Formerly known as Bitsquare, Bisq is a peer-to-peer client for cryptocurrency exchanges. The main selling point of Bisq is that it’s a decentralized client rather than a website, and as such is extremely difficult to shut down in the event of a crackdown by a regulatory agency. In a world where centralized cryptocurrency exchanges are still not ubiquitous, bleeding-edge technology such as this is still very much in its infancy, and limited in use.
The best thing about Bisq: it works. The platform allows users to trade Dash and other coins for fiat currency without relying on a centralized service, or even a single website that can be banned or taken down. The importance of this functionality can’t be overstated, and this makes some users more likely to be forgiving of usability issues.
The other feather in Bisq’s cap is the ability to trade between a variety of cryptocurrencies. This functionality is relatively rare in peer-to-peer trading platforms, seeing as how easy and efficient it is to exchange cryptos through centralized services like ShapeShift. Additionally, peer-to-peer markets often suffer from liquidity issues, and having many different trading pairs available increases the chance of buying through a multi-stage trade, for example: buying Bitcoin via bank transfer, then trading for Dash when a pure fiat-Dash connection is unavailable.
The interface is cleanly designed with simple buttons for various areas of the client. While it may seem more familiar to the veteran crypto traders of the world, however, to the average user simply seeking to buy or sell, the whole client can get confusing. For a user with no prior experience using an exchange, Bisq has a very steep learning curve, and many potential users may simply give up or opt for less secure and private methods of transacting. Note that this is not so much a criticism of how the interface was designed, but rather of how the platform operates. Also note that a thorough and extremely vernacular and friendly “idiot’s guide” could dramatically improve the learning curve.
(Note! Understand that some of the criticisms below may be necessary to the way Bisq operates as a decentralized client, and should be taken accordingly)
The user experience is where even determined new users may decide to give up. To begin with, running a client at all times can be challenging to users not in front of their computer throughout most of the day. Additionally, the structure for trading accounts is quite confusing, requiring a base cryptocurrency to be selected (and the client restarted when changed), with other currencies added as “altcoin accounts.” Getting straight which currency to use as a base and which to use as “altcoins” is a major usage hurdle.
The largest barrier to use, especially for smaller transactions, is the collateral requirement. In the experimental trade for this review, I sold 0.1 Dash for Bitcoin. In order to perform this trade, both parties were required to deposit additional collateral. The buyer had to deposit 0.5 Dash, which was five times the amount he was attempting to buy (not to mention he was trying to sell Bitcoin to acquire Dash, but had to already possess five times the amount of Dash he was attempting to buy in the first place). Finally, after the transaction was complete, both parties had to withdraw their collateral, either to the internal Bisq wallet or to an external wallet. This adds another step for each trade, as parties are not able to simply have a sufficient amount of collateral in the client and keep making trades, but must instead withdraw and re-deposit. This becomes especially problematic with currencies like Bitcoin with high transaction fees.
Pros: Truly peer-to-peer, censorship resistant, wide range of cryptocurrencies and fiat options.
Cons: Confusing interface for new traders, high collateral requirements, client must remain running.