CoinMarketCap wants to give its users more tools to weed out fake volumes

Quick Take

  • CoinMarketCap, the proprietor of crypto exchange trading data, came under fire recently for publishing what many say is fake volume
  • In an interview with The Block, the firm outlined how it is trying to make its product more reliable

‘Twas the report heard ’round the crypto world: Bitwise’s gangbuster reveals that 95 percent of reported trading volumes in the crypto market are fake. 

Bitwise’s claims, which were reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, triggered debates in the crypto community over the poor state of data — with one of the largest data providers taking on the brunt of the criticisms: CoinMarketCap

CoinMarketCap, perhaps one of the most recognizable brands in the crypto market, recently has faced criticism. “CoinMarketCap volume is about as reliable as a McDonald’s ice cream machine,” crypto personality and AirSwap employee Rob Paone once tweeted about the site, masterfully summing up the sentiment of many in the crypto world. 

Critics say CoinMarketCap doesn’t do enough to distinguish between the fake volumes it picks up via its APIs and the actual trading that takes place in the nascent bitcoin market. Furthermore, as bitcoin surged towards $20,000 in 2017, the firm was known for, and was often mocked for, running scammy advertisements on the site, including ones for the infamous BitConnect project

Still, the firm wants the crypto world to know it is not just sitting on its hands and that it is trying to improve its product. 

“There is a misconception, perpetuated by this narrative that we could fix it in an instant if we wanted to,” Luke Wagman, chief evangelist at CoinMarketCap, told The Block in an interview. 

“The biggest misconception is that this is a very easy problem to solve,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has figured it out,” Wagman said, claiming that other data sites are also trying to figure out how to distinguish between real and fake volumes.

Messari has tried to solve the problem with its Real Ten index, which shows the 24-hour daily trading volumes from the 10 exchanges it deems as reliable. “Real 10′ refers to the ten exchanges we believe have reported significant and legitimate crypto trading volumes via their APIs,” Messari said at the time when the Real 10 index was released. 

Still, Wagman equated excluding exchanges from volume calculations to throwing the baby out with the bath water. “It’s a hacky PR response,” he quipped. 

CoinMarketCap’s plan, to be sure, sounds just as PR-y. They plan to give “more power” to their users to evaluate exchanges and give them tools to create their own view of the market — an attractive alternative for maybe the wonkiest among us in the crypto world. 

“If people don’t like certain coins, certain exchanges, then they can filter the data,” Wagman said. 

Of course, that doesn’t eliminate the fake volume problem either. As such, CoinMarketCap is also examining other ways to extrapolate a more precise picture of the crypto market, which stands at about $200 billion, per the site’s data.

For instance, the firm is looking at ways to eliminate fake volumes by examining volumes versus cryptocurrency holdings in cold wallets. “You can look at the order book data and compare that up against [the amount of cryptocurrency they hold in cold storage] and get a better understanding of what’s actually going on,” he said. Still, all of this is in the users’ hands. “We don’t want to police the industry,” he said. 

Veterans of the market will recall the backlash CoinMarketCap received for excluding certain Korean exchanges from its exchange lineup. Wagman explained that the firm made this decision because prices on those Korean exchanges weren’t representative of the free market price.

“I think the key is giving users more controls over their experience and also new objective metrics that folks can use to evaluate exchanges beyond just volume,” he concluded. 

As for advertising, the firm said it is taking a different approach now than it did during the bull market. It is doing more due diligence on companies and projects looking to take out ad space on its site. 

“We have a bigger ops team with more eyes on the process,” Wagman said, which allows the firm to curate what goes onto the site. Previously, they relied on a third party vendor.