An Alternative to the Order Book as the Market Design of a Crypto-Economic Trading Platform

In a crypto-economic trading platform:

  • “The network becomes the exchange”
  • Snapchat (ephemeral) bid-asks
  • User-defined smart contracts

The order book is a market design for the exchange of goods and assets.  It dates back to the European coffee houses of the late 1600s.  In London, Jonathan’s Coffee House was a significant meeting place for traders in London in the 1700s. It later became the site of the first London Stock Exchange.

In the late 1700s, in what later became known as New York City, Dutch traders met at a Buttonwood tree in lower Manhattan island to buy and sell goods coming into the port.   Now know as Wall Street, this location became the center of financial asset exchange in the United States.

Until the 1970s, stock exchanges were characterized by a market design involving traders gathering around pits with specialists manually matching bids and asks in paper order books (see below).

The great financial economist Fisher Black wrote a prophetic article in 1971 called “Toward A Fully Automatic Stock Exchange”   where he laid out the implications of the coming automation of the manual order book.  He speculated on what the computerization of the order book would mean for bidding mechanisms, liquidity and overall stock market efficiency.

Screenshot of Bid-Ask Order Book of Poloniex

Market design, indeed all design related to computers, is coupled tightly to the computer technology itself.  Just because one design is associated with a particular computer technology does not mean that the same design should be mindlessly carried over when the computer technology changes.

We recall the mindless carry over of the 80 character line limit established by IBM for punch cards in the 1920s to cathode ray tube (CRT) terminals in the 1970s.

There is a whole host of other instances of mindless carry over of designs when the technology changes.  One notable example is the organization of the factory floor after the conversion of machine power from a centralized shaft driven by water to decentralized electric power.

In the last several years, there has emerged a new decentralized, peer-to-peer (p2p) paradigm in computer architecture propelled by several trends — Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicle-to-device (v2x) communication, and crypto.

This change demands a rethinking of the appropriateness of the centralized client-server order book market design in a crypto-economic platform.

The trend away from client server architecture is driven by a need to do more raw compute “at the edge” before sending data to the server for storage and higher order analytics.  This is known as “edge computing.”  The use cases for edge computing are Internet of Things (IoT) and autonomous vehicle-to-device (V2X) communication.

The trend away from client server architecture is also driven by the tremendous interest in Bitcoin, Blockchain and Ethereum.  Interest in crypto could be the start of a paradigm shift away client server financial intermediaries earning opaque rents and toward decentralized, trustless p2p protocols for validating and accounting for the exchange of financial assets.

A true true, decentralized crypto-economy involves not only a DLT layer but also high speed transaction layer. 

The thesis of this paper is that the time is now to consider a transaction layer with a true decentralized market design.

We believe that publish-subscribe will be the leading protocol of the transaction layer as it has already been deployed at scale an the platform behind several MMO games (from MZ) and chat platforms (WhatApp from Facebook, WeChat from TenCent).

 What is needed is an innovative p2p market design.  It could be along the lines a many-to-many, high frequency “take it or leave it” (TIOLI) publish-subscribe mechanism which could also be described as a discrete time, many-to-many, high frequency version of the Myerson auction.

Value Proposition:

  • user-defined contracts ( e.g. options with odd expiration dates, long-short pairs, straddles)
  • tokens earned by peers supplying liquidity spread contracts
  • elimination of latency rents going to HFT and server co-location fees going to exchange
  • elimination of “data ownership” rents earned by exchange

Specification suggestions:

  • high frequency, many-to-many, pub-sub protocol
  • messages in form of  Myerson “take it or leave it” (TIOLI) bid-asks
  • “serverless” with ephemeral matching with-in Redis-like in-memory data structure store, used as a database, cache and message broker.
  • ephemeral bid-ask data, only data “owned” is history of matches.
  • discrete time, batch process (i.e. events) following  Eric Budish’s work on continuous time design flaw in  HFT platforms 
  • third party AI bid bots
  • third party custodial services
  • settlement a function of DTL layer

Companies with pub-sub platforms

  • Satori (formerly MZ)
  • Facebook (WhatsApp)
  • TenCent (WeChat)
  • Google (Cloud Pub/Sub)

Some relevant URLs

Gabe Leydon, CEO Satori (MZ) TokenPost Interview During Korea Blockchain Open Forum,  July, 2018

Satori’s “AI Mesh network” transaction layer  stats — 500 Million “messages” per second or 1 million publishers sending 100 bytes a second 

Hadera Hashgraph’s DLT stats — 500,000 transactions per second with 100% consensus based on a “gossip of gossip protocol” and a consensus latency of 3.5 seconds.

Eric Budish, The Design of Financial Exchange, Some Open Questions at the Intersection of Econ and CS.  Simons Institute of Computing UCB, November 2015

Eric Budish, “Will the Market Fix the Market?”, AEA/AFA Joint Luncheon Talk, January 2017

Albert “Pete” Kyle, “Continuous Auctions and Inside Trading”, Econometrica, November 1985

Albert “Pete” Kyle, “The Changing Nature of Trading Markets”, U of Maryland Conference,  May 2017

Fisher Black, Toward A Fully Automatic Stock Exchange, 1971