What is total value locked (TVL) in crypto and why does it matter?

If you’ve been following the cryptocurrency industry lately, you may have come across the term Total Value Locked or TVL. TVL has become a popular metric for evaluating the success of decentralized finance (DeFi) projects, but what does it mean and why does it matter?

In simple terms, TVL refers to the total amount of cryptocurrency that is currently locked in a particular DeFi protocol. This includes cryptocurrency that is being used for lending, borrowing, trading, staking, and other activities within the protocol.

The concept of TVL was first introduced in the context of the Ethereum blockchain, which has become a hub for many popular DeFi projects. Since then, TVL has become an important metric for evaluating the success of DeFi projects across different blockchain platforms.

So why does TVL matter?

There are several reasons why TVL has become such an important metric in the cryptocurrency industry.

Firstly, TVL is often used as a measure of a project’s popularity and success. The higher the TVL, the more users are participating in the project and using its services. This is often seen as a positive sign for the project’s long-term viability and potential for growth.

Secondly, TVL is an indicator of the health of a DeFi ecosystem. A high TVL suggests that there is a lot of demand for DeFi services, which can lead to increased competition and innovation in the space. On the other hand, a low TVL could suggest that there is a lack of interest in DeFi or that users are migrating to other platforms.

Thirdly, TVL plays a role in determining yield farming rewards and liquidity mining incentives. Many DeFi projects offer rewards to users who provide liquidity to their platforms, and these rewards are often based on the amount of cryptocurrency that is locked in the protocol. This means that TVL can have a direct impact on the potential rewards that users can earn from participating in DeFi projects.

How to analyze TVL data?

When analyzing TVL data, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, consider the source of the data. Several websites and platforms provide TVL data, but not all of them are equally reliable. Look for sources that are reputable and transparent about their methodology.

Next, think about the context of the TVL data. For example, a high TVL for a particular project might be impressive, but it could also be a result of a short-term spike in activity rather than sustained growth. It’s important to look at trends over time to get a better sense of a project’s performance.

Another factor to consider is the composition of the TVL. Some projects might have a high TVL but a small number of users, while others might have a lower TVL but a more diverse and active user base. Look beyond just the raw TVL number to understand how the project is being used and who is using it.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that TVL is just one metric among many that can be used to evaluate crypto projects. It’s useful for understanding the popularity and health of a decentralized finance ecosystem, but it shouldn’t be the only factor considered when making investment decisions.

Limitations and criticisms of TVL

One of the main criticisms of TVL is the potential for manipulation of the data. Projects can artificially inflate their TVL by creating new tokens and depositing them into their protocols. This can create a false sense of popularity and success, leading to misguided investment decisions.

Another limitation of TVL is its failure to account for user activity outside of a specific ecosystem. For example, a user may borrow funds from one DeFi protocol and lend them to another, resulting in double counting of the TVL. This can lead to inaccurate measurements of a project’s true popularity and usage.

Additionally, TVL does not necessarily provide a complete picture of the quality or success of a DeFi protocol. A project with high TVL may have a large number of inactive or low-value accounts, while a project with lower TVL may have a smaller, but more engaged and valuable user base.

Despite these limitations, TVL remains a valuable metric for investors and the broader cryptocurrency community. By understanding the factors that influence TVL and analyzing them in conjunction with other metrics, investors can gain insights into the health and potential of a particular DeFi project.


TVL is a useful metric for investors and traders to track when considering which DeFi platforms to invest in, as it provides valuable insight into the overall health and popularity of a platform. As the DeFi industry continues to grow and mature, TVL is likely to become an even more important metric for assessing the success and potential of DeFi protocols.