Every Friday, we take a light-hearted tour through the best memes, artwork, and oddities from the cryptoverse.  This week, Carty Sewill explores the Pink Wojak’s cousin, the Green Wojak.

We could all use a little optimism. There hasn’t been much of it over the past few months; that’s for sure. But in that time we’ve seen a pump or two and felt the warm glow of hope. A reminder of past highs and profitable longs. It’s been quite some time since bullish crypto memes graced the front page of Reddit and flooded Crypto-Twitter. But they’re out there. Waiting. One such meme is the Pink Wojak’s cousin the Green Wojak.

Green Wojak
The Green Wojak

Whereas the Pink Wojak is a symbol of despair, regret, and desperation, the Green Wojak is the antithesis. A calm, collected ‘hodler,’ the Green Wojak is the image of an optimistic and profitable ‘bullish’ investor. Always exiting the rollercoaster at the top and buying the bottom.

Though our Green Wojak might share the same origin story as his evil twin, his emergence in early 2017 was a time of optimism and hope for the crypto market. Bitcoin maximalists seemed to have won out and everyone looked to be reaping the benefits. A hard fork of “Feels Guys,” the Green Wojak started seeing the light of day in early 2017 as altcoins began to rally behind bitcoin. The original post seems to be lost out there somewhere so the specific time and date are a bit ambiguous.

original wojak
The original Wojak or “Feels Guy.”

But its place of birth is the same as, seemingly, any great crypto meme. It was originally posted on 4Chan channel,  /biz/. With the kind of placid comfort and profitability only a mediocre MS Paint sketch can imbue, it seems /biz/ has become the center of the crypto-meme-verse. And for good reason.

wojakbiz
Green Wojaks on 4Chan /biz/

The Green Wojak is just one in a long line of iconic crypto-memes flowing out of the crypto-trollbox. And like the others, he’s become the focus of Bizonacci videos, countless spinoffs and mashups, and an endless stream of content focused on everyday price movements in our favorite market; crypto.

green and pink wojak
A green and pink Wojak mashup

Here’s hoping we see more of /biz/’s Green Wojak in the near future. I saw a few just last week. Though the bullish sentiment that came with them seems to have faded now. He will return soon. That’s for certain.

Crypto Curious? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

Zilliqa, IOSToken, Filecoin mainnet launch

To round out the year, we asked our Block Explorer writers to tell us what they’re most excited about for blockchain and crypto in 2019. In this piece, Delton Rhodes explains the potentially ground-breaking mainnet launches of Zilliqa, IOSToken, and Filecoin.

For both the worst performing and best performing cryptocurrencies in 2018, the market has been bear and bleak. Despite these results, there has been a lot of technical progress from several of the top projects in this space throughout the past year. 

Several mainnet launches are planned for Q1 and Q2. Here are three notable mainnets that I’m looking forward to seeing launch in 2019, listed in order of anticipated/scheduled launch dates.

Zilliqa Mainnet, Scheduled for January 31, 2019

Zilliqa logo

Zilliqa’s mainnet is highly anticipated because it marks one of the first projects to put its attention towards sharding technology – an experimental method of increasing blockchain scalability.

For the most part, sharding was still in the research and development phase before Zilliqa began to push implementation forward. Sure, this technology still needs vast improvements. However, people also want to see what sharding is capable of achieving now.

Zilliqa had originally scheduled its mainnet for Q3 2018, but decided to push it back until the end of January 31, 2019. There are two sides on whether this was the correct move. For some, a delay should be avoided at all costs as “something is better than nothing”. For others, though, it’s better to have a high-quality release over one that is ridden with errors. 

However you view such a delay, it’s important to ask why it happened. According to a statement from co-founder Amrit Kumar via the project’s official Telegram group, the team still needed to conduct security audits, get ready for the token swap, integrate with wallets, develop toolchains, and add more dapps to the ecosystem. 

Ultimately, the main thing to examine is what the project accomplishes once the tech is live and ready for the public to use.

Zilliqa sharding
Zilliqa is one of the first to implement experimental sharding technology to achieve huge throughput

According to the project website, the Zilliqa blockchain is already able to handle 2,828 transactions per second (tps). This would be a significant improvement over Bitcoin (7 tps) and Ethereum 15-25 tps). If Zilliqa’s mainnet is successful, it could mean more dapps and technologies built on the Zilliqa blockchain vs. others. 

If it’s unsuccessful, though, this might impact how both this project and others in the industry try to implement sharding solutions.

IOStoken Mainnet Scheduled for February 25, 2019

iostoken-twitter

The ultimate goal of IOSToken is to create a blockchain platform with enough scalability to build a “decentralized economy.”

IOSToken aims to create a foundation for the future of the ‘internet of services’. This could include things like decentralized virtual goods and services markets, cloud computing, file storage, e-commerce, online gaming, gambling, prediction markets, virtual assistant service, online advertising and more.

On December 20, 2018, IOStoken launched its testnet called ‘Everest’. On February 25, 2019, the project plans to release the full mainnet. 

IOSToken roadmap
The IOSToken roadmap for 2019

What makes this project’s mainnet something to look forward to in 2019? First, like Zilliqa, IOStoken will be implementing a sharding solution. With the two mainnets launching so close together, it will be interesting to compare the results. One tweet from March 2018 stated that IOStoken’s consensus protocol had already achieved 8,000 tps in a test environment. 

The tweet also stated that the testnet would launch in Q2 2018, so there was a pretty significant delay (similar to Zilliqa). Have there been any significant updates in IOStoken scalability since then? What’s possible on the mainnet? These are just two of the main questions that need to be answered.

IOStoken also introduces a lot of new scalability solutions that modify existing theories and concepts, putting them all into a real-world blockchain. For example, TransEpoch serves as the node-to-shard transition assignment protocol. Proof-of-Believability is a consensus protocol that aims to improve upon Proof-of-Work by assigning nodes a believability score as well as grouping nodes into two categories: believable and normal. Micro State Blocks (MSBs) ensure the accuracy of validation without having to check the whole blockchain. 

Filecoin Mainnet, Anticipated Launch in Mid-2019

filecoin

Back in September 2017, fundraising for Filecoin broke the all-time record for blockchain projects. With $257 million raised, mostly within the span of one month, the project has big ambitions. Even some of the world’s largest investment groups backed Filecoin. The project collected $52 million in a presale that included Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures, among others. 

The concept of a blockchain-based data storage and data processing network isn’t exclusive to Filecoin. Similar projects like Storj (STORJ) Siacoin (SC), iExec (RLC), Golem (GNT), and MaidSafe (MAID) are also competing in this space. 

Filecoin has made progress, as seen with three demo videos published in August 2018. The first shows the go-filecoin command-line tool and live filecoin nodes running on a testnet. The second displays a network visualization and block explorer tool. The final one is an overview of the storage market and provides info on the roles of miners and clients. As of the end of Q2 2018, the project had completed the majority of its private codebase goals and planned to launch a public codebase as well as community forums.

The Filecoin roadmap

It’s the end of 2018, and Filecoin hasn’t delivered too many technical breakthroughs that are accessible to the public. This, however, could change with the release of its mainnet scheduled tentatively for sometime in mid-2019. 

Also, this mainnet poses important questions both for Filecoin specifically as well as other projects with similar amounts of available capital. Should we expect more results in a shorter amount of time from a project that raised so much? If so, how should it compare to other projects with fewer funds and resources? 

This isn’t an exact science, especially due to the fact that a lot of infrastructure is just now being developed. In addition, like most other infrastructure projects, many theoretical concepts are finally being tested thoroughly and applied for the first time. Still, most people who follow blockchain are probably also pondering these questions.

Conclusion

This list certainly doesn’t serve as a be-all and end-all for mainnets launching in 2019. There are likely to be several other game-changing mainnet releases as well as significant updates from blockchain projects that already have mainnets. From a blockchain infrastructure perspective, though, the three projects mentioned above are definitely ones to watch out for throughout this coming year. 

Can they change the current hierarchy of blockchain and crypto? Will they bring innovative solutions that people will actually want to use? Although technical capabilities are an essential component to success of any project, it’ll also be interesting to keep up with if (and to what extent) user adoption follows.

Crypto Curious? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

blockchain holiday reading

Happy holidays, folks. It’s been a long, tough year in the world of crypto, but if you’re reading this, I think you’ll be on the right side of history when the dust settles.

We’re riding out this crypto winter by putting together some of the best blockchain guides out there. The most important thing you can do right now is build knowledge, expand your understanding, and gain confidence in this new technology.

So, whether you’re bored over the holidays or hiding from the in-laws, let’s dive into some of our most popular guides so far. (If you like them, stick around because we’ll have plenty more in the new year).

1. What is Bitcoin? Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

This is our flagship beginner’s guide to bitcoin. It’s written in simple, easy-to-understand language, but you’ll feel like a pro by the end of it. We cover everything from bitcoin’s mysterious creator, the technology that powers it, and how to buy it.

Read it now.

2. What is Ethereum? Absolutely Everything You Need to Know

A beginner’s guide to the third-largest cryptocurrency, Ethereum. Like our bitcoin guide, it’s written in simple language designed to level up your knowledge as you read through it. Discover how Ethereum is different to bitcoin and how it could disrupt an entire generation of existing services.

Read it now.

3. The Silk Road: A History of Bitcoin, Drugs, and the Dark Web

Launched in February 2011, the infamous Silk Road marketplace became a hub for drug dealers using bitcoin and the dark web to sell their wares. Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht is currently serving a double life sentence, plus 40 years, without parole. But the story is not so simple. It’s a story of corrupt police detectives, aliases, and deep conspiracy.

Read it now.

4. Who is Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin’s Mysterious Creator)?

We reveal 24 clues about the elusive creator of bitcoin. Known only as the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto,” Bitcoin’s founder has never been identified. He disappeared completely in 2011, but not without leaving a few possible hints at his identity.

Read it now.

5. 13 of the Best Blockchain Games (& How to Actually Play Them)

In late 2017, a blockchain game called Cryptokitties became so popular it congested the entire Ethereum network. But it gave us an insight into how big blockchain gaming could become. Although most blockchain games are still quite primitive, there’s huge potential out there. Here are 13 of the best so far.

Read it now.

6. The Most Important Women in Blockchain

As the New York Times reported earlier this year, the blockchain industry has been dominated by “blockchain bros,” with women accounting for just four-to-six percent of blockchain investors. We shine a light on ten groundbreaking women taking the industry forward.

Read it now.

7. A Complete History of Bitcoin

We track the cryptocurrency timeline back to the very earliest attempts at digital currency (ten years before bitcoin was created). Along the way, we point out the biggest moments in bitcoin history including the infamous Mt. Gox hack, the Silk Road dark-web marketplace, to the historic $20,000 price tag.

Read it now.

8. The 12 Best Bitcoin Wallets

Storing your bitcoin in a safe and secure wallet is the most important decision you’ll make in your crypto journey. But how do you find one you trust? We dive into the 12 best wallets in 2018 and beyond.

Read it now.

Happy holidays from all of us here at Block Explorer!

bigstock-Gold-Bitcoin-Crypto-Currency--213810058

2018 was epic. It started with the madness of altcoins rally at the beginning of the year. Followed by massive steps towards bitcoin and crypto mass-adoption made by regulators, large enterprises, and institutional investors. 

And it ended with the blood and tears of traders on the streets (we can still hear some of them screaming). 

Block Explorer is willing to reflect on the most important events that brought the industry to its current state. So, here are the major crypto announcements that shaped 2018: 

1. January: The Perfect Month to Ban Something

Bitcoin price: $14,112 (on the first of the month)

The beginning of January was marked by the huge news splash made by the South Korean government. They unveiled plans to ban anonymous trading on cryptocurrency exchanges over tax avoidance. And sent the police and tax-collecting authorities to their offices. 

As a result, the bitcoin price decreased by $2,000.

At the end of the month, crypto was in trouble again, as Facebook decided to ban all ads related to digital currencies. Since Facebook marketing was a major driving force for many initial coin offerings (ICOs), it cut the source of easy promo for many blockchain startups. 

2. February: China and Bankers Join Forces Against Bitcoin

Bitcoin price: $10,264

It’s not easy living in China without the freedom of internet browsing, catching up with friends on Facebook or just googling. All of that is restricted by the “Great Firewall of China.”  At the beginning of February, the list of undesirable foreign websites was supplemented with bitcoin-related websites to eliminate the financial risks for Chinese citizens.

Next, the head of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) called bitcoin “a bubble, a Ponzi scheme, and an environmental disaster”. The media went nuts over it, and the more they referred to it in the following articles the more the price of crypto was sliding down, falling as much as 14% in one day. 

3. March: SEC has a Crush on Crypto Exchanges. Google Doesn’t

Bitcoin price: $10,433

Some more heartbreaking and uncomfortable milestones for bitcoin and crypto included the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announcement made in March. They obliged all cryptocurrency exchanges to go through the registration procedure through the agency. 

One week later, news from Google set an overall moody tone of the blockchain scene: the company joined Facebook to ban all cryptocurrency-related ads. 

google bans crypto ads

4. April: India Joins the Strike Against Bitcoin 

Bitcoin price: $7,030

In April, crypto’s misadventures continued. This time the Central Bank of India (The Reserve Bank of India) banned financial institutions from allowing transactions from people’s accounts to bitcoin wallets. 

5. May: Goldman Sachs is Going Crypto, “Rich Dudes” are Boiling Over

Bitcoin price: $9,037

A little happy bitcoin rally happened when it was uncovered that Goldman Sachs had its own team dedicated to entering the crypto market. 

Although some people were are not happy about it. Including some very “rich dudes” that were on a mission to come up with the most-quoted insult for bitcoin. For instance, well-known billionaire value investor Warren Buffett referred to bitcoin as “rat poison squared,” and Bill Gates, one of the kindest billionaires in the world, labeled it a “greater fool theory”. 

Later this month the U.S. Justice Department started an investigation into bitcoin price manipulation. Oh, boy, it’s getting tougher.

But even in spite of all those troubles, crypto was still on a good path to wider acceptance. Or how else could you explain the 25 million crypto wallets registered at blockchain.com?  

6. June: Facebook is Stricken by FOMO  

Bitcoin price: $7,519

In June it was time for more bad news. It’s never enough in the crypto world. A panic sell-off happened in the first half of the month after Coinrail’s hack announcement. Even though this South Korean exchange was relatively small it led to a rapid 10% drop in bitcoin price. 

A couple of weeks later, big news came from Facebook who decided to reconsider the crypto advertising ban. Promoting initial coin offerings was still off the table though. 

7. July: Winklevoss Twins Keep Being Stubborn With SEC

Bitcoin price: $6,366

July was relatively calm for cryptocurrencies. Probably because most of the troublemakers were on vacation. But some news was still in the air, including the fact that asset-management heavy-weight BlackRock was looking into crypto assets and another SEC rejection of exchange-traded fund (ETF) proposal filed by Winklevoss twins. 

8. August: Too Many Rejections of ETF Proposals

Bitcoin price: $7,634

August was all about ETF proposals, their postponing and rejections. The bitcoin exchange rates struggled at first, but at the end of the month, after the U.S. Security Exchange Commission declined nine bitcoin ETFs, the price of the major crypto remained stable. How resilient is it? 

9. September: The First Crypto-Related Company Files for IPO

Bitcoin price: $7,192

Most of September’s announcements were quite positive. First, there was more news about Goldman Sachs jumping into crypto. The company’s chief financial officer Martin Chavez confirmed that the Wall Street giant was working on the development of bitcoin-based derivatives that will be accessible to the bank’s clients. 

At the end of the month, one of the leading bitcoin miners, Bitmain, spilled out their intention to run an initial public offering (IPO). And the application for the process was already filed. Bitcoin Cash prices (one of the assets Bitmain is mining) surged up to 20% rapidly. 

10. October: Happy birthday, Bitcoin. Here’s Your Mass-Adoption

Bitcoin price: $6,619

More happy news to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Bitcoin’s whitepaper. Big steps from institutional investors happened in the middle of October when Fidelity Investments announced the launch of a spin-off company, dedicated to crypto assets exclusively. The new firm named Fidelity Digital Assets was onboarding its first clients and still preparing for the grand opening for the general public in 2019. 

Also, the launch of the first blockchain phone, made by HTC, stole the headlines in October. 

11. November: Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Bitcoin Cash Fork 

Bitcoin price: $6,427

Fights over the Bitcoin Cash fork got completely out of control. The battle between BCHSV (Satoshi Vision), lead by Craig Wright, aka Fake Satoshi and BCHABC (Adjustable Blocksize Cap), driven by Roger Ver, previously labeled as Bitcoin Jesus was observed by the entire industry. It triggered huge crypto volatility, increased trading volume and, as some experts might say, a bitcoin nosedive to a new bottom. And we are still in the middle of that roller coaster.

On the other hand, we had some good news too. Like the announcement about the first state in the U.S. will be accepting bitcoin as a tax payment. Way to go, Ohio! 

This year is not over yet, and we don’t know exactly what the future holds. As you know in crypto, “one day you are in, and another day you are out”.  But we promise to keep you posted. 

And what was your favorite news break of the year? Go ahead and share it in the comment section below.

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter to get exclusive crypto insights before they appear on the site.

What is Ripple?

XRP aims to revolutionize the way we send money around the world.

That’s a bold statement, but it’s why XRP is now the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization.

But let’s not get carried away. XRP and its closely-connected company, Ripple, have divided the cryptocurrency community by partnering with some of the world’s biggest banks.

So what is Ripple and the cryptocurrency XRP? Why is it so revolutionary, and why is Ripple criticized? Most importantly, where can you buy XRP and how do you store it safely?

Contents:

Part 1: What’s the difference between Ripple and XRP?
Part 2: Understanding the Ripple blockchain
Part 3: Exploring Ripple’s Bank Partnerships
Part 4: Why is Ripple so Controversial?
Part 5: How to Buy XRP and Store it Safely
Part 6: What’s Next for Ripple and XRP?

PART 1: What’s the Difference Between Ripple and XRP?

Ripple vs XRP

Before we dive in, let’s clear up a few things:

Ripple is a company

Ripple aims to streamline the way we send money around the world using blockchain-inspired technology. The company has over 100 bank partners using its services.

XRP is the cryptocurrency

XRP is a token created by the same people behind Ripple. Ripple is trying to get banks to use XRP to make international payments more efficient.

The term “Ripple” is often used interchangeably to refer to both the company and the cryptocurrency. But that’s not strictly correct.

So, from here on out, if we mention Ripple, we’re talking about the company. If we mention XRP, we’re talking about the cryptocurrency.

Ripple vs XRP differences infographic
Source: Ripple . Note: although Ripple refers to XRP as an “independent asset” above, some disagree with this classification. We’ll get into this shortly.

Got It. So What Is Ripple (The Company?)

david schwartz“The vision is to make an international payment as cheap and easy as pulling up a web page. Something you would do without even thinking about the mechanics or the cost. It’s just so automatic and cheap… It’s almost invisible.” Ripple CTO David Schwartz.

 

Have you ever tried to send money abroad? You wait days for the transfer and the bank charges you a fortune for the privilege.

This current method is extremely outdated, slow and expensive. It was created in the ‘70s and ‘80s (and hasn’t changed much since).

Ripple offers its blockchain-inspired software to banks to help change this.

Ripple aims to do for money what the internet did for communication. i.e. make it instant and free. They call it the “internet of value”.

Ripple Has Partnered with 120+ Banks

Here’s where Ripple is different from most other projects in the world of cryptocurrency. Instead of building an alternative to the traditional banking system, Ripple is actively partnering with the world’s biggest banks.

They’re trying to convince banks to switch their old system to the Ripple network.

Ripple now has over 100 partnerships with banks and money services like Santander and American Express. They’re each using (or testing) a version of Ripple’s technology.

But wait. How exactly does XRP fit into this equation?

What is XRP?

XRP was created by the same people that created Ripple.

100 billion XRP tokens exist, and they were created all at once (known as “pre-mined”).

That makes XRP completely different to bitcoin and ethereum, where the tokens are slowly mined into existence by its users.

The key feature of XRP is speed. It allows for significantly faster payments than bitcoin and ethereum.

XRP speed vs Bitcoin and Swift

What Is XRP Used For?

Ripple plans to use XRP as a “bridge currency” when exchanging money abroad.

Let’s say you live in Great Britain and you want to send money to your family in Mexico.

Normally, this would take days and incur a huge fee using the current payment systems.

Worse, you can’t always make a direct exchange. Your bank may have to convert the sterling to a “reserve currency” (US dollars) first, then convert it to Mexican pesos. This adds another layer of fees and delays.

Instead, Ripple aims to use XRP as the “bridge.”

In this example, sterling is instantly converted to XRP, then instantly converted to pesos.

how xrp works diagram

 

It might seem like a small change, but because you’re exchanging through a digital currency, it’s instant and almost completely free.

How Is XRP Different to Bitcoin?

XRP and bitcoin are both aimed at money transfers. In that sense, they share a similarity.

However, that’s really where the comparisons end. XRP and bitcoin are wildly different in almost every other way.

XRP is faster – An XRP transaction takes 3.5 seconds. Bitcoin may take hours or even days at high volume.

Every XRP token already exists – The tokens were simply coded into existence all at once, unlike bitcoin which is mined.

There are 100 billion XRP tokens – Bitcoin, on the other hand, has a hard cap of 21 million. In other words, there are nearly 5,000-times more XRP tokens than bitcoins.

Ripple holds half of all XRP tokens – Ripple currently owns roughly 60% of all XRP tokens. 55 million of those tokens are locked in escrow, with one billion released to Ripple each month.

Bitcoin and XRP both have a hard cap – Ripple claims that no more XRP tokens will ever be created, giving it a hard cap of 100 billion.

XRP is aimed at banks – Of course, the biggest difference is the target audience. Bitcoin was created to provide an alternative to the banking system. It’s a money system or store of value that cuts out banks. XRP is created as a form of liquidity for banks to transfer money.

brad garlinghouse“While contrarian and unpopular in the crypto space, in retrospect it’s very smart” – Ripple CEO, Brad Garlinghouse.

The Ripple Team

Ripple originally goes back to 2004 when Ryan Fuger created an IOU system for exchanging credits.

But Ripple, as we know it now, really began when founders Jed McCaleb, Chris Larsen, and Arthur Britto took over in 2012. They established the company as “NewCoin,” before renaming it “OpenCoin,” and ultimately evolving it into Ripple Labs in 2013.

If the name Jed McCaleb sounds familiar, it’s because he was also the founder of Mt. Gox, the infamous exchange that suffered an $850 billion hack in 2014. (Although McCaleb was no longer involved when the hack took place).

McCaleb also went on to found Stellar – the sixth largest cryptocurrency. He’s a serial cryptocurrency entrepreneur.

Chris Larsen was Ripple’s founding CTO. He’s widely considered the richest person in crypto due to his early stake in Ripple and his XRP holdings.

Brad Garlinghouse is the current CEO of Ripple and David Schwartz is CTO.

Ripple history infographic
Credit: buyripple.com

PART 2: Understanding the Ripple Blockchain

Ripple’s System is Nothing Like Bitcoin’s Blockchain…

Ripple uses a “distributed consensus ledger.”

They call it the XRP Ledger.

To explain, we need to go back to bitcoin for a minute.

The bitcoin blockchain is powered and maintained by miners.

Let’s say Bob sends one bitcoin to Alice. To confirm the payment, a network of miners all over the world compete to validate the transaction. They do it by solving a complex math puzzle with computing power.

(If this all sounds foreign to you, read our Bitcoin eBook first to get your head around the traditional crypto mining system).

This system is called “proof of work.”

This doesn’t happen in the Ripple system. There are no miners involved.

Instead, it uses a “consensus” system.

Let’s say Bob sends 100 XRP to Alice this time.

Instead of miners processing the transaction, the XRP Ledger has roughly 150 computer “validators” all over the world. Some validators are run by individuals, some by companies, some by exchanges. 7% of those validators are run by Ripple itself.

When Bob makes his transaction to Alice, there is a simple poll among the servers and validators on the Ripple network. If a “consensus” of the servers agree, the transaction is made and stored on the ledger.

XRP Ledger consensus-rounds diagram

Users on the XRP Ledger can also tweak their settings to “trust” certain validators in the network. So if one “trusted validator” approves a transaction, another will automatically follow the decision.

xrp-ledger-network diagram

Pros of the Ripple system

It’s fast. Really fast.

Bitcoin mining takes a long time and a huge amount of energy. Competing to solve math puzzles on the Bitcoin network drains enormous amounts of computer power.

Getting rid of that process makes Ripple’s transactions much faster.

XRP speed vs bitcoin and ethereum

We must also consider that Ripple’s network is designed for banks.

Whether you think this is good or bad, Ripple needs a simpler system with more control to get banks on board.

Cons of the Ripple System

It’s arguably more centralized. Without active miners holding every transaction accountable, there’s an argument it’s a more centralized system.

Ripple disputes this, claiming the Ripple system is less centralized than Bitcoin because Bitcoin mining is dominated by a handful of huge mining pools, largely based in China.

PART 3: Exploring Ripple’s Major Bank Partnerships

We know that Ripple is working closely with banks, but let’s dive a little deeper into how their relationships work.

120+ Bank Partnerships

Ripple has announced a number of high-profile partnerships. They are working with Santander, American Express, SBI, Western Union and many more.

Ripple bank partnerships logos

While this sounds impressive, there are a few things we need to explain. When Ripple says they have over 100 bank partnerships, that does not mean they are all using the XRP token.

At least four financial companies are actively using the XRP token to make international payments. The rest are either piloting the XRP technology or using one of Ripple’s other blockchain solutions.

To explain, here’s a breakdown of how Ripple partners with banks.

Ripple xCurrent

xCurrent is Ripple’s main software package. It is still impressive in that it allows banks to settle cross-border payments almost instantly.

xCurrent also provides banks with a real-time messaging service. It verifies payment details before the transaction is made and confirms the exchange when it arrives.

It’s fast and cheap, but it doesn’t use the XRP token to settle payments.

When Ripple talks about bank partnerships, they are usually talking about xCurrent.

Ripple xRapid

Ripple’s main goal is to migrate banks from xCurrent to xRapid.

xRapid does use the XRP token as a “bridge currency” to execute cross-border transactions.

In recent tests, banks have reported between 40-70% cost savings and almost instant transfers.

Why the Old System Is So Inefficient

To understand why xRapid is so revolutionary, we need to understand how inefficient the existing system is.

Let’s go back to our UK-Mexico transaction to explain. Maria wants to send £1,000 to her family’s bank account in Mexico.

To make the transfer, her UK bank needs a “nostro account” in Mexico. That nostro account is pre-funded with Mexican pesos, so the bank can exchange the currency.

Banks have these pre-funded nostro accounts in every country (well, every country with a different currency – the bank will have just one nostro account in the eurozone, for example).

This is what the banks call “liquidity.” They need “liquid” money available in each country to make the currency exchange.

“That’s capital sitting dormant, and not being used.” – Garlinghouse.

An estimated $10 trillion is sitting idle in nostro accounts. It’s wildly inefficient.

Now imagine if they didn’t need pre-funded nostro accounts all over the world. What if they just had a liquid supply of digital currency in one place?

Like XRP…

Are Banks Using xRapid (and Therefore XRP)?

At least four financial companies are now using xRapid commercially.

They include Catalyst Corporate Credit Union (a financial firm), Cuallix, MercuryFX, and Viamericas (money transfer services).

The rest of Ripple’s bank partners are not yet using the XRP token. Ripple hopes to nudge them towards xRapid as they grow more comfortable with the technology.

PART 4: Ripple Controversy

Ripple has been wrapped up in controversy for years in the crypto space. There are few coins and projects that attract as much animosity and criticisms as Ripple. Here are some of the biggest:

Centralization

Generally speaking, all the criticisms of Ripple and XRP revolve around centralization. In other words, too much control in the hands of Ripple itself and too many relationships with the existing banking industry.

“The Banker’s Coin”

Many in the cryptocurrency community take issue with Ripple’s banking partnerships. They argue that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies were designed to reduce the influence and reliance on banks. Ripple’s involvement with some of the biggest banks in the world makes some people unconformable.

Ripple Holds 60% of XRP

Critics point to the fact that Ripple owns more than half the supply of XRP and can theoretically exact control over it. Of those holdings, 55 million are locked in escrow, with one billion released to Ripple each month.

XRP logo

Ripple’s Involvement in XRP

Unlike bitcoin or ethereum, which is mined into existence by its users, XRP was simply created all at once. Ripple has distanced itself from the creation of XRP, calling it an independent asset.

They say their share of XRP was “gifted” to them by the open source developers that created it. In a UK Parliament hearing, Ripple’s director of regulatory relations said this:

“XRP is open source and it was not created by our company, so [XRP] existed as an open source technology. We created a company that was interested in modernizing payments and then began using that open-source tech to do so … We didn’t create XRP … What we do have is we do own a significant amount of XRP, it was gifted to us by some of the open-source developers that created it. But there’s not a direct connection between Ripple the company and XRP.”

Critics point out, however, that the same registered company that became Ripple Labs also created the XRP token.

Is XRP a Security, Not Currency?

There’s an argument that XRP should be classified as a “security” (like a company stock) not a currency.

Critics say that if XRP was created by Ripple, and a majority is held by the company, it shouldn’t be classified as a currency.

Ripple is currently battling a lawsuit over this issue. The lawsuit argues that Ripple has misled people to expect a return from their XRP investment.

Ripple has denied that XRP is a security, saying: “We’re 100 percent clear, it’s not a security. We don’t meet the standards.”

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has yet to make a decision about XRP’s status. The SEC has indicated that bitcoin and ethereum are not securities. But they’re still quiet about XRP.

If XRP is deemed a security, Ripple will be subject to much stricter regulations and requirements.

So, is Ripple Centralized?

In the most recent statement on the issue, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said:

“It is very clearly decentralized. I, as CEO of the company, can’t control the XRP ledger. I can’t change a transaction… Anybody can participate in the XRP ecosystem, and if Ripple does something that is not in the best interest of the ecosystem, the rest of the ecosystem can ignore us.”

Ripple’s CTO also weighed in, saying XRP is less centralized than bitcoin and ethereum. He pointed to the fact that only four mining groups control more than 50% of the bitcoin and ethereum network. Ripple, he says, controls only 7% of validators on the XRP ledger.

Part Four: How to Buy and Store Ripple XRP Safely

How to Buy XRP

You may have noticed that XRP is not currently available to buy on Coinbase or Gemini – the two largest US crypto exchanges.

Coinbase logo

Why not?

Coinbase and Gemini claim they are reluctant to add XRP because of the ongoing debate about whether it classifies as a security. As mentioned, there are more hoops to jump through when listing a security on an exchange.

Until this issue is cleared, we may not see XRP available on Coinbase.

With that in mind, there are two options for buying XRP:

1. Buy XRP Directly From a Participating Exchange

Exchanges that facilitate US dollar transfers include Bittrex, Bitfinex, Kraken, BitStamp, Bitsane, Gatehub, CEX.io.

Simply create an account at one of these exchanges and exchange USD directly for XRP.

BittrexLogo_Color

2. Buy Bitcoin on Coinbase, Then Convert to XRP on Another Exchange

This second option is more complicated. However, it may be the best route depending on your local currency.

For example, it is difficult to purchase XRP with British sterling due to the lack of available exchanges and low liquidity.

In this case, you’ll need a roundabout solution:

1. Purchase bitcoin or ethereum on your preferred, trusted exchange, such as Coinbase.

2. Next, register with a crypto-crypto exchange that allows you to trade bitcoin for XRP. (Binance is perhaps the best known, but there are many others out there).

Binance-logo

3. Confirm your Binance account via email and set up 2FA (if you want to trade more than 2BTC, you’ll need to upload ID documents).

4. Navigate to “funds” > “deposit” > “Select deposits coin”

5. Select the currency you are sending from Coinbase, in this case, bitcoin. Binance will now give you a “deposit address.” It’s very important that you note this address down correctly. If you get it wrong, you will send the bitcoin to someone else, and you’ll never get it back.

binance deposit

6. Head back to Coinbase. Select “send funds” and input the deposit address from Binance.

7. Send (this may take a couple of hours at peak times)

8. Back on Binance, you should now see your transferred bitcoin funds.

9. Purchase XRP on Binance. Using the trading screen, you can now trade your bitcoin funds for XRP.

How to Safely Store XRP

Once you’ve bought XRP, we highly recommend you move it to a cold storage wallet (in other words, a wallet not connected to the internet).

There are exceptions. For example, if you intend to trade XRP regularly or use it for live transfers. In that case, you may want to keep a small portion in a “hot wallet” connected to the internet or leave it on the exchange for trading.

But let’s assume you want to hold XRP for the future in the safest possible way. That means cold storage.

Hardware wallet – a hardware wallet is like an external hard drive or USB stick but optimized for cryptocurrencies. Except for the short moment when you transfer your coins, hardware wallets are almost always offline. That makes them safe from hackers.

ledger nano cold storage bitcoin wallet plugged into a laptop

The only risk here is losing or damaging your hardware wallet. If that happens, your XRP tokens are gone forever.

The most popular hardware wallets are Ledger and Trezor. However, Trezor does not yet support XRP.

BitGo also offers a cold storage custody service for those with large sums of XRP.

Desktop wallet – A desktop wallet stores your cryptocurrency keys on your computer using a software package. On the plus side, they are more convenient for regular use and trading. But on the other hand, they are somewhat more vulnerable to hackers.

One of the most popular XRP desktop wallets is Toast. It’s an open source software available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android.

Online wallets – Online wallets do exactly what they say; store your XRP online. While this is super convenient and easy to use, they are less secure. If you want to pursue this route, Coinpayments is a popular option that supports XRP.

Part Six: What’s Next For Ripple XRP?

The fact that four of Ripple’s partners are now using XRP is a huge step forward.

However, there’s a long road before XRP becomes widely adopted by banks and money transfer companies.

Ripple has two main tasks to achieve. First, they must partner with crypto exchange all over the world. So far, Ripple has partnered with Bittrex to facilitate transfers through USD, Bitso for Mexican pesos and Coins.ph for Philippine pesos.

But Ripple will need partnerships like this all over the world for XRP to become a worldwide bridge currency.

Secondly, Ripple needs to convince banks to upgrade from xCurrent to xRapid. In other words, they need to convince banks to actually use cryptocurrency.

As one Ripple exec said, the narrative has always been “blockchain good, crypto bad.” So while xCurrent’s blockchain technology is an easier sell, xRapid’s cryptocurrency product is more difficult.

Ripple calls this the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

Progress is being made. Many banks are trialing the XRP service and reporting good results.

Brad Garlinghouse claims that “dozens” of banks will be using xRapid by the end of 2019. Block Explorer will keep you up to date as we hear more.

Xpring

Ripple is also working on a project called Xpring (pronounced “spring”). It aims to encourage tech startups to use the XRP Ledger.

Xpring will see Ripple support startups with grants and investments that use XRP in innovative ways.

It aims to open up the XRP ledger to new use-cases, not just global money transfers. Xpring is currently supporting projects in music with Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager. Yes, really), and a tech startup called Omni, which allows you to rent or store just about anything.

Conclusion

Ripple is building a new standard in global money transfers. With hundreds of bank partners, it has the potential to upend the entire financial industry.

However, that doesn’t mean the cryptocurrency XRP is a sure thing. Getting banks to adopt blockchain technology is one thing. Convincing them to transfer money using a digital currency is the next big challenge.

Watch this space.

Learned something new in this article? Subscribe to the Block Explorer newsletter.