What's the Deal with Coinbase and Coinbase Pro?

Another Option for Investors is Coinbase Pro

Image by J.R. Bee © The Balance 2019 

In June of 2012, a small start-up by the name of Coinbase had raised a little over $160,000 in funding. Its founders planned to make a platform where it was easy for non-technical people to use Bitcoin. 

In 2015, the company realized there was a need for a dedicated platform with more options for crypto traders. They launched a platform for professional or more advanced traders called the Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX).

In 2018, Coinbase rebranded GDAX and updated its design. It is now called Coinbase Pro.

Coinbase Pro is a platform where traders can view real-time information on a large number of Bitcoin currencies. These stats include market size, prices, and other information that investors need.

Key Takeaways

  • Coinbase is designed to make it easy for non-technical people to use Bitcoin, and Coinbase Pro is a trading platform for advanced traders.
  • Coinbase is an exchange platform, not a currency itself, that allows you to make transactions in digital currencies and store them in wallets.
  • Coinbase Pro has an interface that is easy to use where a trader can view their chosen currency in real-time, along with an order book.

Coinbase Was the First Licensed U.S. Bitcoin Exchange

Coinbase is not a bitcoin currency. It is an exchange platform that allows traders to conduct transactions in the different types of digital currencies and store them in wallets. The currencies traded on the platform include Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Litecoin.

In mid-2013, Coinbase became the highest funded Bitcoin startup. It gained a $5 million investment from Union Square Ventures. During that period, the value of Bitcoin had moved from a high of $266 in April of 2013 to about $108 when the investment was announced.

This new venture attracted a lot of attention and new coverage. The interest was not only in the amount raised but the fact that the investors were banks and the New York Stock Exchange. 

The founders of Coinbase were interested in building a strong and open relationship with regulators. This helped to create the level of investment they received.

Coinbase became the first licensed U.S. Bitcoin exchange.

How Did GDAX Get Started?

It didn't take long for Coinbase to see that their exchange could work for more complex trades than casual, individual traders were making. They decided to rebrand the Exchange as the Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX).

This change did not only highlight the added capabilities. It also drew attention to the worldwide focus that GDAX offered to traders. The new platform also allowed trades of Ethereum, due to growing demand.

Coinbase built GDAX from the ground up. In the middle of 2016, the company decided to rebrand the Coinbase Exchange. This was part of its goal to be the world’s largest exchange and expand its international footprint

Why Did GDAX Become Coinbase Pro?

Coinbase had to make a few major changes to address the concerns of users. Security of a client’s Bitcoin holdings had become an issue.

To deal with this, the company put in place an easy way to store Bitcoin balances on the Pro platform. This was known as “cold storage."

This approach takes a client’s private keys off of the network. They are then stored in physical form, such as USB drives or on paper, known as "vaults." Coinbase began to store these physical copies in real vaults and safety deposit boxes in different places around the world.

Cold storage is used to deter theft by hackers or malware in a lot of the Bitcoin industry.

The company also started to tailor its service to pro traders by making a new platform design. Pro users can now use a mobile app to access the information and services they need to make trades. They also have access to lower fees, worldwide support, and insurance.

Coinbase Market Information

Coinbase provides information on the digital currency markets you are able to access. There are over 50 markets available.

Some of the most popular ones include Bitcoin U.S. Dollar (BTC-USD), Ethereum U.S. Dollar (ETH-USD) or Bitcoin Cash U.S. Dollar (BCH-USD). Each of these markets is based on the underlying coin—Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Bitcoin Cash, for example.

Each market has a minimum and maximum order. This means investors must buy at least the minimum but no more than the maximum in every order.

Tick size is listed as well. In this context, a standard tick is $10. A tick size of .01, then, is equal to $0.1.

Tick size refers to the minimum price movement on an investment instrument.

Coinbase Pro Exchange Interface

The interface for Coinbase Pro is simple to learn and easy to use. It allows traders to view their selected currency in real time.

There is an order book, which shows market size and prices as trades are being made. The real-time bid-ask spread is shown (the profit the platform receives) per trade. There are also price and depth (number of open buy and sell orders) charts you can toggle between.

Along the left side of the page, you are able to take a number of actions. These including viewing buy and sell forms, placing limits and stops on your orders, and placing your buy and sell orders.