What is Ripple? 0 1323

ripple

Now you’re down with Bitcoin and Ethereum, if you heard about the Banco Santander announcement about a partnership with Ripple, you may be wondering – what is Ripple? Is it just another cryptocurrency like Bitcoin? And if so, does that mean that one of the world’s largest banks is now accepting payments in cryptocurrency?

No, and definitely not. What’s going on, then? Let’s take a closer look.

Rather than just a digital coin, Ripple is a remittance network, currency exchange and real-time gross settlement system (RTGS). Going back to 2012 when it came out, Ripple (unlike Bitcoin) does not actually use the blockchain system. It uses what is known as a common ledger, which is essentially a network of independent servers that validate transactions constantly.

If you’re thinking, “that sounds a lot like the blockchain,” that’s because it is. Ripple’s shared public database also uses a form of consensus. The majority of the network has to be in agreement on the validity of transactions, to prevent events like a 51% attack.

Unlike Bitcoin though, Ripple doesn’t rely on a proof-of-work (PoW) concept, or the computational power of members of the network. It also isn’t mined.

The token is XRP and its main characteristic–the raison d’etre of Ripple–is that it allows for real time exchange of currency between two parties, whether that be fiat currency, gold, or any other type of currency. Its major claim to fame is that it allows people to avoid wait times, fees, and even exchanges transactions.

How is Ripple Different From Bitcoin?

As mentioned, the technology they rely on is different. Ripple is more targeted to banks and other FSIs (as displayed through the Banco Santander partnership). While Bitcoin was built for the people, Ripple was built for enterprise. Sure, you can buy and trade it peer to peer, but that’s not what this cryptocurrency is all about. It’s to move massive sums of money around safely and practically instantly. That’s what’s getting the banks all excited.

And today, it is still the fastest cryptocurrency for transactions, settling payments in a maximum of four seconds, as compared to Ethereum, which can be a few minutes, and Bitcoin, which can take several hours. Another main difference is that this cryptocurrency is not mined, like Bitcoin, Ether, and other cryptocurrencies. They just settled on 100 billion tokens from the get-go and issued that many coins.

In theory, the 100 billion XRP tokens originally issued are meant to be the only tokens there will ever be. But there is technically nothing to stop Ripple from issuing any more. But, they probably won’t, seeing as the XRP token is completely separate from Ripple’s technology. Banks can send currency in dollars, yen, or pounds, without needing to use XRP at all, making the investment in this token somewhat less attractive. Without doubt, Ripple’s value is the network, not the Ripple coin.

Banks can use its software for fast, international payments (as is the case with Banco Santander) and can ditch the traditional SWIFT method, that is slow and cumbersome.

Is It Volatile as Well?

Yes. Like most cryptocurrencies, the markets are very sensitive to FUD and FOMO. As the price of Bitcoin exploded towards the end of last year, Ethereum doubled and Litecoin blew up, Ripple also experienced a massive price hike, with first time investors looking to purchase cryptocurrency within their price budget. Moreover, a rumor was spread that Coinbase was thinking of listing it on their exchange and that shot the price up further…

Until Coinbase quashed the rumor and the price came crashing back down.

Against an Ideology?

Bitcoin purists have criticized Ripple, because it has owners. It is a centralized network in the middle of a decentralized, idealistic ecosystem. Also, the trusted Unique Node List (UNL) that is supposed to protect Ripple from hackers and threats throws up another issue: while it protects the cryptocurrency, what’s to stop a  government or regulating body from coming in and making a change?

It is certainly an interesting technology and worth keeping on your radar. But, unless you’re working in a large financial institution, you probably don’t need it too much of it in your investment portfolio.

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Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

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DApp Frameworks Will Improve the Blockchain — Here’s How 4 364

Scalability has always been a problem for blockchains, and it’s the main reason blockchain technology hasn’t reached mainstream adoption. Whether in blockchain fintech—where comparisons of the Bitcoin blockchain’s 10 TPS to Visa’s 24,000 TPS abound—or in other sectors blockchain has touched, this is holding many otherwise promising companies back from delivering new, innovative kinds of value to the public. While larger and better-resourced companies have managed to overcome this problem through sidechaining and/or sharding, there is no substitute for the real thing. DApp scaling frameworks may be a foundation to build widespread solutions to this problem.

What are DApps?

DApps (decentralized apps) use blockchain technology to deliver peer-to-peer value through product offerings, services, or new forms of value. Built on blockchain technology, dApps use its decentralized, trustless, peer-to-peer structure to let users transact between each other without a centralized authority through an encrypted medium (such as NASGO’s platform that we’ve reported on previously).

While this is an otherwise revolutionary solution to the problem of over-centralization, it comes with its own set of baggage. Imagine if every transaction or purchase you made had to be confirmed by a network of other people before completing. This, the consensus protocol—on which Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other leading blockchains are built—is one of blockchain’s greatest strengths, but also one of its greatest weaknesses. For any  blockchain to work as intended, every node participating in it has to confirm every transaction that happens on it.

On the positive side, this massively increases transaction immutability, verifiability and transparency. Unfortunately, it also makes transaction per second (TPS) speed very low. Slow processes usually don’t scale. And without scalability, blockchain technology cannot reach mainstream usage. Right now, only about 8 million people globally use any form of cryptocurrency. To reach mainstream usage, 800 million people must consistently use it.

It sounds like a chicken-and-egg problem, but the blockchain space is already developing resources to overcome this issue. DApp scaling frameworks are one way. They are bundles of code inside blockchain protocols that let distributed apps distribute themselves in a semi-scaled way, letting a blockchain scale improve its TPS and allow more transactions than ever before. Unfortunately, not many developers have access to these, and the few that do have only built the earliest versions of this technology, which brings up the question: is this really a workable solution right now?

What We Have Now

DApps are hard interact with. They’re slow, confusing, and rely on 3rd-party software which only the most sophisticated consumers can readily use. Yet the chief issue here is speed—the key performance measurement of all distributed systems is scalability, and without it, dApps have no real business case or value proposition, let alone any realistic user acquisition strategy. Yet there are fixes for this problem, but little implementation and even less progress on their collective maturation. They exist in five categories, below:

1. Low-Level Optimizations

2. Parallel Blockchains (“sharding”)

3. Homogenous Vertical Scaling

4. Heterogeneous Vertical Scaling

5. Heterogeneous Interconnected Multichains

6. Multilayered dApp development toolboxes

There’s not much to be said for the solutions in the first category. Most of them—consensus algorithms, PoS migrations, parallel processing on transactions and code optimizations in the Ethereum Virtual Machine—are low-level and impermanent band-aids to the deeper problem.

The best of the solutions in the second, third, and fourth categories are at this stage still in the proof-of-concept phase, being built almost exclusively by and for Ethereum and Bitcoin, such as projects like Plasma and the Lightning Network. These are getting the most traction here only because they’re developing out of Bitcoin and Ethereum, but are nontheless still are very early-stage.

The idea behind Plasma is to take smart contracts, give them self-governing alongside self-execution properties to let the Ethereum root chain essentially create buds or “shards”—tiny sidechains each monitoring one aspect of a transaction instead of putting that combined pressure on the root chain—to distribute consensus, letting blockchains dramatically scale their TPS. Lightning Network deals more exclusively with payments—it’s a second-layer payment protocol next to the root blockchain, using a peer-to-peer system to let users make cryptocurrency micro-payments. Both platforms are examples of how some blockchain companies are using secondary and tertiary parallel blockchains to scale their TPS.

Concepts like Polkadot—scalable heterogeneous multichains—provide foundations for later functionality in the area of relay-chains, where the goal is to build validatable, globally connected, frequently-changing data structures on top of these frameworks.

Companies like MenloOne—multilayered dApp development toolboxes—create and deploy digital tools for dApp developers to use when they’re building. They include:

  • A layer for communication.
  • A layer for governance (given lack of server admins to ban malicious users in a decentralized network).
  • A local wallet for smooth transactions (no more MetaMask popups).
  • A core layer, a network of content nodes which cache mirror versions of blockchain data.

These incorporate fragmented systems to make dApp development easier for professionals.

Together, solutions in these categories are working to help top blockchains scale TPS to thousands per second.To become adopted by the mainstream public, these frameworks will need to use a variety of different tools to make transactions effortless for blockchains to process.


What do you think about the scalability of blockchains today? Is it a problem for you or are you unaffected? And, what do you most want to see happen in this area of blockchain technology in the near future? Post in the comments below to let us know!

Chinese Crypto Leader Li Xiaolai Suddenly Retires 0 158

One of China’s most prominent Bitcoin investors has announced his retirement from the crypto world. Billionaire Li Xiaolai is the founder of BitFund, a crypto venture capital firm that has fostered a slew of Bitcoin-related startups.

Li’s announcement of his decision to withdraw from cryptospace—and investing otherwise—came unexpectedly via his page on Chinese social media site Weibo.

“From this day on,” his post reads, according to TechNode’s translation, “I, Li Xiaolai, will personally not invest in any projects (whether it is blockchain or early stage). So, if you see ‘Li Xiaolai’ associated with any project (I have been associated with countless projects without my knowledge, 99% is not an exaggeration), just ignore it.”

Li is a former school teacher, and claims to be the first person in China to openly trade Bitcoins, rather than hiding behind its famous anonymity. Now, retired from both teaching and investing, he says he’s not sure where to go next. “I plan to spend several years to contemplate on my career change. As for what I’m doing next, I’m not sure just yet.”

Li closed his post by expressing that he still maintains a long term optimism about the blockchain.

Li’s Ventures Grew Crypto Capital, Controversey

Through BitFund, Li has incubated a number of blockchain related startups, including an off-chain wallet called Bitfoo, the crypto exchange YUNBI, and HashRatio, a miner manufacturing company. Li organized 2014’s Global Bitcoin Summit in Beijing, back when you could get a BTC for as little as $440, and years before China instated its full ban on cryptocurrencies.

Earlier this year, Li also acted as managing partner of Hangzhou Xiong’An Blockchain Fund, a billion dollar fund backed by the Hangzhou government. Li stepped down after fellow venture capitalist Chen Weizing introduced a series of accusations against him.

Included in the eleven accusations, which Chen broke on social media and messaging platform WeChat, were a supposed debt of 30,000 BTC that Chen says Li failed to pay on time. Li published a point-by-point response to Chen’s accusations, addressing the 30,000 BTC debt by saying “it’s not true… Chen is just muddying the water.”

Though Li called them “defamations,” and Chen did not offer supporting evidence for his allegations, Li said Chen’s antics “brought material and negative impacts on the reputation of Xiong’An Blockchain Fund” and that his resignation would “let the Hangzhou government continue its push for blockchain development.”

Li was the subject of controversy on another occasion when, in a candid conversation he did not know was being recorded, he outed several influential organizations as scams and said that the best way to succeed in blockchain, even if your project is worthless, is to get famous and build consensus.

The State of Crypto in the People’s Republic

All crypto and blockchain related websites are blocked by the Chinese government, and citizens are forbidden from engaging in crypto transactions. The People’s Bank of China released a statement on August 24th warning against ICOs, which they consider to be “illegal fundraising, pyramid schemes, and fraud.”

But the rules have been difficult to enforce, and crypto still enjoys an active user base in China. Beijing Sci-Tech Report, China’s oldest technology publication, is now the first Chinese publication to accept BTC as payment from its subscribers. Chinese crypto channel cnLedger announced in a tweet on September 25th that Ethereum Hotel, China’s first hotel to accept ETH as payment, is open for business in Sichuan Province.

A Crypto Landscape Without a Leader

The sudden exit of Li Xiaolai from the Chinese crypto scene could have caveats, or greater implications. Weibo users expressed their support and gratitude following his announcement, but some also speculated that his choice of words leaves room for Li to continue investing in crypto indirectly, perhaps through funds or corporate entities. Whether that will be the case or not, for many, his resignation marks the loss of a public blockchain leader.

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