July 4, 2023

Decentralized Exchanges Meet Centralized Models

Decentralized exchanges (DEXs) have been at the forefront of the blockchain revolution, offering users a more secure, private, and control-oriented alternative to centralized exchanges (CEXs). DEXs provide a platform where users can directly trade cryptocurrencies with each other, without the need for an intermediary. However, moving away from their initial limitations, DEXs are increasingly turning towards trading models commonly used by their centralized counterparts. In particular, the Central Limit Order Book (CLOB) model that has been a mainstay of CEXs is now being adopted by numerous DEXs. Uniswap V3’s Concentrated Liquidity is an example of a step in that direction. This development has profound implications for traders, especially those involved in market making. Let's delve deeper into this topic and explore how market making differs on both platforms.

The Central Limit Order Book (CLOB) Model

Before we dive into the nuances of DEXs adopting the CLOB model, it's important to understand what it is. The CLOB model is a method of matching orders in a trading system. In a CLOB, all orders are pooled together and matched based on price and time priority. This means that the best prices get matched first, and among orders at the same price, the ones placed earlier get priority.

This model is the standard in traditional financial exchanges and many centralized crypto exchanges. It provides a high level of transparency, as all participants can see the entire order book. It also promotes fair trading because everyone has the same chance to get their orders filled at the best possible price, assuming they're willing to wait in line.

DEXs and Automated Market Makers (AMMs)

Traditionally, DEXs have utilized different models for trading, the most popular of which is the Automated Market Maker (AMM) model. In an AMM, liquidity providers supply funds to a smart contract-based liquidity pool. Traders can then trade against this pool. The price of assets is determined algorithmically by the smart contract based on the ratio of assets in the pool.

This model has the advantage of being completely permissionless and decentralized, with anyone able to provide liquidity. However, it also has its drawbacks. For one, it's vulnerable to impermanent loss, a phenomenon where liquidity providers can lose part of their capital due to price fluctuations. Moreover, it generally lacks the price efficiency offered by the CLOB model.

The Intersection of DEXs and CLOB: Uniswap V3

Chart showing an example of a concentrated liquidity order. Source: Uniswap

Now, we're seeing a trend where some DEXs are adopting the CLOB model. This is an intriguing development as it merges the advantages of CEXs (efficient price discovery and low slippage) with those of DEXs (decentralization and self-custody of assets). The result is a trading platform that combines efficiency, fairness, and decentralization.

Uniswap V3 is an excellent example of the evolving landscape of decentralized exchanges (DEXs) moving towards models that resemble more traditional trading dynamics. One of the core features of Uniswap V3 is its concept of "Concentrated Liquidity". This innovative feature is a shift in the design of automated market makers (AMMs) and offers an experience more akin to that of centralized exchanges (CEXs) in several ways.

In the traditional AMM model, used by Uniswap V2 and other DEXs, liquidity providers (LPs) supply equal amounts of two tokens to a pool and earn trading fees from swaps that occur within that pool. The liquidity they provide is distributed across the entire price range, from zero to infinity. While this model has its benefits, it's not capital efficient as most trades occur in a narrow price band, leaving a large portion of the provided liquidity unused.

Uniswap V3's concentrated liquidity feature, on the other hand, allows LPs to specify price ranges for their liquidity. In other words, LPs can set the price at which they're willing to buy or sell assets. This gives them more control over the prices at which they trade, much like market makers on a CEX using a Central Limit Order Book (CLOB) model.

In a sense, each LP in Uniswap V3 acts as their own mini-AMM, providing liquidity at specific price ranges. This allows them to concentrate their capital where it's most likely to be utilized, increasing their potential returns from fees.

The ability to define a price range brings Uniswap V3 closer to the CLOB model of traditional exchanges, while still maintaining the benefits of decentralization. This new model also reduces the risk of impermanent loss, as LPs can choose to provide liquidity only within price ranges where they are comfortable holding the equivalent value of either token.

Market Making on DEXs vs. CEXs

Market making refers to the process of providing liquidity to a market, typically by placing both buy and sell orders for a particular asset. Market makers profit from the spread between these orders.

On a CEX using the CLOB model, market makers can place limit orders at the price levels they choose, thus having more control over their trading strategy. They can also react to changes in market conditions by adjusting their orders as necessary.

In contrast, on a traditional DEX using an AMM model, market makers (or liquidity providers in this context) simply add funds to a liquidity pool and the price is determined algorithmically. They don't have control over the prices at which they buy or sell the assets. This lack of control can lead to potential losses due to price volatility, a risk known as impermanent loss.

An additional key difference is that, when market makers participate in AMMs,, they are required to lock in a substantial amount of liquidity, which is not particularly capital efficient. On the other hand, CEXs offer a more economical alternative. They only require a relatively small investment from market makers, a stark contrast to the huge sums often necessary for participation in DEXs.

However, with DEXs now incorporating the CLOB model, market makers can place limit orders at desired price levels, much like on a CEX. This allows them to have more control over their trades and to potentially reduce the risk of impermanent loss. It also brings a higher degree of price efficiency to DEXs, as the prices are determined by a broader range of market participants rather than a preset algorithm.


The adoption of the CLOB model by DEXs is a significant development in the world of crypto trading. It combines the best of both worlds: the transparency, efficiency, and control of CEXs with the decentralization and self-custody of assets offered by DEXs. For market makers, this shift brings more control and potentially reduced risk, making it an exciting trend to watch in the ever-evolving cryptocurrency landscape.