Counterparty is a decentralized asset exchange for trading digital currencies such as Bitcoin, and 'smart properties' such as virtual shares, as well as gambling and speculative financial instruments, through a free and open source peer to peer marketplace.

Like other decentralized exchanges the Counterparty system does not require users to trust a central authority for holding funds, issuing assets or executing exchanges, and in fact no middleman of any kind is needed other than the free and open source software itself, the development of which is community driven. This software, which enables direct peer to peer financial transactions, is designed to eliminate 'counterparty risk' – the risk that the other person involved in a contract will not fulfil their obligations which is also known as default risk – by automating the fulfilment of obligations.

In order to do this the Counterparty system has a built in escrow system which holds each party's funds until the whole transaction can be completed. Records of who owns how much of each asset traded using this system are stored on the Bitcoin block chain. With this decentralized record of ownership there is no single server which can be hacked, and no company accounts which can be frozen or used to seize funds.

Unlike some of the competing decentralized asset exchanges such as Ripple or NXT, Counterparty is built on top of the Bitcoin protocol, rather than being an entirely new and independent system built from the ground up. In this way Counterparty is somewhat similar to projects like Mastercoin, which also seeks to store and trade a range of assets on the Bitcoin block chain. In line with this, the system bills itself as an extension and expansion of the functionality of Bitcoin rather than a new system. According to the official website:

“The primary goal of Counterparty is to enable entrepreneurs, developers, artists and more to build a new, productive economy: doing things that have never been done before, made possible by the amazing technology behind Bitcoin.”

The Native currency which the Counterparty system runs on is denoted by the currency code XCP. In January 2014 2.6 million units of this coin were created using 'proof of burn' – meaning that Bitcoins were 'burned' in order to create XCP.

Counterparty Wallets

Because Counterparty assets are stored on the Bitcoin block chain, they can be stored and sent on to others using any compatible Bitcoin wallet, as well as using dedicated Counterparty wallets. Two of the most popular Bitcoin wallets that can be used to store these assets are and

But if you want to use the full feature set, including trading, escrow and even issuing your own assets, you will need to get yourself a Counterparty wallet. There are three main wallet options available at the moment, a lightweight web wallet, a command line client, and a feature complete desktop GUI.


The easiest place for most beginners to start using the Counterparty distributed asset exchange is with the online wallet software called Counterwallet – especially if you are not an especially technical person. This is a fairly lightweight client which is easy to use without even requiring any kind of software download, and yet still offers all of the features that a beginner is likely to want to use.

When you create a new wallet using Counterwallet you will be given a 12 word pass phrase which you can use to log in from any device. Ideally you should memorize these twelve words rather than writing them down in order to improve security.

Three addresses will be automatically created for you when you open a new Couterwallet, which you can use to send and receive both Bitcoin and XCP payments.

At the top right of your screen a you will find a small menu including an options button which lets you change the theme – which control the look and feel of your wallet's design – as well as to toggle 'auto BTC payments' on or off. Auto BTC payments are set to on by default, which means that when a contract or bet matures you will automatically pay anything you owe to the other party from your wallet balance.

Along the left hand side of your screen you will see the main navigation menu, which you can use to view prices and place orders on the asset exchange, place bets from the betting screen, and view your history and open orders or bets. The exchange screen will show you the top pairs in terms of current trading volume, but you really need to know which asset you want to purchase or who you want to place a bet with before getting to your wallet to make an order – you can then simply enter the asset address or bet code and place your order.


This is the original command line reference client, which provides full access to all of the software's features. This is not recommended for beginners, and you should probably have some experience of using the command line before attempting to use this. Both source code and binaries are available to download.


For those people who prefer to have full control of their wallet stored on their own computer, but also want the convenience of a user-friendly graphical interface, the BootleXCP wallet provides a feature complete desktop GUI. Like CounterpartyD, both the source code and pre-compiled binaries are available for download.

All three wallets are available from the Counterparty website.

Assets and Instruments

If you are looking for assets to purchase through the distributed exchange there are two main places where you can go to find them. The first is the Counterparty website itself, where you will find a small selection of recommended projects. There is only a small number, but they cover a reasonable range of different things from independent artists to crowd-funding websites to mining co-operatives.

You can also find information about new initiatives on the Counterparty forum, where the community vets and appraises various different projects themselves.

If you are looking to place a bet on sports matches using Counterparty you may also want to take a look at where you will find a range of betting feeds.

Additional Information and Resources

QR Code
QR Code counterparty (generated for current page)