Cryptocurrencies have become increasingly popular with investors, traders, and other market participants across the globe. Along with a significant surge in the launch of numerous virtual currencies, the launch of trading venues for these cryptocurrencies is also on the rise.

Similar to the workings of a stock exchange, these cryptocurrency exchanges facilitate the buying and selling of virtual currencies by retail as well as by large investors and traders. (See more: A Look At The Most Popular Bitcoin Exchanges.)

This article discusses Kraken, one of the prominent crypto exchanges.

The Kraken Marketplace

Working on the lines of a stock exchange that facilitates stock trading, San Francisco-based Kraken is a cryptocurrency exchange where market participants can trade the various cryptocurrencies. The participants are allowed to buy or sell the cryptocurrencies using various fiat currencies, that include U.S. dollars, Canadian dollars, euros, and the Japanese yen. A

t the time of writing this article, 17 different virtual currencies were enabled for trading on the Kraken exchange. They include the popular ones, like Ethereum (ETH) and bitcoin (XBT), and others that have gained traction in recent times, like EOS (EOS) and Monero (XMR). (See more: What Is Monero (XMR) Cryptocurrency?)

Kraken was established in the year 2011, and it formally launched the trading operations in 2013. It is owned by Payward Inc. and is headed by CEO and co-founder Jesse Powell. It provides the easy movement of money to and from the linked bank accounts of the participant, and the movement of cryptocoins to and from the participant's digital wallets from Kraken-linked trading accounts.

How Did Kraken Become Popular?

Over the years since its launch, a lot of factors have contributed to Kraken as a trading destination of choice for a variety of cryptocurrency market participants.

As cryto-mania started gripping the world around 2014, Kraken, along with Coinbase exchange, was selected to provide the market data of bitcoin trading to the Bloomberg terminal. Getting associated with the leading market data provider helped Kraken gain popularity among the trader community. Bloomberg clients were then able to access virtual currency prices, charts, news, and social media posts through appropriate Bloomberg services and terminals.

Shortly afterward, Kraken partnered with the global leader in chart-service provider, TradingView. It continued to add more cryptocurrencies, like lumen, to its trading platform and enabled funding and trading in various fiat currencies like the USD, GBP, and JPY.

After having a smooth initial phase post-launch, Kraken made headlines in late 2014, when it was selected “to support an investigation into the missing bitcoins, as well as the distribution of remaining assets to Mt. Gox's creditors.”

Mt. Gox, which once claimed to be the largest bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy in early 2014. It was struggling with a huge debt pile, and 850,000 lost bitcoins.

Up to that point, Kraken was not among the largest exchanges, and was primarily serving European customers through a partnership with Germany-based Fidor Bank, and had just started in Japan.

The selection of Kraken was based on its cautious approach and adherence to regulatory compliance. All Mt. Gox creditors who wanted to get back their lost bitcoins were required to open Kraken accounts, and the bulk of them continued to use its services. Kraken then quickly rose in popularity amid surging trading volume on its platform.

In February 2016, Kraken announced it was making significant progress in its Mt. Gox investigations and had approved numerous claims from thousands of creditors of Mt. Gox. (See more: Where's the Missing Mt. Gox Bitcoin, Now Worth $2 Billion?)

Growth during early 2015 was boosted by the launch of several new features that made cryptocurrency trading popular among the masses as well as among the professional traders community. It included launching the margin trading facility, and the dark pool services. Dark pools clients are eligible for potentially better prices, as they are allowed to discreetly place large orders that get executed against similar-sized orders offering them price advantage.

What Makes Kraken Stand Out?

Kraken offers a feature-rich trading platform for individual cryptocurrency enthusiasts as well as large trading firms. It has a variety of account types that cover the needs of all kinds of traders and investors.

With its advanced order system and trading tools – which include a variety of stop loss and profit-taking order types, leverage and margin-based trading, automated strategy trading, and a big pool of cryptocurrencies to trade in – Kraken ranks among the leaders in cryptocurrency exchanges.

Issues with Kraken

Along the way, Kraken has also hit a few roadblocks in recent times. In May 2017, Kraken, along with the bitcoin exchange Poloniex, was hit with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, leading to huge losses for market participants. (See also: What Is Poloniex?)

The incident led to a class action lawsuit being filed against Kraken, where plaintiffs are seeking over $5 million which they claim they lost as a result of Kraken’s mishandling of the DDoS attack.

This was a major blow to Kraken's image, which had boasted that it was the safest cryptocurrency trading platform, and claimed to be the trust winner by Mt. Gox trustees. 

As cryto-mania sweeps the globe, a large number of new participants have jumped on the bandwagon. Regular occurrences of performance issues at cryptocurrency exchanges have marred the increasing liquidity and trading activities in the bitcoin market. The spike tested and literally broke the Kraken platform - as a few days “produced 50,000 new account registrations and 10,000 new support tickets” – something that led to questions about Kraken's stability and scalability.

The Bottom Line

Despite recent challenges, Kraken remains among the most popular virtual currency trading platforms. While it is not uncommon to see even established stock exchanges get hit by temporary snags, the decentralized and anonymous nature of cryptocurrencies makes trading them very challenging.

Although cryptocurrencies largely remain outside of the purview of government regulation, trading exchanges and marketplaces will need to balance regulations imposed by real-world regulators and the unknown, uncontrolled valuation mechanism of the various digital currencies. (For more, see SEC Chair Testified About Cryptocurrency Regulation Before Congress.)

Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.