contracts. Now, it's time to venture into one of the most dynamic and disruptive realms within the blockchain ecosystem: Decentralized Finance, or DeFi.

What is DeFi?

Decentralized Finance refers to a rapidly evolving ecosystem of financial applications and services built on blockchain technology. Unlike traditional financial systems that rely on intermediaries such as banks and financial institutions, DeFi aims to provide open, permissionless access to a wide range of financial services directly on the blockchain.

At the core of DeFi are smart contracts, which enable the automation and execution of financial agreements without the need for intermediaries. These contracts, deployed on blockchain platforms like Ethereum, allow for the creation of various financial instruments and protocols that operate autonomously. 

The number of active DeFi users has been growing rapidly. Since 2019, the sector has seen a consistent quarter-on-quarter increase, with over 6 million unique wallets completing an on-chain transaction each month since late 2022.

Most of the DeFi protocols running today have certain points of centralization, which is a consequence of technology limitations and business decisions. True DeFi protocols are striving to give all the power to the users and to democratize the way the protocol is run.

Key Components of DeFi

Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs): DEXs enable users to trade cryptocurrencies directly with one another without the need for a centralized intermediary. These platforms offer increased privacy, security, and control over assets compared to traditional exchanges.

Lending and Borrowing Protocols: DeFi platforms allow users to lend out their cryptocurrencies and earn interest or borrow assets against collateral. Smart contracts facilitate these transactions, automating the lending and repayment process.

Stablecoins: Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies designed to maintain a stable value relative to a fiat currency like the US Dollar. They play a crucial role in DeFi by providing a stable medium of exchange and store of value within the ecosystem.

Asset Management and Yield Farming: DeFi protocols offer opportunities for users to earn passive income through various strategies such as liquidity provision, staking, and yield farming. These strategies involve providing liquidity to decentralized exchanges or protocols in exchange for rewards.

Challenges and Opportunities

While DeFi holds immense promise for revolutionizing the financial landscape, it also faces several challenges:

Security Concerns: DeFi protocols are vulnerable to smart contract exploits and hacks, leading to substantial losses for users. Auditing and robust security measures are essential to mitigate these risks.

Regulatory Uncertainty: The decentralized nature of DeFi poses challenges for regulatory compliance and oversight. As governments worldwide grapple with how to regulate blockchain-based financial services, navigating legal frameworks remains a complex issue.

Scalability: The increasing popularity of DeFi has led to congestion on blockchain networks, resulting in high transaction fees and slower processing times. Scalability solutions such as layer 2 protocols and blockchain interoperability are being explored to address these issues.

The Future of DeFi

Despite these challenges, the DeFi ecosystem continues to expand at a rapid pace, driven by innovation and experimentation. In fact, the market for DeFi is projected to reach $67.4 billion by 2026. As DeFi matures, we can expect to see greater adoption, interoperability between different protocols, and the emergence of new financial primitives.

In our next blog, we'll delve deeper into the beginnings and history of DeFi protocols. Later in the series, we’ll go deeper into different DeFi ecosystems, measures of value and adoption, trends, etc. Make sure to check in again soon!

About the author:
Author avatar
Filip Blagojević
Business Development and Blockchain Operations
Filip is the person to contact if you want to use our services. He deals with client needs and project management. He is also our resident crypto enthusiast, educating our clients and us on the best use cases of blockchain technology.
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