Is bitcoin really decentralized?

That depends on a bevy of factors. There are no native or natural gatekeepers, but they are coming out of the woodworks. You have “exchanges” like Coinbase, Bittrex and Binance which decide to add transaction fees to a transaction fee free system. Like middlemen this is where cost comes in and prices can go up and be affected. Then there is the IRS they would rather acknowledge it as a commodity or property instead of a currency.

Originally the system was designed to be decentralized and have no gatekeepers but along with regulations come the gatekeepers but they aren’t a necessity. They only exist and continue to grow based on user participation. The more we utilize their service the more power we give them to control our gate but not the gate.

One thing to remember is that Bitcoin is decentralized like most not all cryptocurrencies whereas it is not geo based meaning it is a worldwide payment system. No one country owns, runs or controls it. But once you decide to convert your crypto to a Fiat which is not decentralized then you are on your own. Ask the federal agents who helped “bring down” Silk Road only to later be arrested for stealing more than 1,000 bitcoins. Once the agents exchanged the Bitcoins for Fiat or real cash, the government was able to follow the money and arrest all those involved. There is a great article about it here: stealing-bitcoins-with-badges-how-silk-roads-dirty-cops-got-caught.

This is why every time I hear a story about hackers stealing large amounts of a cryptocurrency or tricking people into sending them large amounts, even though they have all that “money” in there crypto wallet, it’s useless and in most cases goes untouched. Once they begin to exchange it for Fiat investigators will be able to follow the money trail and they will be caught. Any and everyone can track a wallets status because it is public information. They may not know who’s wallet it is and who they sent the money to but they will always know the wallet it was sent to and as soon as you stick your head out of the ground and come up for air, or to collect. They got you.

So the answer is both yes and no. If you are dealing with an exchange that controls the funds, regulates how much you can buy, sell or exchange and has the option to say you are doing to much so we are closing your account (like Coinbase does) then it is centralized. Coinbase makes the decisions and has the final say so. There are tons of articles online regarding the IRS requesting user information and data from Coinbase. But on an exchange that is not governed or controlled by any one individual and is instead regulated based on the populous vote of it’s users then the answer is no. These type of exchanges are known as DEX or decentralized Exchange. Unfortunately if you live in the U.S. some of these exchanges will not allow you to use there platform as it deemed illegal. But you can still utilize their services by using a VPN to mask your actual location. Below is a list of popular decentralized exchanges:

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