IntentX Product Review
By Will McKinnon December 18, 2023
- As part of a new series of content, the Beluga team will highlight exciting new products, protocols and applications using blockchain technology. The first product we are reviewing is IntentX, an exchange platform which opened itself up to users in October. In this article, we'll review the user experience of the platform, its technology and functionality as an exchange, and most importantly how to make money with it.
What is IntentX?
IntentX is a decentralized perpetuals exchange that recently launched their open beta on the Base network, an Ethereum Layer 2 created by Coinbase. Having raised a $2.5M seed round led by Magnus Capital and including a number of well known angel investors in the space, they are well capitalized to build out their trading infrastructure. In essence, IntentX is designed to make the liquidity found on centralized exchanges like Binance available on a decentralized platform.
It's important to remember that while IntentX is already seeing 100's of millions in trade volume, it remains a platform in beta. This means many of the planned features for the platform are not yet live and may significantly impact user experience. For this review we will focus mostly on the features which are currently available to users.
In practice, trading on IntentX functions a lot like an over the counter or OTC trade which whales use to enter or exit large positions. Larger trades will not incur the same slippage that might appear when trading on a normal decentralized exchange for this reason which allows for high volume trading without incurring massive fees. IntentX also offers up to 60x leverage on over 180 pairs, one of the most robust offerings on the market.
As with most decentralized platforms, there is some friction to getting an account started. First, prospective users must have funds on the Base network which can be achieved either through using a centralized exchange like Coinbase or via a network bridge. For the time being IntentX requires trade collateral to be USDbC, which is the Base network version of USDC. Since trading happens on-chain, you must also have some ETH in your wallet in order to pay for transaction fees when trading; fortunately, the Base network features some of the lowest gas fees of any chain.
Source: Base Bridge
Once you have some USDbC in your wallet, all you have to do is connect to the IntentX website and deposit your USDbC. There is no KYC required whatsoever, and once you have funded your account you are free to start trading as you please.
Once you've got your account set up, you can select any token offered on the site to trade. Using the user interface on the side of your screen pictured above, you are able to choose the terms of your trade including margin, leverage, and long or short.
There is currently only one market maker or "solver" on IntentX which sets the spread on available tokens. As funding rates do not yet exist on the platform, spreads are currently sub-optimal from a trading perspective at 16 BPS or 0.016% on most tokens as the solver needs to cover their risk. Of course this fee is still astronomically lower than trading on Coinbase, but when compared to a normal order book where you can set the exact price you wish to trade at, it may feel large.
When trading, IntentX offers only cross-margin positions. This means that your entire balance is allocated as collateral for the trade - while this lowers liquidation prices and allows for more customizability on trades, if you are liquidated on cross-margin your entire account will be zeroed. It's usually recommended that new traders utilize what is known as isolated margin to open positions as you are not exposed to the same account risk as with cross margin. Additionally, stop losses are not yet implemented which further increases the trading risk. Isolated margin tends to be used so that traders can choose exactly how much they are willing to lose on a trade in case it goes bad, yet in cross margin stops can be used to achieve the same effect. Stops are an upgrade planned for an upcoming update, however as these aren't live yet, IntentX gets a markdown in the trader experience category.
An important thing to note on the trading side is that as all trading is registered on-chain as a transaction, there is a delay between when you click the button to open a trade and when it is actually opened. Future upgrades are planned to reduce latency and allow for fully automated one-click trading, but for the time being this is a definite pain point. This means the platform is not currently optimized for scalp traders (those who get in and out of trades quickly for small profit), however the lack of funding rates makes it ideal for traders who intend to hold their positions for a longer period of time.
At the core of IntentX is the concept of "intent-based" order routing which is a novel mechanism to improve capital efficiency for liquidity providers and market makers while simultaneously providing users with the lowest fees on the market. What this means in simple terms is that rather than market makers needing to park their liquidity at specific price points in order to fill user orders, in this model liquidity is only allocated once an order is submitted. For users, this theoretically leads to the lowest fees possible on the market. Once more market markers are added to the IntentX platform, they will compete with each other to offer the best terms for requested orders, narrowing the spread and lowering trading fees greatly.
As opposed to centralized exchanges (CEX), IntentX is designed to be trustless meaning you are not taking on any counterparty risk and rely on the security of smart contracts instead of people. As highlighted with the collapse of FTX in 2022, while using a centralized exchange may provide a more seamless experience for the user, it also exposes you to vulnerabilities that the exchange itself has. CEX tend to have more liquidity than decentralized options, and thus historically they tend to retain most of the trading volume.
What makes the IntentX model so exciting is that the solvers on the platform utilize Binance (and more in the future) to hedge platform positions. In other words, when you place a trade on the IntentX website, it is filled by a solver who hedges your trade on Binance. This means the liquidity of IntentX is virtually identical to that of Binance, in the package of a decentralized exchange. Additionally, this allows IntentX to list any trading pair that is on Binance or any other exchange that the solver has access to.
And finally, the most important section, how you can make money on the platform. As is the case with many crypto protocols, IntentX is launching a token of which they will airdrop 2% of the total supply retroactively to beta users based on their volume on the platform. This isn't a lot compared to most recent airdrops, which typically do around 15%. The relative percentage may not be a lot, but considering the beta doesn't have very many users (it is, of course, a beta) and volume is still low relative to a full-fledged perpetuals exchange, users don't have a lot of competition.
INTX Timeline, Source: IntentX
The main reason that the initial airdrop is so little supply is due to the incentivized usage program that will begin once the platform fully launches in Q1 2024. Once that is live, you'll earn tokens simply for trading on the platform as you would normally. It's important to note that while you earn tokens and points based on your volume, it is recommended that you trade carefully and within your limits. The platform is designed mostly for people who have some experience trading prior, and it may be daunting to beginners.
IntentX is an extremely promising new platform and despite missing a number of features still, it is poised to take over the Base blockchain and more. The trustless manner of the exchange system makes it ideal for those who may be concerned about leaving their money in a centralized exchange. In addition, it presents an amazing alternative for traders who may not have access to big CEX like Binance due to where they are from. In conclusion, IntentX is still in its infancy but with a rapidly rising user base and a number of massive upgrades planned before the main launch in Q1, it's a very exciting new platform that offers its users the ability to passively gain tokens as they trade normally.
- Decentralized and trustless
- Up to 60x leverage on trades
- Over 180 available tokens
- Ongoing token incentive program
- Anybody can use the site as there is no restrictive KYC
- Low fees relative to competitors
- Fees are not ideal for quick trading
- There is latency between submitting a trade and it being executed
- No stop loss implemented yet
- No Fiat on-ramp or off-ramp
- Only Cross Margin
- 12 hour delay for withdrawals