Bitcoin DeFi vs. Ethereum DeFi

Jan 19, 2024

The two blockchain giants, Bitcoin and Ethereum, have dominated the digital finance landscape over the past decade. 

However, throughout the years their approaches and contributions to Decentralized Finance (DeFi) are contrastly different.

In this article, you’ll learn the unique aspects of DeFi on Bitcoin and Ethereum and discover the future of their ecosystems.

The Evolution of DeFi on Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s initial role in DeFi was limited. It was originally designed as a peer-to-peer transfer network without any smart contract functionality (which is necessary for DeFi to operate).

This led to projects building Layer 2 solutions to introduce DeFi to the Bitcoin ecosystem without compromising the core features of Bitcoin.

Layer 2 Solutions

Such solutions include sidechains like Stacks and DeFiChain. Stacks brings smart contracts to Bitcoin, enabling developers to build DeFi applications while leveraging Bitcoin's robust security model. 

DeFiChain is a decentralized blockchain designed to bring specific and optimized functionality for DeFi applications to the Bitcoin ecosystem. It specializes in specialized DeFi activities such as decentralized lending, asset tokenization, and yield farming, all secured by the underlying strength of the Bitcoin blockchain.

These Layer 2 solutions were the first significant strides in improving Bitcoin’s utility in the DeFi space, bridging the gap between Bitcoin's traditional use cases and the world of smart contracts.

Layer 1 Upgrades

In addition to Layer 2 developments, Bitcoin has undergone significant Layer 1 upgrades, most notably the implementation of Schnorr Signatures and Taproot

Schnorr Signatures improves the scalability and privacy of transactions by allowing multiple signature data points to be combined into one. This reduces transaction size and leads to lower fees. 

Taproot, on the other hand, enhances Bitcoin's smart contract capabilities by enabling more complex conditions while maintaining privacy. These conditions are indistinguishable from regular Bitcoin transactions, adding a layer of privacy previously unavailable. 

These upgrades have led to multiple DeFi innovations on Bitcoin, including Ordinals and BRC-20 tokens, which bring Ethereum-like ERC-20 functionalities to Bitcoin.

Ethereum’s DeFi Dominance

Ethereum's capability to support smart contracts paved the way for the emergence of decentralized finance. 

Without Ethereum, there would be no DeFi. It was the first to market with the technology to facilitate decentralized financial applications. 

All early DeFi innovations occurred on Ethereum, and it continues to dominate the market today. Over 55% of all value locked in DeFi is on Ethereum.

Source: DefiLlama

Ethereum’s scalability solutions and continuous upgrades, such as Ethereum 2.0, are helping cement its status as the leading platform in DeFi. 

Ethereum 2.0

Ethereum's journey into DeFi took a giant leap with the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade. This major overhaul, aimed at addressing scalability and security concerns, marked a significant transition from Proof of Work (PoW) to Proof of Stake (PoS). 

Ethereum 2.0 also introduced shard chains, allowing the network to process multiple transactions simultaneously. 

These upgrades, alongside future advancements in Layer 2, are pivotal in enhancing Ethereum's scalability and efficiency.

Layer-2 solutions on Ethereum, such as Arbitrum and Optimism, witnessed a surge in growth in 2023. 

Such protocols look set to take Ethereum’s performance in DeFi to another level.  By increasing the efficiency of transactions and reducing fees, DeFi apps can start incorporating more real-time user interaction and be applied to more high-volume industries such as supply chain management.

The total value locked (TVL) within Ethereum Layer 2 surpassed $22 billion at the beginning of 2024, a testament to the growing popularity and efficiency of these solutions​​.

Additional future developments on Ethereum include practical applications of DeFi, like the tokenization of real-world assets (RWAs), and advancements in blockchain gaming and the metaverse. 

Bitcoin DeFi vs. Ethereum DeFi

Security and Stability in Bitcoin DeFi

Bitcoin's security model, based on its robust proof-of-work consensus algorithm, offers a high level of protection against attacks. 

The simplicity of Bitcoin's scripting language also makes it less prone to smart contract vulnerabilities, a factor that contributes to its appeal in the DeFi sector. 

Furthermore, enhancements like Schnorr Signatures and Taproot are expected to improve Bitcoin’s scalability, privacy, and smart contract capabilities, broadening its DeFi use cases​​​​.

The Flexibility and Risks in Ethereum DeFi

On the other hand, Ethereum's DeFi landscape is characterized by its flexibility and established ecosystem.

Unlike Bitcoin, Its programming language (Solidity) is Turing complete, enabling developers to tailor smart contracts to various DeFi needs, from simple transactions to complex decentralized organizations.

However, Ethereum’s extensive use of complex smart contracts introduces potential security vulnerabilities. Instead of just a few lines of code, Ethereum smart contracts need comprehensive, multifaceted coding. 

This complexity increases the risk of bugs and exploits. Projects building on Ethereum need to undertake extensive code audits and formal verification to ensure the safety and reliability of their DeFi applications.

Projects building on Ethereum need to undertake extensive code audits and formal verification to ensure the safety and reliability of their DeFi applications​​​​.

Bridging the Gap Between Bitcoin and Ethereum

The interoperability between Bitcoin and Ethereum is a key factor in the evolution of DeFi. By bridging the gap between these two leading blockchains, new possibilities in DeFi are unlocked.

For instance, a cross-chain DEX (Decentralized Exchange) could enable trading between Ethereum and Bitcoin-based assets in a decentralized manner, further integrating the two ecosystems.

Current solutions, like Wrapped Bitcoin, allow BTC to be utilized within the Ethereum ecosystem. 

And EVM-compatible Layer 2 solutions allow Ethereum assets to be used within the Bitcoin ecosystem.

However, such solutions are still limited and generally require an intermediary or custodian when bridging assets.

The Road Ahead

Bitcoin’s Potential for Expansion

Looking forward, Bitcoin's DeFi ecosystem shows promising potential for expansion. With recent developments like Schnorr Signatures and Taproot, Bitcoin is poised to enhance its DeFi capabilities, offering more complex smart contract functionalities and improved scalability.

Ethereum's Continued Evolution

Meanwhile, Ethereum continues to evolve and solidify its dominance in DeFi. The Ethereum 2.0 upgrade aims to address scalability and efficiency, and its reputation as the “big dog” in the DeFi space will ensure Ethereum remains at the forefront of innovation.

Join the Future of DeFi 

While Bitcoin and Ethereum have distinct approaches to DeFi, both are making significant strides in this sector. 

Bitcoin's evolving infrastructure and upcoming enhancements hold the potential to expand its role in DeFi. 

Ethereum, with its robust smart contract capabilities and continuous upgrades, continues to be a powerhouse in the DeFi ecosystem. 

You can get involved in both by investing through the Bitcoin Builders Smart Bundle and Ethereum Scaling Race Smart Bundle on Bake today. 

These bundles are two of many optimized investment bundles now available on Bake. 

DISCLAIMER: Please note that the information on this blog and in any articles posted on this blog is for general information only and should not be relied upon as financial advice. Cake Pte. Ltd., Bake, UAB, and its affiliates (the “Cake Group”) are not licensed financial advisers. You may wish to approach your own independent financial advisor before making any decision to buy, sell or hold any product and/or digital assets mentioned in this blog.

Any views, opinions, references, assertions of fact and/or other statements are not necessarily the views held by the Cake Group. The Cake Group disclaims any liability whatsoever that may arise out of or in connection with such statements. Always do your own research before investing in any financial assets and consult a qualified financial advisor if necessary.


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