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What is wBTC? (Wrapped Bitcoin)


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Imagine your Bitcoin not just as a store of value, but as a dynamic participant in the bustling world of decentralized finance (DeFi). With wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC), your beloved digital asset spans two giants—Bitcoin and Ethereum—to empower cryptocurrency enthusiasts like you. Introduced in 2019, wBTC is an ERC-20 token that ties the liquidity of Bitcoin to the versatility of Ethereum, offering unparalleled opportunities within DeFi1. Whether you're looking to leverage existing capital or dive into emerging financial technologies, wBTC is your ticket to engaging in a secure and robust Ethereum-based DeFi ecosystem while remaining firmly anchored to the value of Bitcoin2. As a digital currency holder, are you ready to explore how wBTC bridges these leading blockchain platforms and what it means for your investment future?

Key takeaways

  • wBTC melds the liquidity of Bitcoin with the functionality of the Ethereum blockchain, enriching the DeFi experience1.
  • Through the wBTC standard, each token retains a one-to-one peg to the value of Bitcoin, assuring value equivalence2.
  • The agility of wBTC transactions compared to traditional Bitcoin transactions showcases the efficiency of Ethereum's blockchain2.
  • wBTC plants Bitcoin firmly within DeFi, enabling participation in activities like lending, borrowing, and yield farming1.
  • Decentralized autonomy defines wBTC's governance, with a DAO comprising diverse DeFi stakeholders steering the token's future2.
  • Accessible decentralized exchanges (DEXs) augment the trading landscape, bringing wBTC to the forefront of cross-chain trading solutions3.
  • With a low entry threshold, wBTC offers regular investors the opportunity to interact with the DeFi market3.

The genesis of wBTC and its impact on DeFi

Established in late 2019, wBTC evolved as an innovative digital asset on the Ethereum blockchain, serving as a conduit between the robust simplicity of Bitcoin and the versatile complexity of Ethereum-based decentralized applications (dApps)4. Through the collaboration of BitGo, Kyber Network, and Ren, wBTC became a pivotal force in the DeFi landscape5.

Understanding the concept of wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC)

Imagine Bitcoin wearing a cloak that allows it to enter the realm of Ethereum's vast ecosystem. This is wBTC, which is essentially Bitcoin wrapped as an ERC-20 token standard. This transformation bridges the gap between two leading blockchain networks and enables Bitcoin holders to participate in Ethereum's thriving DeFi scene, utilizing Bitcoin as collateral and enhancing overall market liquidity4.

With the introduction of wBTC, more than half of its supply found a home in Compound, a major DeFi protocol, where it contributes to the protocol's liquidity by earning an average of 5.6% APR—a considerably more attractive rate than what's offered by traditional savings accounts5. Liquidity providers in the SushiSwap WBTC/ETH pool have even seen returns up to an expected 20% annually, evidencing the potent impact of wBTC on the DeFi sector's growth and viability5.

The allure of wBTC lies not only in its ability to merge the liquidity of Bitcoin with the ERC-20 token standard's flexibility but also in its robust security and regulatory compliance. BitGo, a leading name in digital asset custody, safeguards the physical Bitcoin that backs the billions of wBTC tokens4. Moreover, the wBTC ecosystem is regulated through a unique governance framework, operating through two multisigs known as 'Small DAO' and 'Large DAO', ensuring decentralized and secure oversight4. This extraordinary collaboration among industry giants like MakerDAO, Kyber, Aave, and Crypto.com showcases a commitment to secure, scalable, and interoperable DeFi solutions4.

Decentralized finance (DeFi) explained

In the landscape of modern finance, DeFi—or decentralized finance—emerges as a transformative force, leveraging the power of blockchain technology to recalibrate the way you engage with financial services. Gone are the days when transacting, borrowing, and investing required a traditional intermediary; DeFi operates on the sturdy shoulders of the Ethereum network, home to over 470 dApps, which account for 31% of the more than 1400 active dApps across all platforms6. As you immerse yourself into this vibrant ecosystem, you'll find that DeFi is not just about creating alternatives, but about reshaping the very nature of digital assets management and investment7.

This burgeoning sector dedicates itself to outstripping traditional financial constraints by exploiting smart contracts—the heartbeats of decentralized applications—which enforce and execute agreements on the blockchain with an unprecedented level of transparency and efficiency. Imagine a world where your investments, alongside a cumulative gross value that ranged from $78 billion to over $224 billion as of April 1, 2022, flourish without the boundaries of centralized systems6. Such is the promise of DeFi, a world where cryptocurrencies are not merely speculative instruments but cornerstones of a wide-ranging financial revolution.

Nevertheless, with great innovation comes responsibility. The high stakes of DeFi are underscored by the market volatility that saw a considerable decline in the value of DeFi products and services following the infelicities at Terra and Celsius6. As an aficionado of this digital paradigm, you must navigate through its complexities with acumen, aware of the risks of this highly speculative space7. Rest assured, as long as investor exposure to DeFi remains small, the systemic risks are considered minimal, sparing the world's financial stability from any significant tremors7.

DeFi's architecture is revolutionarily built on permissionless and decentralized constructs, intending to replicate and overhaul traditional financial services, placing you, the user, at the center of its universe. Its commitment to removing financial gatekeepers translates to a democratized platform where every action, from trading on decentralized exchanges to participating in investment schemes, resonates with the ethos of autonomy and empowerment7.

Understanding ERC-20: The Standard Behind wBTC

In this exploration, the ERC-20 token standard emerges as a critical element, being the technical specification for tokens within the Ethereum blockchain8. But what exactly makes ERC-20 so integral to wBTC?

The Ethereum network, distinguished by its decentralized, public blockchain capabilities, supports an expansive suite of smart contracts and decentralized applications8. It is the ERC-20 token standard that facilitates the seamless integration of wBTC among these applications. This uniform standard sets forth a common list of rules that all ERC-20 tokens, including wBTC, must follow, ensuring interoperability across the diverse Ethereum ecosystem. By adhering to this fungible token standard, wBTC gains functional compatibility, enabling you to transact, swap, and engage across a myriad of DeFi platforms without friction.

Benefits of adopting ERC-20 for wrapped Bitcoin

Adopting ERC-20 catapults wBTC into the realm of Ethereum's revolutionary smart contract infrastructure8. This critical move enhances wBTC's utility by furnishing it with Ethereum's innate features such as improved transaction speeds and heightened security mechanisms. For you, as a participant in the cryptoeconomy, this means engaging with wBTC yields the augmented functionality that a standard digital asset or cryptocurrency might not offer. The adoption of ERC-20 standards by wBTC represents a nod to the token's usability, underscoring its appeal to users and DeFi applications seeking to employ Bitcoin's liquidity within Ethereum's adaptable and ever-growing blockchain framework.

In summation, as wBTC continues to establish itself as an essential cryptocurrency, it's the amalgamation with ERC-20 that empowers users to navigate the intersection of blockchain technologies with efficacy and assurance. The token standard's role is undeniably significant, weaving together the fabric of cryptocurrencies into a cohesive digital asset ready for the expansive and evolving demands of the modern financial landscape.

How to acquire and use wBTC

Are you interested in leveraging the liquidity of Bitcoin within the expansive Ethereum-based decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms? Wrapped Bitcoin, or wBTC, acts as a bridge between these two leading cryptocurrencies, allowing Bitcoin holders to engage with DeFi applications. Launched as the first ERC-20 token backed by Bitcoin, wBTC ensures that each token is pegged 1:1 to Bitcoin, which means when you acquire wBTC, you're holding the equivalent value of Bitcoin wrapped on the Ethereum blockchain9.

Acquiring wBTC isn't a complicated process, but it does require you to go through a few steps to ensure security and compliance. Initially, you'll exchange your Bitcoin with a merchant who will then coordinate with a trusted custodian, currently BitGo, to mint wBTC tokens. This process ensures an accurate 1:1 peg between wBTC and BTC9. As of December 2020, the growing wBTC ecosystem has over 40 participants, including DAO members, wallets, merchants, and exchanges, setting a strong community foundation for wBTC transactions and enhancing trust and versatility10.

Once you have wBTC in your wallet, you can use it across various DeFi platforms which as of December 2020 include MakerDAO, Compound, Kyber Network, AAVE, Uniswap, and Balancer. These platforms allow you to use wBTC as collateral to borrow other digital assets, creating more financial opportunities10. Moreover, lending your wBTC in a pool on platforms like Compound can yield interest rates just below 3%, a number that outperforms many traditional banking offers10. Some protocols even incentivize this action by distributing governance tokens, for instance, Compound's COMP, for lending and borrowing, thus increasing potential profits10.

For those involved in more speculative pursuits, knowing that you can margin trade ETH, stablecoins, and various ERC-20 tokens using platforms like Fulcrum on the bZx protocol opens additional avenues to leverage your wBTC holdings10. Furthermore, with the emergence of decentralized exchanges (DEXs), you have the autonomy to trade your wBTC on platforms like Uniswap, without the need for a centralized cryptocurrency exchange to oversee the transactions. With DEXs, you're fully in control of your trades, providing a seamless and secure experience within the Ethereum ecosystem.

If you ever decide to revert back to Bitcoin, the process includes a 'burn' transaction where your wBTC is taken out of circulation, and Bitcoin is released back to you, ensuring the integrity of the 1:1 peg remains intact. This capability demonstrates the flexibility and fluidity between the two assets, with wBTC serving as a valuable instrument in the DeFi space and preserving its essential link to Bitcoin's market value9.

The technological advancements that made wBTC possible

What underlies this transformative development is an intricate interplay of two critical technological advancements: token wrapping and smart contracts. Together, they have redefined how digital assets can be used and exchanged.

Token wrapping extends the utility of your Bitcoin holdings, enabling them to be leveraged across multiple chains, which, in the case of wBTC, includes the Ethereum network. Initially presented in a whitepaper in January 2019 and supported by eight dedicated merchants, wBTC created a mechanism for Bitcoin-to-wBTC conversions, retaining the original's value while imbuing it with Ethereum's expansive application use cases11. By August 2020, this innovation manifested as a surge in wBTC’s market capitalization, surpassing $230 million, a testament to its growing acceptance in the DeFi landscape11.

The role of smart contracts in creating wrapped tokens

Owning wBTC means engaging with smart contracts, the cornerstone enabling the creation and management of wrapped tokens. These secure, self-executing contracts with the terms directly written into code administer the minting process, as exemplified by CoinList’s record-setting mint of nearly 5,000 wBTC in a single day, valued then at $57.1 million11

Amidst evolving technology, the WBTC DAO decision to streamline its multisignature contract structure—from requiring consensus from 11 out of 18 signers to 8 out of 13—heralds enhanced security and efficiency in wBTC transaction processing11. As you delve into cryptocurrency and DeFi, it's the robust architecture of smart contracts that underpins your wBTC transactions, assuring fidelity and fostering a trustless ecosystem of digital asset exchange.

Trading and investment opportunities with wBTC

The introduction of Wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC) on the Ethereum network has marked a significant milestone in the synergy between Bitcoin and DeFi protocols. This digital asset rapidly gained traction, as evidenced by the staggering $800 million worth of bitcoin that was converted into wBTC within 18 months of its initiation10. Bridging two powerful blockchain technologies, wBTC operates as an ERC-20 token, offering you broader trading and investment avenues while maintaining the principal value pegged to Bitcoin.

The wBTC ecosystem flourished with extensive participation – over 40 entities that included DAO members, wallets, merchants, and diverse exchanges10. Being wrapped on Ethereum since January 202012, wBTC brings a plunge of liquidity into the DeFi markets. Imagine the transformative flow if merely 5% of the entire Bitcoin market cap transitioned into DeFi12. As an investor, you can engage in yield farming or provide liquidity, leveraging an interest rate for lending wBTC just below 3% in protocols like Compound10.

More than enhancing liquidity, your wBTC holdings can serve as collateral across several reputable decentralized platforms. Established protocols like MakerDAO, Compound, AAVE, and others allow wBTC as a collateralized digital asset, representing the trust and value this wrapped form of Bitcoin has garnered10. Furthermore, the flexibility to earn additional interest on BTC holdings has been amplified through wBTC's adaptability in yield-generating DeFi protocols12.

The appeal of wBTC also extends into practical yields, such as staking on Synthetix. This not only meshes the benefits of the ERC-20 framework but also the proprietary rewards of participating networks as you dive into liquidating tokens for SNX or REN, therein expanding your cryptocurrency portfolio versatility12. With wBTC, you are at the threshold of an investment paradigm where blockchain fluidity and digital finance converge to sculpt a more inclusive and diversified trading landscape.

The future of wrapped assets in cryptocurrency

The trajectory of wrapped assets, particularly wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC), suggests a ripple effect of market growth and innovation. These digital assets, which have become cornerstone components in the realm of blockchain technology, are set for a trajectory that touches upon diverse market structures and cross-chain functionalities. With wrapped Bitcoin operating as a tokenized version of BTC on the Ethereum blockchain, it embodies a bridge across financial ecosystems that formerly operated in parallel siloes13.

The concept of tokenization, which secures the rights to an asset in a digital token on a blockchain, has steadily emerged as a potent catalyst for growth in the digital asset market13. Noteworthy is wBTC's substantial representation, as over 80% of wrapped bitcoins are embodied by this singular currency, illustrating its dominance and the trust it has garnered among users14

Given the less than 2% usage of Bitcoin's total circulation as wrapped tokens, one can gauge the vast untapped potential that lies ahead as the markets for decentralized finance (DeFi) and cryptocurrency continue to expand14. This hints at a future where liquid markets and efficient, borderless trading are not just aspirations but norms attained through blockchain technology.


As the innovative bridge that fuses Bitcoin's robustness with Ethereum's extensive DeFi ecosystem, wBTC marks a significant stride in digital asset flexibility and interoperability. This ERC-20 token, mirroring Bitcoin at a 1:1 ratio, not only simplifies your entry into decentralized finance but also enhances the efficiency of transactions through the Ethereum network's rapid block confirmations16. With its launch in 2019, wBTC quickly positioned itself as a pivotal cryptocurrency, underlined by a meteoric rise in market capitalization, and it now stands among the top ten digital assets17. The seamless option for holders to revert to Bitcoin adds a layer of convenience and security that strengthens investor confidence and solidifies wBTC's role within the blockchain landscape16.

The surging adoption of wrapped Bitcoin echoes a broader market trend, where investments in DeFi and blockchain technology are gaining traction as reliable and innovative financial solutions. The impressive performance of wBTC, highlighted by a vast increase in price from $29,973 to $64,796 within the first quarter of a year, showcases the vigorous appetite investors have for such advanced digital assets17. WBTC not merely exists as a token but also as a catalyst, driving forward the growth and expansion of decentralized finance by enabling Bitcoin liquidity to permeate the DeFi space16.

Your outlook on the future of crypto investments should consider the integration of technology that fosters transparency and security, attributes that the wBTC project diligently upholds through its token model and custodianship solutions16. This exploration of the synergy between blockchain and cryptocurrency, through the utilization of wBTC, delineates a transformative landscape that promises to enrich the opportunities available to you in the realm of digital assets, investments, and decentralized applications.


What is wBTC (Wrapped Bitcoin)?

Wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC) is a digital asset that represents Bitcoin (BTC) on the Ethereum blockchain. It operates as an ERC-20 token, with each wBTC equal in value to one BTC, allowing Bitcoin holders to engage with Ethereum's decentralized apps (dApps) and DeFi (Decentralized Finance) applications.

How was wBTC created and what impact has it had on DeFi?

wBTC was launched in January 2019 to bring Bitcoin's value into Ethereum’s DeFi ecosystem. The launch has allowed Bitcoin holders to use their BTC as collateral within the DeFi platforms, significantly increasing Bitcoin’s utility and presence in decentralized finance.

What is the connection between wBTC and Ethereum?

wBTC serves as a bridge between the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains. It enables Bitcoin's liquidity and value to be transferred to the Ethereum ecosystem, where it can be used in smart contracts and various DeFi applications as an ERC-20 token.

Can you explain Decentralized Finance (DeFi)?

Decentralized Finance (DeFi) refers to a variety of financial services that are built on blockchain technology, aiming to eliminate the need for financial intermediaries. DeFi uses smart contracts on blockchains, like Ethereum, to provide services such as lending, borrowing, and trading in a transparent and accessible manner.

Why is the ERC-20 standard important for wBTC?

The ERC-20 standard is crucial for wBTC because it ensures that wrapped Bitcoin can seamlessly interact with other tokens and applications within the Ethereum blockchain. This compatibility allows wBTC users to take full advantage of Ethereum's decentralized applications and DeFi services.

How does one acquire and use wBTC?

You can acquire wBTC by exchanging Bitcoin for an equivalent amount of wBTC through approved merchants. Once you obtain wBTC, you can use it on decentralized exchanges (DEXs) like Uniswap, or within various DeFi protocols for lending, borrowing, and trading.

What technological advancements have enabled the existence of wBTC?

Technological advancements in blockchain interoperability and token wrapping have facilitated the existence of wBTC. With the use of smart contracts, wBTC can be securely minted and burned, ensuring a consistent one-to-one peg with Bitcoin's value.

What opportunities does wBTC provide for trading and investment?

wBTC opens up multiple opportunities in the DeFi ecosystem for trading and investment that were not previously available to Bitcoin holders. It allows for liquidity provision, yield farming, and use as collateral, giving investors potential returns tied to Bitcoin's market dynamics plus the benefits of DeFi applications.

What is the future outlook for wrapped assets like wBTC in the cryptocurrency market?

The future for wrapped assets like wBTC is quite promising, with the potential for significant market growth and expansion into additional blockchains beyond Ethereum. This versatility could diversify how assets are used within the cryptocurrency ecosystem and propel the evolution of decentralized finance.

Source Links

  1. https://decrypt.co/resources/what-is-wbtc-explained-bitcoin-ethereum-defi
  2. https://www.gemini.com/cryptopedia/wbtc-what-is-wrapped-bitcoin
  3. https://www.bitcoin.com/get-started/what-is-wbtc/
  4. https://blec.report/wrapped-bitcoin-wbtc/
  5. https://cryptowallet.com/academy/wrapped-bitcoin-use-case/
  6. https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2022057pap.pdf
  7. https://www.esma.europa.eu/sites/default/files/2023-10/ESMA50-2085271018-3349_TRV_Article_Decentralised_Finance_in_the_EU_Developments_and_Risks.pdf
  8. https://www.galaxy.com/industry-foundations/
  9. https://www.inx.co/learn/beginners/a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-wrapped-btc-wbtc/
  10. https://www.gemini.com/cryptopedia/wrapped-bitcoin-what-can-you-do
  11. https://iq.wiki/wiki/wrapped-bitcoin-wbtc
  12. https://www.bitcoinmarketjournal.com/what-is-wrapped-bitcoin/
  13. https://www.nervos.org/knowledge-base/what_are_ wrapped_tokens_(explainCKBot)
  14. https://www.arxiv.org/pdf/2109.06847
  15. https://www.coindesk.com/tech/2020/09/22/supply-of-tokenized-bitcoin-on-ethereum-now-tops-11b-heres-why/
  16. https://facts.net/science/technology/14-astounding-facts-about-wrapped-bitcoin-wbtc/
  17. https://hackernoon.com/coins/WBTC

The blog section of this website contains articles and insights about various themes and topics around cryptocurrencies and investing generated with the assistance of artificial intelligence. The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only unless explicitly stated otherwise. While Kvarn Group believes the information to be accurate as of the date of each post's publication, we do not guarantee its correctness and disclaim any liability for errors or omissions in the blog's content. None of the material in the blog is to be interpreted as an offer or recommendation to buy or sell any investment, nor as advice on other investment activities. Readers should make investment decisions based on their own research and assessment of the risks involved and, if necessary, after consulting professional advisors. Kvarn Group accepts no responsibility for any financial losses or other damages that may result from actions taken based on the information provided in this blog.


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