Orca: The DEX for people, not programs

This post was originally published on Orca

There’s a hot new token, and it’s all over your Twitter feed. You head to your favorite DEX to swap for it, only to be reminded of the current state of the world: making the trade would cost you twenty bucks in gas.

If you were active in DeFi during the summer of 2020, you’re likely familiar with the situation I just described. We call it the gas ceiling: fees so high only whales can afford to swim in the space.

Terrible puns aside, the crypto ecosystem is craving a long-term solution, and that solution is Solana. We believe that Solana’s sub-second finality, airtight security, and nearly-free transactions will break the gas ceiling. Not convinced? Today, we’re proud to announce the launch of Orca, the easiest, fastest, and most user-friendly AMM and aggregator on Solana. Come experience the magic of instant, nearly-free swaps — you might just change your mind.

A human-centered DEX

At Orca, we pride ourselves on designing for people, not programs. Since Orca was little more than sketches on printer paper, we’ve had an ongoing feedback loop with real DeFi users. From this, we’d like to highlight three ways that Orca seeks to provide a simpler, more human-centered experience for traders on Solana.

1. Fair Price Indicator
In our interviews with DeFi users, one of the biggest pain points we found is determining whether a given pool currently offers a fair price. Current DEXes often feel like a choice between two evils: Blind trust that the DEX offers market rates, or time-consuming comparison with trackers or other exchanges. With Orca, we’ve sought to solve that problem with the Fair Price Indicator.

biswap

When you input a trade on Orca, we check whether both of the following conditions are true:

If so, you’ll see the big green check mark above, and you can confidently hit Exchange. If not, we’ll display a Rate Warning or Slippage Warning so you can make an informed decision on whether to trade.

2. Aggregator
Orca is not just an AMM, but also an aggregator. Each time you input a trade, we offer the best available rate from either Orca or Serum Swap’s liquidity pools. We plan to integrate other reputable AMMs as they are built, so you can feel confident that Orca always offers the best price.

3. Token Balances
In most AMMs on Ethereum, there’s no way to check your balances without having to open a browser extension. This feels like an obvious gap when it comes to UX, which is why we’ve added a Tokens panel directly into the Orca interface. There, you can see your balance for all tokens listed on Orca, including live updates when you make a trade or provide liquidity.

Why we picked Solana

Orca consists of a lean team of two: A software engineer with deep experience in blockchain protocols, and a software engineer/interaction designer who specializes in creating human-centered digital experiences.

This combination of crypto expertise and a fresh pair of eyes gives us a unique perspective on the space. Long-term, our mission is to build blockchain apps that solve real problems for everyday people. But we’re also clear-eyed about the fact that the technology has a long way to go before widespread adoption is feasible. Transactions that cost $20 and take several minutes to confirm are simply not performant enough to compete with traditional financial solutions.

For crypto to become relevant to a wider audience, it must scale massively while remaining credibly neutral — in other words, obviously and provably non-discriminatory. Solana has laid the foundations to enable that change. The networking stack and virtual machine have seen slow progress in recent years, especially relative to other domains like advanced cryptography. In successfully implementing Proof of History and parallel transaction processing, among other innovations, Solana has proven that these areas are ripe for optimization.

The results speak for themselves. The Solana network boasts 400ms block times, 50,000 TPS, and $0.00001 average transaction fees, all without the complexity of side chains or sharding. This may sound too good to be true, but having built an application from the ground up, we can vouch that Solana’s performance does not detract from the other essential properties of a blockchain (censorship resistance and security). What’s more, the Solana engineering team is actively publishing open-source building blocks for app development. By using their token-swap program as a base for our smart contract, we were able to design, develop, and launch Orca in just four months, all with our lean team of two.

That said, when it comes to an ecosystem’s success, technology alone is not sufficient. When we reached out to the Solana Foundation, we were equally impressed by the intelligence, strong values, and down-to-earth nature of their team. As such, we’re confident that Solana has all the ingredients to become a vibrant, scalable ecosystem. We’re pitching in by building a core piece of essential infrastructure: an easy-to-use, human-centered AMM.

What’s on the horizon

Now that we’re live, anyone outside of the U.S. can visit orca.so and start trading SOL, BTC, ETH, USDC, USDT, and RAY. However, the journey has just begun. Here are some of the features on the way:

  • Integration of Wormhole, a cross-chain bridge between Ethereum ↔ Solana
  • Collectible, valueless tokens for early adopters
  • Additional trading pairs
  • Analytics for price, liquidity, volume, fees, and more
  • Language options in the Orca UI

Of course, these ideas are only a starting point. We want to hear what you’d like to see — wild ideas welcome. Join the conversation on our Discord, Telegram, or Twitter (@orca_so). We’ll be waiting!

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