As recently profiled by the Wall Street Journal, CoinMarketCap has become one of the de facto resources for cryptocurrency stakeholders. With its aggregation and compilation of exchange data, few other platforms offer as comprehensive or popular a service.
With popularity comes scrutiny, and over time, it's become clear that there remain vestiges of hierarchical social structure which make truly decentralized cryptocurrency a less-than-certain proposition. That's a roundabout way of saying that CoinMarketCap and many other services are centralized; they're just regular sites on the regular old Internet.
Even as CoinMarketCap has become an industry-leading data feed, the website is part of the very system that blockchain developers are attempting to disrupt. Is this CoinMarketCap's fault? No, of course not. Kudos to programmer Brandon Chez (I can't tell you how many times I've referenced your website even as I fall asleep at night).
Without a doubt, the exponential rise of bitcoin in 2017 led many to this bastion of prices and now Wall Street is following CoinMarketCap's lead. But, even if mainstream markets slowly offer copycat services, CoinMarketCap's willingness to add and track less popular cryptocurrencies has given it the breadth that many speculators desire.
In the FAQ section of its website, CoinMarketCap explains its criteria for listing a cryptocurrency:
- Must be a cryptocurrency or a crypto token.
- Must be on a public exchange with an API that reports the last traded price and the last 24 hour trading volume.
- Must have a non-zero trading volume on at least one supported exchange so a price can be determined.
- For market cap ranking, an accurate circulating supply figure is required.
CoinMarketCap also addresses the hypothetical question, "Why are you listing [insert random cryptocurrency]? It's clearly a scam!"
Evenhandedly, they explain, "Nearly every cryptocurrency has been called a scam at some point in its lifetime. We're not here to judge the merits of any cryptocurrency, but we provide the best tools for you to make your own conclusions. As long as it meets the listing criteria, it's eligible to be on the site."
Ultimately, CoinMarketCap is a data collector and distributor. Underlying price information is just as soon accessible through exchanges themselves (which are again, centralized). So while we dream of cryptocurrency, we should actively recognize which elements of the ecosystem have been built and popularized within traditional infrastructures.
Nobody among us can promise that bitcoin, Ether, or any other cryptocurrency will be worth a lot of money in the long-run. As we consider how we measure and strive toward decentralization, perhaps we should learn to think of cryptocurrencies' success as something more than green arrows and positive slopes on a screen.