What is Total Value Locked (TVL) in DeFi?

What is Total Value Locked (TVL) in DeFi?

The decentralized finance (DeFi) space has exploded in popularity over the last few years. As more and more crypto investors look to earn yields on their digital assets, DeFi protocols have emerged to meet this demand. One important metric used to gauge adoption of DeFi platforms is Total Value Locked (TVL). But what exactly does TVL mean and why does it matter? Let's break it down in simple terms on this article.

What is meant by Total Value Locked (TVL)?

Total Value Locked refers to the overall value of crypto assets deposited in DeFi protocols. In other words, it is the sum of all collateral that is currently being used to interact with DeFi apps and earn rewards.

For example, if you deposit 1 ETH into a lending protocol like Aave to earn interest, that 1 ETH gets added to the TVL count. The more value locked into DeFi apps, the higher the TVL metric climbs.

Some key points about TVL:

  • TVL represents the adoption and growth of the DeFi sector as a whole
  • It measures the dollar value of crypto assets locked in smart contracts
  • TVL applies to all types of DeFi apps like lending, trading, payments, insurance etc.
  • Assets are valued at current market prices to calculate TVL
  • Higher TVL suggests more investor confidence in DeFi

Why does TVL matter for DeFi?

Tracking TVL is important for a few key reasons:

  • It signals overall adoption of DeFi: Higher TVL means more users and capital flowing into decentralized apps
  • Helps gauge investor sentiment: Rising TVL suggests growing confidence in the DeFi space
  • Allows comparison between protocols: TVL shows which platforms are attracting the most value
  • Indicates protocol safety: Projects need sufficient TVL to be secure and resist attacks
  • Impacts governance rights: Some protocols give voting rights based on the amount of tokens staked

In short, TVL is a reflection of the vibrancy and prosperity of the DeFi ecosystem. The metric provides critical insights into the health, growth and maturity of the space.

Which DeFi platforms have the highest TVL?

The total value locked across all DeFi protocols currently sits around $100 billion. Here are some of the top platforms by TVL:

  • MakerDAO: One of the earliest DeFi apps, Maker is a lending protocol that allows users to mint DAI stablecoins. It commands the highest TVL at over $10 billion.
  • Aave: A major decentralized lending/borrowing platform with over $6 billion in TVL. Users can earn interest on deposits and borrow crypto assets.
  • Curve: A popular DEX optimized for stablecoin trading. It has steadily grown to over $5 billion TVL.
  • Uniswap: The largest decentralized trading protocol and AMM. Uniswap's TVL stands around $4 billion.
  • Compound: Similar to Aave, Compound is a lending platform where users can earn yields on deposits. It has over $3 billion TVL.

Several other protocols like Yearn Finance, Balancer, Bancor also have billion-dollar-plus TVLs.

Tracking TVL over time

TVL is a dynamic metric that changes frequently based on market activity and asset prices. Here are some trends that can be observed by analyzing the historical TVL data:

  • Rapid growth: Overall DeFi TVL has seen tremendous growth, from just $500 million in early 2020 to over $100 billion today.
  • Seasonality: TVL tends to spike during bull markets and decline in bear phases along with crypto prices.
  • Protocol dominance: Rankings shuffle periodically as various platforms gain or lose TVL share. Ethereum-based apps dominate for now.
  • Category focus: Lending protocols like Aave tend to have higher TVL than DEXes. Different categories go through cycles of growth.
  • Crypto correlations: TVL is strongly correlated to BTC and ETH prices as they are the main collateral assets in DeFi.

By examining TVL over longer time frames, we can analyze the maturation of the DeFi space and identify trends or growing niches.


In closing, Total Value Locked is one of the most important metrics for gauging the development and direction of the DeFi sector. Although TVL has some flaws, it remains the best proxy for measuring capital inflows and protocol adoption. With DeFi still in its early stages, expect the TVL figure to continue climbing as more crypto investors enter the decentralized financial system.