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May 19
2020
Clarifications about CoinMarketCap, by CZ

With the recent update on exchange rankings on CoinMarketCap, there is some confusion about CoinMarketCap (CMC) and how it relates to Binance, namely how independent it is. As always, we try to be transparent with our communications. So, here is an article to clear it up.

For the rest of this article, I will use Binance.com to refer to the exchange business unit, and Binance to refer to the overall ecosystem. I normally use “we” in most places because I think of Binance (the overall ecosystem) as a team effort. For this article, I will use “I” in places where my subjective opinions and thoughts apply heavily.

There are a few concepts I would like to share my thoughts on here: ownership, independence, influence, neutrality, and collaboration.

Ownership

Yes, we bought CoinMarketCap. CoinMarketCap is part of the Binance ecosystem and family. 

Independence

Independence means different things to different people. So, let’s clarify it. 

Each team within the Binance ecosystem operates relatively independently from each other. Each has its own goals and targets. Our goals as a whole are typically to build great products and services that people like to use, and thereby increase adoption and our global user base. Each team makes decisions and works towards those goals, fairly independently.

Does this mean they answer to no one? No. There is a reporting hierarchy and teams have targets to hit. If teams aren’t showing progress toward their goals, their strategy and team members will be adjusted, including optimizing the people on those teams based on their strengths and weaknesses, like in most organizations. Even though we are more decentralized than most organizations on the planet, we are not a pure DAO yet. Although that is one of our long-term organizational structure goals.

Many people have a binary interpretation of words like decentralization and independence (we are either decentralized or we are not; we are either independent or we are not). I view both decentralization and independence on a gradient scale, as most things in the real world. The question isn’t “are you independent or not independent.” It’s "what degree of independence do you have." At Binance, you have a lot.

Influence

Some might ask, “Does CZ have influence over CMC?” Yes. I believe I do have some influence. I have regular meetings with all of our business units, including CMC, and provide my suggestions based on my experience running businesses.

Others might ask, “Will CZ dictate how CMC is run?” No. I believe I give large degrees of freedom to all of our teams. I will use CMC’s recent exchange ranking update as an example, and share some insights into how I lead.

Exchange Ranking Case

A few weeks after we completed the acquisition, I asked the CMC team, “what are the #1 issues that our users would like us to improve on?” A number of items were discussed. A user survey was proposed. I said I will just ask in a tweet, and a few minutes later, I tweeted.

Should I not tweet about CMC to be seen as more distant or “independent”? Well, get over it. We bought it. You can safely assume I will continue to tweet heavily about CMC, just like I will continue to do so for Binance, BNB, Trust Wallet, WazirX, and all of the teams and projects in the Binance ecosystem.

The feedback we got from the tweet was very clear. ‘Fix exchange ranking and fake volumes’ was a clear #1. (‘Removing “scam” projects’ was a clear #2, but it seems everyone's idea of which project is a scam varies wildly. We are working on a few solutions.)

The CMC team initially came back with a plan to fix the exchange ranking and fake volumes issue in one month, that combines an updated liquidity metric and web traffic. My feedback was, “That’s too slow, let’s find a simpler way to fix it in a week.” I also commented: 

1. Having three different rankings is confusing to users.

2. A simple metric should be used as a short-term fix.

The team came back a couple days later and informed me they would be combining the three rankings into one ranking, using web traffic factor. I didn’t know or ask about the details of how the web traffic factor was calculated. A day later, it was live.

CoinDesk wrote an article about a “perfect score” for Binance at 1000. I didn’t even know 1000 was the highest score (I responded in a tweet about a 1001 score). Regardless, there is no perfect score for running a business, and Binance still has a long way to go.

The Ranking Problem

Ranking is a harder problem to solve than most people imagine it to be. I expect that there will be people who will start to game the web traffic score very soon, if not already. And we (the CMC team) will have to re-adjust algos using more metrics, which we will do. It’s a Tom-and-Jerry game. But we are confident that CoinMarketCap will be able to provide reasonably accurate and useful rankings for users consistently and over the long run.

CMC will continue disrupting itself, as it has in the past when it changed how the crypto space was measured and ranked for the very first time. The new web traffic factor is one example of CMC's goal of presenting data in the most accurate and accessible way possible to users, and as they have explained, it is just an intermediate stage in their iterative roll-out of improvements to combat volume inflation.

There are many additional metrics that could be used. None of them are perfect or tamper-proof. Binance.com does have the largest trading volume (on most days) and we rank highest by many other metrics too. There are also some metrics by which Binance.com won’t be ranked highest. We will use a combination of these metrics to improve CMC, address volume inflation, and empower users to make more informed decisions.

Neutrality

Neutrality is another word that I view on a binary vs gradient scale. I again think there is a degree of neutrality we are all able to achieve, but not 100%.

A 100% neutral approach is to report all data as it is collected. This is what CMC did, and we know what happened. You get lots of fake data. Determining what’s fake is subjective and moves aways from neutrality by definition. We could use an algorithm to do it, and we are doing that. But which algorithms to use and the design of it is still subjective. We probably have to live with that if we want the best possible (but not perfect) overall result for users.

Our neutrality principles are simple. At no time will Binance.com (or any other exchange) be “manually” fixed into a position, ever. We will always strive to use a combination of metrics to achieve the most trusted data and rankings for users. And if Binance.com ranks first, it ranks first, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. There is no manual tweaking of any ordering for any exchange.

As I have said before, CMC without its neutrality loses its brand and its value, and that would clearly get in the way of our collective goal to increase awareness and adoption around the crypto ecosystem.

Collaboration & Conclusion

I hope the above provides some insights on the internal workings at my level, my understanding of different terms and concepts, and how I think the world works. CoinMarketCap will continue to keep a neutral and collaborative stance with all projects and exchanges who are collaborative or neutral with us, just as Binance has always taken careful measures to be neutral to all projects who are neutral or collaborative with us. And we plan to continue to work with you all to grow the industry.

- CZ