The infrastructures on which the cryptocurrency industry relies are many and very diverse.
The first and most important is the blockchain.
The largest blockchains are certainly Ethereum’s and Bitcoin’s, but Binance’s Binance Smart Chain (BSC) is also increasingly being used.
What services can be used leveraging these cryptocurrency infrastructures?
The simplest service is for sending tokens and cryptocurrencies; to use it, you just need to have a wallet on which to deposit funds.
The different types of wallets
Among the most widely used software wallets for Bitcoin are definitely Electrum, Green Wallet, and recently Wasabi. But BitPay and multi-coin wallets such as Trust Wallet and Eidoo are also widely used.
In addition to these, there are also so-called custodial wallets, which are wallet services offered by third parties to which one can send one’s funds by delegating custody. For Bitcoin, for example, Coinbase’s wallet is widely used, or those of other exchanges, and Strike, based on the Lightning Network, is becoming increasingly popular.
For Ethereum, the discussion is similar, except that one of the most widely used non-custodial wallets is My Ether Wallet (MEW). For BSC, Trust Wallet is the most commonly used.
Mining and staking
However, blockchains do other things as well, so much so that an even more important service is what nodes or miners provide in the case of Bitcoin. In the case of Ethereum, some nodes also provide the staking service, such as Lido, although in truth, many of the main providers of staking services are exchanges.
In addition, many smart contracts also run on second- and third-generation blockchains, such as Ethereum and BSC, which in turn provide services.
Decentralized exchanges (DEX)
Lending & Borrowing Platforms.
However, there are many other services provided by smart contracts, including, for example, farming services. It should be mentioned, however, that in addition to those already mentioned, the other two major cryptocurrency services provided by smart contracts are Maker, with its DAI stablecoin, and the Aave lending service.
Centralized exchanges, the most widely used cryptocurrency infrastructure in the marketplace
That’s broadly what is found in the decentralized environment in which real cryptocurrencies were born and live. But if you go beyond the boundaries of the decentralized world and into the one populated by centralized services, the cryptocurrency services offered are extremely numerous.
Indeed, the absolute most widely used cryptocurrency infrastructures in the world are centralized exchanges.
An exchange is a platform that enables the exchange of cryptocurrencies in fiat currencies or other cryptocurrencies. In other words, it is the basic infrastructure on which purchases and sales occur between cryptocurrency or fiat currency holders, and thousands of them worldwide.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier, there are also decentralized ones, although the latter are fewer and, more importantly, have far lower exchange volumes.
Moreover, exchanges often allow the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies and derivatives such as futures or options, where trading volumes are now very high. In fact, derivatives allow for more sophisticated trading techniques, such as margin trading and short positions, which is why experienced traders often prefer them.
Among the world’s largest centralized exchanges, there is certainly Binance, although there are different preferences in different areas of the world.
For example, in the U.S. lately, FTX is widely used, in addition to the classic Coinbase, while in Asia, KuCoin is increasingly used, in addition to OKX. MEXC Global has also grown a lot in recent times.
There is also Crypto.com, which is very well known among famous exchanges, especially for its sponsorships in high-level sports. In the U.S., for similar reasons, Gemini is very famous.
Cryptocurrency derivative products
However, derivatives are different because the most widely used platforms are others. In particular, Bit.com, Phemex, and Gate.io should be mentioned, although significant volumes are recorded on traditional financial platforms such as the CME in Chicago.
In fact, some of these derivatives are traded on traditional exchanges, so paradoxically, these can be considered infrastructures that also offer cryptocurrency services, despite only indirectly through derivative financial products.
Perhaps the most famous cryptocurrency derivative, however, is the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, although its trading volumes seem to have been declining over the past year.
The main infrastructure for NFTs
But there is more to the crypto world than cryptocurrencies. There are also, for example, NFTs.
One of the most important infrastructures for NFTs is Polygon’s blockchain, which complements Ethereum’s with lower minting and transaction costs. However, Solana’s blockchain is widely used from this perspective, mainly due to lower coinage and transaction costs.
The most famous infrastructure in the NFT world is OpenSea, the most important marketplace in this area.
A marketplace is very similar to an exchange because it is a platform on which you buy and sell something. The difference with an exchange is that while on an NFT marketplace, you exchange NFTs for cryptocurrencies, on an exchange, you exchange cryptocurrencies for other cryptocurrencies or fiat currencies.
Data aggregation and analysis platforms
But there is also another very important infrastructure that is often not properly considered, namely aggregators.
These are nothing more than services that collect data mainly from the market, i.e., from exchanges, marketplaces, and smart contracts, and make it available to users on a single platform.
The one mentioned in this article is only a minimal selection of the thousands of different infrastructures behind the various cryptocurrency services, to the extent that entire categories are excluded.
Other services and infrastructures
For example, some deal with recording data on the blockchain to make it immutable, public, and verifiable by all, and oracles that provide smart contracts with information from the outside world. Some bridges allow different blockchains to exchange tokens with each other, and some infrastructures allow data to be interchanged into different systems.
However, it should be pointed out that blockchain and cryptocurrency do not always overlap completely. Certainly, any decentralized blockchain infrastructure needs a cryptocurrency to survive and function, but sometimes the role of cryptocurrencies is extremely limited in some blockchain platforms.
In addition, almost all non-crypto infrastructures that, however, provide cryptocurrency services have been excluded except those that offer cryptocurrency derivatives exchanges. For example, in this category, we might include cryptocurrency news platforms or analytics and statistics platforms.
And as if that were not enough, this scenario could still explode in the future, for example, thanks to the metaverse or the so-called Web3, further multiplying the number and type of cryptocurrency infrastructures.
While currently, the bulk of interest in cryptocurrency services is concentrated in the financial sphere, whether in terms of investment, speculation, or value transfer, it is not certain that this will always and only be the driving sector of the cryptocurrency world.