The term ‘makers,’ or ‘market makers,’ refers to actors who place limit orders (which execute at a set price and often do not fill immediately) on order books. Makers are responsible for creating liquidity in a market, thus preventing extreme price swings resulting from efforts by exchanges to match buy market orders and sell market orders. In return, makers are required to pay lower fees than takers. Takers, in turn, take advantage of the liquidity provided by makers by immediately buying or selling the orders already sitting on order books. In other words, takers ‘take’ orders which have already been ‘made’ by makers. Takers typically pay greater fees than makers as a result.
While this maker/taker system is not universal among cryptocurrency exchanges, most major exchanges such as Coinbase Pro and Binance utilize this model. This structure is common because markets with high frequency trading may suffer from a lack of liquidity unless makers are incentivized to create it. An alternative to the maker/taker system would be the use of OTC (over the counter) brokerages, although these services are typically limited to individuals making very large trades.