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Perpetual Swaps – Origins in CEX, with a Future in DeFi

Financial markets have faced a significant transformation with the advent of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Such disruptive innovations have paved the way for various financial instruments. One of them is perpetual swaps that initially gained popularity in centralized exchanges (CEXs). Perpetual swaps or perpetual futures have now found a promising future in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space. This article will explore the origins of perpetual swaps in CEX and delve into their potential in the world of DeFi.

What Is Perpetual Swaps Contract?

To understand what a perpetual swap is and how it works, let us define what a swap is. A swap is a financial derivative contract in which two parties agree to exchange a series of cash flows over a specified period. Traditional swaps are typically settled on a fixed date in future, but perpetual swaps eliminate the need for settlement dates. Instead, they allow for continuous trading, also known as perpetual trading, while holding positions for an indefinite period.

Perpetual Futures vs Spot

Whereas spot trading involves immediate buying and selling of the current market price, perpetual futures trading uses derivative contracts to track an asset’s price without its ownership and delivery. Perpetual futures offer leverage, continuous trading, and hedging opportunities. Whereas spot trading, provides, ownership, and instant settlement. Spot markets follow traditional hours while perpetual futures contracts operate 24/7. Consider goals, risk tolerance, and familiarity to choose the best approach.

Introduction of DeFi Swaps

Perpetual swaps, or perpetual futures, were first introduced in the cryptocurrency market by BitMEX, a prominent CEX founded in 2014. BitMEX, pioneered the concept of perpetual swaps by launching Bitcoin Perpetual Swaps contract in 2016. It was a groundbreaking innovation that allowed traders to speculate on the price of Bitcoin without owning the underlying asset. It enabled leverage trading, providing traders with an opportunity to amplify their gains and losses.

Mechanics of Perpetual Swaps

The mechanics of perpetual swaps involve an index price, funding rates and margin requirements. Index prices are derived from spot prices of underlying assets, also ensuring that the perpetual futures contract prices are coinciding with the spot market prices. Funding rates are used to maintain the fair value of perpetual swaps relative to the underlying asset. Long and short traders pay or receive funding depending on the premium or discount of the perpetual swap compared to spot price. Margin requirements dictate the amount of collateral needed to enter and maintain a position.

Funding Rates for Perpetual Swaps

Funding rates in perpetual swaps refer to the periodic payments exchanged between long and short traders for maintaining the fair value of perpetual swaps relative to the spot price of the underlying asset. Several exchanges have funding rates time periods for holding positions. These time intervals keep on changing 24 hours.

Why Perpetual Swaps Gained Popularity?

Perpetual Swaps quickly gained popularity due to their flexibility, liquidity, and 24/7 trading availability. They allowed traders to profit from both rising and falling markets, offering a wide range of trading strategies, tools, and no time constraint. Moreover, the absence of settlement dates eliminates the need to roll over contracts, making perpetual swaps a convenient instrument to market participants.

As perpetual swaps gained traction in CEX the rise of DeFi introduced new possibilities for these financial instruments. DeFi, short for Decentralized finance, refers to the blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies to recreate traditional financial systems in a decentralized manner. DeFi platforms, enable peer to peer transactions, automated smart contracts, and decentralised exchanges.

DeFi space is the flagbearer of perpetual swaps as an essential component of decentralised trading platforms. Projects such as Perpetual Protocol, dYdX and Uniswap have integrated perpetual swaps. They provide users with decentralised alternatives to CEX platforms. These DeFi, perpetual swaps offer benefits of increased transparency, reduced reliance on intermediaries and permissionless access to trading.

Advantages of Transition

In DeFi space, transition from CEX to DeFi brings several advantages to perpetual swaps. Firstly, decentralised platforms enhance transparency by enabling anyone to inspect and audit smart contracts governing perpetual swaps. Increased transparency helps to build trust and confidence among traders, mitigating concerns of market manipulation and unfair practices.

Second, DeFi platforms try to facilitate peer to peer trading, eliminating the need for intermediaries and centralised order books. The peer-to-peer nature of DeFi trading enables users to retain control over their funds throughout the trading process. Moreover, decentralised exchange (DEXs) enables seamless and smooth integration with other DeFi protocols. This lets users use their collateral for other purposes like providing liquidity and participating in yield farming.

Decentralised Collateralisation

Additionally, DeFi perpetual swaps introduce the concepts of decentralised collateralization. Traditionally, in traditional CEXs they required users to deposit their funds into centralised wallets, exposing them to custodial risks. In contrast, DeFi perpetual swaps leverage smart contracts and decentralised liquidity pools. They allow their users to collateralize their positions without relinquishing control of their assets. This decentralized collateralization enhances security and reduces counterparty risks.

Composability in DeFi

Composability of DeFi protocols, enables the creation of innovative financial products and services. Developers can combine perpetual swaps and services with other DeFi elements such as decentralised insurance, lending, and prediction markets. This further opens opportunities for traders and investors fostering a more vibrant and diverse ecosystem.

Challenges in DeFi

As the future of DeFi looks promising, challenges remain. One significant hurdle is the issue of scalability. As DeFi grows in popularity, congestion on Ethereum network has become a bottleneck leading to high gas fees and slower transaction times. However, solutions such as layer two scaling solutions and interoperability across different blockchains are now being developed to address such challenges and improve user experience.


In conclusion, perpetual swaps originated from CEXs to DEXs and are now a popular instrument for crypto traders. They provide traders with leverage and continuous trading and a promising future. DeFi platforms, offer increased transparency, peer to peer trading and decentralised collateralization along with composability. Such challenges remain a hopeful endeavor for decentralization. We can expect a continuous revolution in the way we trade and invest in the future.

BITFLEX offers perpetual swaps that make perpetual trading a seamless and easy to do task on our platform. BITFLEX offers a user-friendly platform, where traders can easily enter and manage their positions with real-time market data. You can gain access to enhanced leverage, ample liquidity, and a competitive trading fee.


BITFLEX is a cryptocurrency exchange platform that offers traders a secure, easy-to-use, and convenient way to buy, sell and trade cryptocurrencies.  Our platform has been designed with investors of all levels in mind, whether they are just starting out or experienced traders. We offer various features and tools to help users make the best trading decisions possible, including advanced charting and analytics, real-time market data, and various customisable trading interfaces. At BITFLEX, we are dedicated to empowering our users and helping them reach their financial goals.

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