Pop over to CoinMarketCap and check Bitfinex’s page.
You’ll see that the trading pair with the second-highest volume on the exchange over the past 24 hours – nearly $48 million at the time of writing – is USDT/USD: the tether stablecoin, which aims for parity with the U.S. dollar, and the U.S. dollar itself.
From this data point, you could be forgiven for concluding that Bitfinex’s customers trade huge quantities of tethers for dollars, and vice-versa – more than they trade ether, XRP and EOS combined for dollars.
But you’d be wrong.
According to a Bitfinex spokesperson, the exchange does not offer a USDT/USD trading pair, and no such pair is shown on Bitfinex’s site. Customers can deposit and withdraw both dollars and tethers at Bitfinex, meaning that it is possible to transfer one for the other through the exchange, but this process is far slower and more involved than placing a trade on the exchange.
If there’s no USDT/USD trading on Bitfinex, then, why does the pair appear on CoinMarketCap – easily the most-visited aggregator of cryptocurrency data, according to Amazon’s Alexa rankings?
The question is more than an academic curiosity, given that Bitfinex shares common owners and managers with Tether Ltd., the entity that issues USDT, and that the stablecoin is under increased scrutiny since losing its parity with the dollar more than a week ago.
According to Carylyne Chan, CoinMarketCap’s global head of marketing, the data comes from Bitfinex’s own public application program interface (API), which feeds exchange data to outside applications. Here is the API link Chan provided for the volume data point.