Ripple (XRP) What It Is, What It’s Worth & Should You Invest?
What Is Ripple?
Ripple is not a cryptocurrency. It’s the company behind the XRP token. Ripple Labs, Inc. describes itself as a “payment solutions company.” Today, it is primarily focused on using cryptocurrency to facilitate cross-border payments between countries.
To accomplish this, Ripple calls its payment network RippleNet. That network consists of a collection of banks and payment providers who have signed on to use Ripple’s blockchain network for international payments.
Ripple also manages the XRP Ledger, a network that facilitates payments through its XRP digital currency.
What Is XRP?
XRP is a cryptocurrency designed to be used for international payments and currency exchange. When Ripple first launched, XRP powered its cross-border payment network. Ripple has since updated this so that you can use that network with currencies other than XRP.
XRP Transaction Speed
XRP’s main selling point has always been its speed. Unlike Bitcoin, which often requires extended periods of time to complete a transaction, XRP transactions settle in seconds. That’s because XRP does not utilize the “proof of work” algorithm used by other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum for validating payments.
XRP also works on a centralized infrastructure. Instead of being completely decentralized like many cryptocurrencies, XRP uses a network of validators to confirm transactions.
To be accepted as a validator for XRP payments, you have to be trusted enough to become part of Ripple’s Unique Node List. Currently, there are 36 active XRP validators. Ripple owns six of them outright.
This network of independent network operators — or nodes — agrees concerning all outstanding XRP transactions every three to five seconds. It then publishes an updated version of the XRP Ledger. Ripple calls this the Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm.
Ripple has marketed XRP’s swift transaction speed since the beginning, centering it as a means to establish a more efficient infrastructure for international payments. Conventional cross-border transactions can sometimes take days and incur steep fines. According to Ripple, XRP takes a fraction of the time, cost, and bureaucratic headache.
How Is XRP Used?
Currently, there are two main use cases for XRP.
- Low commission currency exchange: There are many cases where one currency can’t be directly exchanged for another and must be changed to an intermediary currency first. Usually, that currency is the U.S. dollar. XRP can serve as an intermediary currency in the same way, but for less cost per transaction.
- International transactions: Ripple has long touted its XRP cryptocurrency’s high transaction speed as an alternative to conventional wire transfers, which can take days and incur high fees.
People can also use Ripple’s payment network, RippleNet, to mint and distribute their own digital currencies that aren’t XRP for fast, inexpensive transactions.
XRP vs. RippleNet
XRP’s relationship to RippleNet can be confusing.
RippleNet is Ripple’s cross-border payment network. It does not need XRP to function. RippleNet is a blockchain geared toward banking institutions that can be used to settle transactions like remittance payments, in addition to exchanging currencies.
Ripple claims that big banks like Santander use its service and that over 55 countries have signed on to use it. RippleNet also hosts over 120 currency pairs.
The only part of RippleNet that uses the XRP digital currency is its on-demand liquidity service. This service draws from a pool of digital assets to provide liquidity for transactions in lieu of pre-funding.
Australia, the Euro Zone, the United States, Mexico, and the Philippines can currently use Ripple’s on-demand liquidity service.
How Is XRP Different From Bitcoin?
There are a few major differences between XRP and Bitcoin.
For example, while new Bitcoins are continuously mined, XRP has limited the number of units that will be produced. A batch of 100 billion XRP was generated at the time of its launch, and 45 billion are currently in circulation.
XRP is also a centralized cryptocurrency, while Bitcoin is decentralized. The former’s centralization allows for quicker transaction processing because it doesn’t require proof of work. Rather, it relies on a small network of nodes to validate each transaction.
This can entail greater risk, though Ripple says it takes steps to keep its digital currency secure.
Pros and Cons For Ripple
- Ripple has been in the crypto game long enough to have gained the trust of several prominent financial institutions. That trust makes them a safer investment relative to other cryptocurrencies.
- All the XRP tokens that ever will exist have already been created, and Ripple distributes them according to a predetermined schedule. That means no inflation.
- As more financial institutions buy into Ripple and its products, the value of XRP could substantially increase.
- Ripple’s centralized system does away with permissions and is more open to censorship than other cryptocurrency platforms. Since control rests in the hands of a small number of people, those people could potentially block transactions, similar to a regular bank.
- Ripple Labs has a monopoly of ownership on the XRP token — it owns 61% of the available supply.
- The code is open-source, whereby it’s freely available to the public. That’s good for developers but could pose a risk if anyone were to hack it.
Value and Market Cap
Good To Know
XRP has not entered mainstream use quite yet. The financial institutions that use Ripple’s network are still in the testing phase.
While XRP has potential in the international payment space, it has yet to be thoroughly tested by large, mainstream banks.
XRP is an interesting cryptocurrency that’s been gaining momentum in the financial sector for its ability to facilitate cross-border payments and currency exchange.
It’s faster than Bitcoin — taking a few seconds per transaction as opposed to an hour or more — and has the potential to provide a better method for completing international payments.
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