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What are Ripple and XRP?
Launched in 2012, XRP is now one of the largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalisation and aims to offer fast, affordable and reliable cross-border payments. Both XRP and the associated XRP Ledger are used by US technology company Ripple. Ripple develops a range of solutions focused on transforming the global payment industry.
XRP is the native cryptocurrency of the XRP blockchain, more formally known as the XRP Ledger (XRPL). XRP and the XRP Ledger are utilized by a company called Ripple. Although Ripple and XRP are strongly interlinked, the two claim to be independent of one another.
Ripple utilizes the XRP blockchain to facilitate cross-border payments. The company is looking to rival the likes of Visa and Western Union by overhauling international payments using blockchain technology. This guide will explain how XRP works, how Ripple uses XRP and show you how to buy, trade and store XRP coins.
Ripple is based in San Francisco and now works with more than 500 employees. The company's main aim is to create a global settlement network that offers more efficient transactions in comparison to traditional solutions.
Ripple products are designed to allow users – primarily financial institutions – to transfer money from any currency to any other currency in a matter of seconds, anywhere in the world. This is an ambitious goal meant to eliminate the need for older systems like SWIFT.
Before going any further, we should point out that the term "Ripple" is often used incorrectly. The term is often used to refer to Ripple, the company; to XRP, the cryptocurrency; and to RippleNet, the network of payment providers. Here are the correct definitions:
- XRP. XRP is the native coin of the XRP Ledger, an open-source blockchain that runs on a network of peer-to-peer servers. If 2 fiat currencies, for example, USD and EUR need to be exchanged, XRP acts as a bridge between the 2 currencies. It also serves as a source of liquidity when necessary. You can learn more about how to buy XRP here.
- Ripple. This is the American technology company that has developed multiple payment solutions. RippleNet, XRP Ledger, XRP and RippleX all sit beneath Ripple. Originally known as OpenCoin, it later traded as Ripple Labs before rebranding to Ripple in 2015.
- RippleNet. This is Ripple's network of payment providers around the world. A few of Ripple's previous solutions, xRapid, xCurrent and xVia, were combined in 2019 to form RippleNet. The network connects the payment systems of banks, payment providers, digital asset exchanges and corporate entities. It can work with both fiat and cryptocurrencies.
Ripple (XRP) price chart
XRP at a glance
Learn more about Ripple and XRP
|Consensus algorithm||Proof of Correctness|
|Notable team members||Brad Garlinghouse, David Schwartz, Stefan Thomas|
|Notable partnerships||Accenture, American Express, Deloitte, Royal Bank of Canada, MoneyGram, National Australia Bank, Western Union, Westpac|
On 22/12/2020 the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) filed a lawsuit against Ripple and two of its executives.
According to the SEC press release
"The complaint alleges that Ripple raised funds, beginning in 2013, through the sale of digital assets known as XRP in an unregistered securities offering to investors in the U.S. and worldwide."
Ripple filed a 93-page response to the lawsuit on 01/29/2021, stating that "XRP performs a number of functions that are distinct from the functions of "securities" as the law has understood that term for decades. For example, XRP functions as a medium of exchange — a virtual currency used today in international and domestic transactions — moving value between jurisdictions and facilitating transactions."
What does Ripple do?
Current methods of sending money internationally are outdated and slow. This is best summed up in this excerpt from Ripple's cost model paper:
"Today's global payments infrastructure moves money from one payment system to another through a series of internal book transfers. Because book transfers occur across different systems with a low level of coordination, fund settlement is slow (often 3-5 days, trapping liquidity), error-prone (error rates run upwards of 12.7%), and costly ($1.6 trillion in system-wide costs for global cross-border transactions)."
Despite the fact that the global remittances industry is huge, there's currently no streamlined and well-organized international network to handle cross-border payments. This is the problem Ripple aims to solve.
However, rather than going toe-to-toe in competition with the banking Goliaths that currently control this sector, Ripple's plan is to partner with major financials around the world to offer a blockchain-based solution.
By joining Ripple's global network, Ripple says that financial institutions can process their customers' payments anywhere in the world instantly, reliably and cost-effectively.
How does XRP work?
The XRP coin works in conjunction with the XRP Ledger, which is a type of blockchain. It is similar to Bitcoin or Ethereum. XRP and the XRP Ledger form the backbone of the Ripple ecosystem.
However, unlike Bitcoin, which uses proof of work, and the upcoming Ethereum 2.0, which uses proof of stake, the XRP Ledger uses a different technique to verify transactions. To secure and validate transactions, a protocol called the XRP Ledger Consensus is used.
The XRP Ledger runs thanks to a network of participants (or validators). These validators need to agree (form a consensus) to approve all transactions. However, unlike other blockchains, these validators are not rewarded. They are not rewarded so that their performance isn't distorted. Instead, the XRP Ledger relies on the fact that if a company needs to use the blockchain, it is in the interest of that company to participate in the consensus mechanism and participate honestly.
Each new "ledger" (or block) in the chain must be agreed upon by 80% of validators. This system means that a new ledger is created every 3-5 seconds. This translates to 1,500 transactions per second (tps). Bitcoin processes approximately 4.6 tps.
The XRP coin is required for every transaction that takes place on the XRP Ledger. After each transaction, XRP is destroyed.
XRP supply and tokenomics
The maximum supply of XRP is capped at 100 billion. All coins were created when XRP first launched. As of September 2021, the circulating supply is approximately 46.5 billion.
Upon creation of XRP, Ripple placed a set amount of coins into escrow accounts to be released at set intervals. This was completed so that market supply could be predictable. Ripple began with 55% of the total supply. Although Ripple began with 55 billion XRP, 1 billion new XRP are now released per month.
Of the 1 billion XRP released each month, any unused amounts are put back into escrow and are re-released in the first month that there are no new XRP releases. Essentially, the unused amounts are sent to the back of the queue.
XRP is also deflationary in nature. While the total XRP supply started off at 100 billion, at the time of writing the supply is now down to 99.99 billion.
Every transaction that takes place on the XRP Ledger incurs a small fee (to prevent spam attacks). This is destroyed during the transaction.
The minimum fee for each XRP transaction is 0.00001 XRP (also known as 10 drops, or a fraction of a cent). Certain movements, such as multi-signature transactions or escrow transactions, will incur higher fees.
The fees and, therefore, the burn rate can be modified by consensus at any time. Although deflationary by design, in reality, the circulating supply of XRP will continue to increase as Ripple releases XRP from its escrow accounts.
What to watch out for
The biggest obstacle to Ripple's quest for optimizing global payments is adoption. RippleNet, the XRP Ledger and XRP need to be adopted by the banks and financial institutions that facilitate transactions worldwide. If more banks join the network, this should encourage demand for XRP and also entice other banks to join the platform.
However, Ripple is not the only organisation looking to innovate the global payment system and capture market share. Ripple faces stiff competition from other cryptocurrency competitors, such as Stellar, and in-house blockchain creations being trialed by financial institutions, such as SWIFT.
SWIFT currently connects more than 11,000 of the world's financial institutions through its own network and has been working on its own trials of blockchain technology. Credit card giant Visa is also exploring its own blockchain-based cross-border payment options.
Alongside competition, there is also a constant shadow over how XRP is used within the Ripple ecosystem. Usage and network effects might drive price actions to a large extent, but this may not translate into higher prices as directly as expected. Trillions of dollars are crossing borders each year, but it's still not clear how much market cap XRP needs to adequately service the industry.
Activity within the Ripple ecosystem was most recently highlighted by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC). A formal complaint was made that XRP was sold to investors in the US as part of an unregistered securities sale. The sale in question generated $1.3 billion.
As a result of the complaint, the SEC brought a lawsuit against Ripple in December 2020. Unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum, which have been marked as commodities, XRP is still viewed as a security, which would place it under the SEC's jurisdiction. However, the legal battle is ongoing with Ripple arguing that other official government agencies have not and would not classify XRP as a security. The outcome of the case will be a key moment in XRP's future.