DEX, short for Decentralized Exchange, marks a significant innovation in cryptocurrency trading. Unlike traditional centralised exchanges (CEX), DEXs operate without an intermediary or controlling company, relying entirely on smart contracts and algorithms to manage transactions and exchanges.

The defining feature of DEXs is their decentralised nature. They allow users to conduct trades directly with one another (peer-to-peer), using blockchain technology to ensure transparency, security, and immutability. This approach eliminates the need for a central entity overseeing and facilitating transactions, reducing the risk of fraud and cyber-attacks.

However, using a DEX often requires more excellent technical expertise than a CEX. Users must have a thorough understanding of cryptocurrencies and blockchain operations. 

Another essential characteristic of DEXs is their ability to offer more privacy. Since they do not require personal identification or KYC (Know Your Customer) verification, users can maintain anonymity in their transactions. Additionally, DEXs allow users to retain complete control of their private keys, enhancing the security of their assets.

Despite the advantages, DEXs can present challenges, including limited liquidity compared to CEXs and the possibility of slippage (price variation during order execution) in the case of large orders. Nevertheless, the growing innovation and adoption of DEXs are gradually overcoming these challenges, making them a crucial component of the DeFi ecosystem and offering an increasingly viable alternative to traditional exchanges.

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