Wonder what the tech stack of Coinbase, used by the platform’s developer to build it, consists of? Let’s discover this together and see how the choice of technologies shapes the capabilities of this popular US-based cryptocurrency exchange.
As of July 2023, the total crypto market capitalization has reached $1.2 trillion with a total average daily volume of around $40 billion. While such daily volume pales in comparison to the peak figures of early 2021, crypto has secured a significant place in global economic affairs.
When the COVID-19 pandemic crashed the global stock market and boosted the demand for alternative investment strategies, cryptocurrencies became a viable response to stock market volatility. Especially for millennials: the new-era investors find crypto an attractive asset class and high-yield long-term investment choice, although the turbulence and correction that took place in the crypto market after the pandemic peak passed has played down their excessive enthusiasm.
Here at Surf, we specialize in developing fintech solutions, including cryptocurrency trading and exchange platforms, along with banking apps for B2C and B2B clients. One of our successful projects is a cryptocurrency trading app for smartphones and tablets, suitable both for professional traders and newcomers.
From our experience, if you are planning to create a crypto platform, it provides an enormous help to look at what leading companies have already done and what tech stack has proved to be efficient already. For that purpose, we suggest learning from the example of one of the leading crypto players — Coinbase.
Why look at Coinbase?
Coinbase was founded in 2012 and has grown to be the most trusted US-based crypto trading platform. As of July 2023, it was the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States by trading volume.
- The Coinbase user base counted 108 million users in 2022, having grown by 100 times over the past 9 years.
- In 2020, Coinbase experienced a sharp rise in the number of users. The monthly active users increased from 1 million to 2.8 million and doubled to 6.1 million in Q1 2021
- Coinbase revenue in 2022 made up $3.19 billion.
Coinbase offers 3 primary lines of products: for individual retail traders, such as Coinbase app, Coinbase Wallet, Advanced Trade, and Coinbase Earn, for enterprise and institutional trades, such as Coinbase Prime and Coinbase Custody, as well as solutions for developers and merchants, such as API, Cloud, Rosetta, Wallet SDK.
Coinbase tech stack in details
Let’s take a look at the key technologies employed by the Coinbase platform.
React Native for Coinbase applications
In 2012, when Coinbase was founded, there was a website only. The first native iOS and Android apps were released in 2013. However, in 2020, Coinbase mobile apps were completely rewritten from scratch using React Native framework. Several reasons influenced the management’s decision to do such a huge amount of work and migrate to a cross-platform solution from a native one. The company wanted:
- To increase the rate of growth and speed of iteration on mobile platforms.
- To improve coordination of larger, systemic changes and connectedness between Coinbase engineers working on the same platform.
- To deliver improved quality and performance for the company’s customers.
Among other reasons, the choice of React Native was conditioned by the fact that the web engineering platform of Coinbase was built on React. This technology stack was well-known to the Coinbase team and allowed them to improve the connection across both mobile and web apps. Besides, React Native offers proven reliability, security features, performance, and native compatibility that fit the company’s business needs.
While migrating to React Native, the Coinbase team faced plenty of challenges. One of the biggest ones among them was a large native codebase. It covered over 200 screens, where many of them contained substantial and complex business logic. Also, the team had to take it into account and do their best to avoid any regressions in features or lowering of performance during migration. Apart from that, over 30 native engineers employed by Coinbase had to retrain and become familiar with React Native cross-platform development without stopping their work on the releases of the platform’s new features.
Step-by-step, the Coinbase team of developers increased the scope and impact of the migration areas and organized the process of testing and result monitoring. Thanks to such a gradual approach, the company succeeded in achieving significant product performance improvements at each prod of the migration from native to cross-platform tech stack.
We at Surf also have successful experience with cross-platform development, primarily with Flutter. The framework allows for building mobile apps with outstanding performance and native look and feel. Moreover, we can confirm firsthand that going cross-platform allows clients to save up to 40% of their time and money compared to native app development. Our Flutter portfolio includes more than 10 projects for leading companies in various industries, including KFC and Société Générale baking group. The corporate app for the latter was the first Flutter-powered banking app in Europe and Flutter turned out to be a good match for the bank’s requirements, helping to reduce development time and costs.
Coinbase Wallet — a Web 3.0 non-custodial wallet
Web 3.0 is a concept for a decentralized Internet based on public blockchain technology. To better understand the idea, we shall go back to Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.
- Web 1.0 was the first iteration of the commercial Internet and gave users a read-only option. This phase represents the early days of the internet when users could access and consume content but couldn’t actively interact or contribute to it.
- Web 2.0 allows users to both read and write on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others. This brought about a significant shift in the way people interacted with the internet and content-sharing platforms became central to the Web 2.0 experience.
- Web 3.0 empowers users to read-write-own so that the users can manage their content, data, and digital assets via blockchains. This allows for increased security, transparency, and ownership of data. Web 3.0 represents the next prod of internet evolution, where users have greater control over their online identities, digital rights, and privacy.
Web 3.0 is an evolving concept, but has already gained the interest of many users. To meet the constantly changing user needs, Coinbase is investing in accessible and user-friendly experiences that make it easier to participate in decentralized finance (DeFi) and collect non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Designed for interacting with decentralized applications (dapps) on the blockchain, Coinbase Wallet employs Web 3.0 technologies. While possessing a user-friendly UI, It provides additional security by splitting the private key between the user and Coinbase. It means users’ private keys are stored locally on their devices, and users have complete control over their cryptocurrency, keys, and data. The wallet supports over 4,000 token types and a wide range of decentralized apps. Coinbase also offers a primary balance wallet for trading cryptocurrencies on their platform and a Coinbase Wallet, which is a self-custodied wallet, giving users full control over their private keys and assets.
AWS as Coinbase cloud solution
Initially, the Coinbase Bitcoin exchange was built in the cloud. Taking into account Coinbase’s ever-growing popularity and industry specifics, the team has always been committed to keeping the Coinbase technology basis secure and scalable, as well as ensuring its availability. Additionally, they needed an efficient data analytics solution to get timely insights about customers’ interactions with the products.
In 2014, Coinbase started to evaluate various cloud technology providers to choose the one that could give them complete control over their environment instead of several different third-party hosting providers. Their choice was Amazon Web Services (AWS).
AWS offers a wide range of tools and services that cover the Coinbase platform’s needs, including:
- AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to securely control access to AWS services;
- Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to easily set, use, and scale relational databases in the cloud;
- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) with the deepest and broadest computing platform, offering over 475 instances and a set of the latest processors, storages, networks, operation systems, and purchase models for practically any load;
- AWS Availability Zones to distribute apps natively around the globe;
- Amazon Kinesis to seamlessly collect, process, and analyze real-time streaming data to get timely insights and updates, while being able to respond promptly to them.
- AWS CloudTrail, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), AWS Lambda to get complete, transparent, and indexed audit logs across the IT environment.
- Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) to receive additional big-data insight;
- Amazon Redshift to provide a managed petabyte-scale data warehouse;
The additional advantage of employing the Amazon platform was that Coinbase was able to focus more on innovation and the development of new features since they were sure of the reliability and stability of Amazon Web Services.
Coinbase APIs for integrations
Coinbase is a well-known and trusted platform for digital currency exchange. Additionally, it offers an application programming interface (API) for developers to extend the functionalities of their new or existing apps through the integration of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies, as well as empower them to create innovative applications and streamline crypto transactions.
Coinbase offers a diverse range of APIs and services:
- Wallet as a Service, allowing the creation of customizable wallets and seamless access to web3 within applications.
- Coinbase Pay, a secure and user-friendly method for purchasing and transferring cryptocurrencies.
- Commerce API, which facilitates businesses in accepting secure crypto payments from their customers.
- Advanced Trade API, offering sophisticated trading features, order placement, and real-time market data tracking.
- Exchange, catering to high-volume crypto trading and providing access to real-time market data.
- International Exchange, enabling cross-margin leveraged trading of perpetual futures and spot margins on a global scale.
- Prime API, designed for institutional use to programmatically trade, manage, and safeguard crypto assets.
- Rosetta, a solution that simplifies and standardizes blockchain integrations with other crypto services.
In the fall of 2022, Coinbase launched a new product called Node to connect developers to the Ethereum blockchain, aiming to offer a full range of crypto infrastructure technology and expand beyond consumer trading revenue. Node, which the company itself envisions as the “AWS of blockchain infrastructure”, provides APIs for developers to interact with the Ethereum blockchain, including a specific API for NFT development. The product became a part of Coinbase Cloud and is the company’s first major free self-serve developer offering.
As it migrated React Native cross-platform technology, employed AWS cloud, and developed its offering of web 3.0 products, Coinbase faced various challenges in its journey, seeking both reliable and secure technological solutions while continuously improving user experience. To stay ahead of the competition, the company has always been looking for technologies that are reliable and secure, as well as constantly working to improve UI and user experience, as well as apply cutting-edge solutions. Being able to react to the market trends and remain consistent in terms of tech stack helps Coinbase stay ahead of the competition and remain the leading cryptocurrency platform even today.
When planning your own project you’ll face common fintech industry challenges and your own pains. For example, when Surf developed a cryptocurrency trading app, we had to overcome several challenges:
- Design an app that covers the needs of both professional traders and beginners;
- Provide users with the most crucial trading data and market updates – charts, depth of market, orders, quotes for currency pairs – and keep them constantly up-to-date;
- Work out a way to make the app fast and stable, which is vital for trading with ever-changing stock prices.
Specifically, the project’s development was challenging for our team in terms of chart building. Charts present one of the main elements of any trading app. They shall be accurate and updated timely. To build charts, we used the library of TradingView, the well-known financial visualization platform. Its advantage is flexible settings that allow displaying indicators that traders may need. Now, we continue our relationships with TradingView as a consulting partner.If you want to learn how we dealt with those challenges and developed an intuitive and high-performant app, check our case study on the application.
But of course, all projects are different, so when you have one in mind and could use some help — just contact us. We will be glad to share our expertise with you and help you choose the right tech stack for your project.