Puzzle Pieces Fitting Together: Ripple & XRP

Board puzzles are surprisingly fun – even for those of us that tend to gravitate towards more cerebral entertainment.  There’s something cathartic about seeing an entire picture created from various individual parts.

Whatever the case may be – or your perspective on the matter – you’ve got to admit one thing about the latest news around the XRP ecosystem; the puzzle pieces are coming together surprisingly well!

Ripple’s timing of their latest major release of Rippled (the validator software) was during – and directly after – Blockchain Week in New York City.  Four of the eight major companies piloting xRapid have released their results confirming the cost savings.  SBI Virtual Currencies is about to open its doors.  Liquidity – and the general crypto market – is slowly finding its footing once again as prices start to nudge higher across the crypto spectrum.

And of course let’s not forget the big news: xCurrent looks like it is quickly gaining momentum across all corners of the globe in its effort to replace SWIFT’s aging messaging system.

Each of these items individually is big news, but consider how each of the parts inter-relates with one another, and how the entire RippleNet network is growing to a size miguel_viaswhich is orders of magnitude above the levels we observed just one year ago.  2018 still has many months left; it’s wise to keep in mind the words of Miguel Vias when he first heard about IDT and Mercury FX piloting xRapid: 1

“I believe the right word for this is traction. 2018 is going to be our year.” 

General Crypto News

On Monday, May 28th, hackers contacted two Canadian banks and demand that a ransom be paid to them.

It turns out they were able to gain access to the bank accounts and personal information for approximately 90,000 different individuals at both the Bank of Montreal (BMO) and Simplii Financial, which is an online bank subsidiary to CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce). 2 3 4

The hackers exploited an account recovery mechanism whereby they were able to reset the access to accounts after answering some cursory information that they were first able to obtain without any credentials.

The hackers contacted the banks and demanded that $1 million dollars’ worth of XRP be deposited in a specific address; the deadline passed without payment, however, and it’s not clear if the hackers have actually released the personal information or not. 5   BMO released a statement akin to the familiar “we do not negotiate…” theme: 6

“Our practice is not to make payments to fraudsters; we are focused on protecting and helping our customers.”

Volcker Rule

The “Volcker Rule” basically prevents banks from making what are considered to be unsafe bets with depositors’ money.  According to some stakeholders in Washington – and in banking – the rule is too complex and is onerous especially for small-and-medium-size banks to comply with.  The changes would simplify conformance with the law at the same time streamlining enforcement, thereby reducing the amount of overhead associated with the rule.

Keep in mind that the rule was enacted after the banking crisis in 2008.

Paul Volcker himself, the original author of the legislation, and a former federal reserve Chairman, had this to say about the recent effort to change the law:

“What is critical is that simplification not undermine the core principle at stake — that taxpayer-supported banking groups, of any size, not participate in proprietary trading at odds with the basic public and customers’ interests.”

I think we can all agree that this is a worthy goal.

So what effect will this have on banks’ ability to use and/or invest in digital assets?  It’s unknown at this time, but I will point out that one Federal Reserve Governor, Lael Brainard, has gone on record in the past in support of the notion of using digital assets in cross-border value transfer. 7 Lael Brainard was quoted in this article.  Here is what she had to say: 8

“The requirement of C.E.O. attestation is critical for this to work, in my view,”

What is CEO attestation?  It’s a requirement that banks’ CEOs attest (provide a signed statement) that their bank is adhering to any restrictions on speculative betting.  Now, on the surface, most crypto networks will not be jumping for joy at this.  When banks’ CEOs are required to personally attest that the bank is not taking undue risks, it definitely pours cold water on the notion of any speculative investment in digital assets by banks.

However, it leaves an open door to the possibility of investment in crypto-assets for the purpose of cross-border value transfer – i.e. utility tokens that could be acquired by the bank.  And it also provides a way for banking CEOs to color their speculative investment as well; in other words, perhaps XRP may be considered a speculative investment in its own right, but if banks are holding it and managing the risk as they would with other fiat currency, and it serves a purpose such as cross-border value transfer, then it provides both in reality: A speculative investment and a utility token for bridging fiat currency.

This could be a significant win-win situation for banks, as their XRP assets could climb in value as well as be used for settlement of cross-border payments.

Ripple News

In a previous blog, I covered the fact that Ripple reached a code nomenclature milestone with their release candidate of “Rippled 1.0.0 r.c.”  While Ripple emphasized that it viewed the release as it does other ones, it also emphasized that this particular release would be considered the first “major” release into production.  The nomenclature involved is defined this way:

MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH

So far, we’ve seen five years of production-ready XRP, but Ripple (the company) always considered the code to involve a series of minor releases.  The timing of the latest major release is interesting; there are a couple other events and developments within the XRP ecosystem at the same time, including the transition to production for SBI Virtual Currencies (SBI VC).  In addition, four of the eight known xRapid pilots have now completed with positive confirmation of XRP’s cost savings.

And now we see that Ripple views their latest Rippled release as the first major release of XRP software.  Their own perspective was communicated on the internal location that the company uses to communicate information to those that run Ripple validators: 9

“The rippled v1.0.0 release includes incremental improvements to several previously released features. v1.0.0 also symbolizes the growing maturity of the software and the increased stability of the decentralized, growing network of nodes that are running the software all around the world.”

If you haven’t viewed what Ripple communicates as part of their standard procedure, you should take a look and see for yourself, especially since this release serves as a significant milestone in the code-base history:

change_log_1-0

Brad Garlinghouse Hits the Airwaves

He’s no stranger to the spotlight; and it’s something that we absolutely need in a skilled CEO – the ability to spar with interviewers about tough subjects.  In addition, Brad Garlinghouse uses the spotlight to position the company and communicate key points and positions about topics, including regulation and banking trends.

Recently, we’ve seen Brad Garlinghouse kick it up a notch, sitting for various interviews and panel discussions in a variety of venues.  In the latest panel discussion at the Recode conference, he criticized what he called “religious zealotry” among some in the blockchain technology space.  Watching the thirty-minute video, I agreed with all of his points:

Here is Brad’s comment that received so much attention from both the crypto press and mainstream media: 10

“We may come to find that Bitcoin is kind of the Napster of digital assets. This is transformative technology, but Spotify and iTunes and Pandora rule the day because they engaged with regulators to solve a real problem.”

It’s my belief that this comparison is spot on.  In the early days of crypto, some proponents were under the impression that, to effect change, they needed to completely circumvent all laws and create a technology that supported the destruction of the current financial system.

This immature view – that the entire current establishment must be destroyed – is not new.  It’s the clarion call of so many religions and political movements throughout history that this blog would easily run into pages if we listed them all.  Instead, Brad Garlinghouse wisely predicts a maturation phase to the technology, its proponents, and also its development community.  Yes, the Satoshi Nakamoto whitepaper was revolutionary; but technology is just that – a bit of ones and zeros that doesn’t care about your politics.

Unchain 2018

According to their own description, Unchain is: 11

“… a 2 day conference, featuring some of the world’s leading Cryptocurrency and Blockchain experts and entrepreneurs.”

The 2018 version of Unchain took place in Hamburg, Germany from May 31st to June 1st.  It featured a number of panels and speakers, including David Schwartz:

It’s yet one more example of Ripple’s increasing presence at industry gatherings and events where blockchain technology leaders interface with interested parties, including entrepreneurs and businesses investigating the latest fintech innovations.

OnePay App

Remember Santander’s OnePay app?  In April, Santander formally announced that they were moving forward with production usage of OnePay, a mobile application that allows end-users to make payments in any currency across borders. 12 It’s a revolutionary app, and it supports real-time payments across borders using Ripple’s xCurrent solution.  xCurrent gives banks the ability to message each other in real-time to confirm payment details before and after payment delivery.

Currently, Santander indicated that the application is available to a subset of their customers in Spain, the U.K., Brazil and Poland; but they also indicated that they plan on rolling it out to larger groups of their customers once additional countries are supported.

Key Facts to Consider

Here’s a couple factoids to keep in mind regarding the Santander OnePay app:

  • Santander is the 16th largest bank in the world 13
  • Santander has 14 million (active) customers 14
  • Roughly 50% of Santander’s international payments are done using xCurrent 15 16

These numbers are striking; it’s clear from these implied large volume levels that the ILP connectors and processors are scaling horizontally just as predicted, and Santander is able to successfully scale using xCurrent.  It’s a reminder of Ripple technology’s growing reach in banking – despite whether or not banks are comfortable at the moment using XRP for liquidity.

Ripple’s Video

Ripple emphasized how Santander’s application doesn’t compromise on the smooth end-user experience:

“It’s about the fluid, easy customer experience for mobile users. It’s what consumers require and expect in today’s market — whether it’s sending a secure message to a friend, hailing a rideshare or sending money across borders.”

In addition to the acknowledgement of the app on their Insights page, Ripple released a video of the app being used to process a payment:

Now let’s shift gears and talk about something equally exciting: SBI Virtual Currencies.

SBI Virtual Currencies

As expected, the beginning of June has brought some changes to the SBI Virtual Currencies site.

The public opening of of SBI VC – which uses XRP as a primary base currency –  is an event that is anticipated by XRP fans.  SBI Virtual Currencies is currently serving a very limited number of customers, but it is nearing its release date.  The launch date for SBI VC was postponed due to concerns that security for the exchange be airtight, especially in light of the NEM theft that happened at Coincheck.

What was the time frame mentioned for the formal launch?  When a reporter asked SBI_CEOYoshitaka Kitao, the CEO of SBI Group, if the launch date for SBI VC would be late spring or early summer, Mr. Kitao had a three-word response: 17

“It is so.”

Of course, during that same interview, the following quote also made headlines:

“When we do it, it will be number one in the blink of an eye…”

The first comment about the timing of SBI VC’s production release was somewhat overshadowed by his comments on how SBI VC might be eagerly anticipated by the market.  Given the comment about the timing of the formal release, however, many XRP fans were keeping watch on the SBI VC site as time marched forward into June.  They were rewarded with some visible changes to the SBI site, and it has prompted a new round of speculation about the SBI VC launch date.  One fan on Reddit wrote: 18

“Although it is not live, the site has been updated and it looks customer ready. They now have many sub-pages, including a service overview, a guide on how to deposit/withdraw money, a Q&A about Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency, the risks associated with CryptoCurrencies and how to secure your CryptoCurrencies.”

However, the formal launch has not yet been communicated; we’ll have to wait for further news from SBI as we progress into June.

XRP News

Voting on the new symbol that will represent XRP started on June 1st.  It will proceed until midnight on June 7th (EST), at which point the top three choices will then make it to the final voting round.  The final voting round has yet to be scheduled by @xrpsymbol.

The voting process and overall community selection is being administered by @xrpsymbol (Twitter handle).

The voting site is here:  https://xrpsymbol.com/

XRP_symbol2

For weeks prior to June 1st, @xrpsymbol oversaw the submission of many suggestions for the new XRP Symbol, and was responsible for the (very) unpopular task of narrowing the selection to those choices that met certain criteria.  The criteria he used to narrow the available choices included the following: 19

  • You agree that you are submitting your original work, and that the work you submit is licensed under a Creative Commons 0 license.
  • Images may not contain defamatory, controversial or graphic imagery.
  • Submissions may not contain trademarked components. Submissions that impinge on existing marks will be removed prior to voting.
  • Images must be easy to write by hand, and need to scale well (think 8 point font).
  • A brief, written description of the symbolism must accompany each submission.

I’ve blogged about the submissions previously; many incredibly creative and artistic representations of XRP were put forward.  Everybody’s taste is personal, and I had four favorites that I really liked.  Recently, I logged into the website and voted and was able to see which selections were the most popular.  Every selection seemed to have a subset of fans, however, so it’s up to those participating in the voting process to champion the ones they prefer and make a case for them.

My advice?  Set aside a few minutes to log in and make your preference known.

Exchange News

Coincorner is a small exchange that reports its volume to coinmarketcap.com. 20 Although the volume on their exchange is relatively small, they recently added XRP support to their pairings, announcing the move on Reddit through their corporate account:

coincorner_XRP

Even though it’s currently a small exchange, moves like adding XRP support indicate that the owners of the exchange have their eye on increased volume.  It will be fascinating to circle back in three months to compare the overall volume of the exchange.

GMO Mobile App

GMO is a very large Japanese crypto exchange.  The exchange added XRP in November of last year, and recently, they announced the creation of a new mobile application. 21 22

The current trend in cryptocurrency trading – and in many other financial sectors – is to place customer-facing functions on mobile applications.  We’ve seen enormous growth specifically in crypto trading on these mobile applications, and it makes sense from a convenience standpoint; traders can focus on their regular nine-to-five jobs if they can also have easy access to making real-time decisions about investment directions.  Sometimes traders need to make split-second decisions, and having access to a mobile trading platform supports that need.

GMO calls its new application “GMO Coin Virtual Currency Wallet” and it is said to support both crypto choices and fiat – notably the Japanese Yen.

Liquidity

In May, history was made when Bitbank became the number one exchange by volume bitbankfor XRP. 23

It’s a Japanese exchange, and it signals a more balanced volume distribution originating from Asia; historically, South Korea has been the steady leader in XRP volume.  This trend is starting to fade, however, as the volume from South Korea is starting to plateau, and Japan’s appetite for crypto trading is now starting to challenge South Korean dominance. 24

The Puzzle is Almost Complete

What are the components necessary for the entire apparatus to quickly scale?  What does xRapid need?

If we look at all the facts and progress, along with the business deals and mechanisms that Ripple has carefully put into place, each one may seem meaningful in itself; however, it’s wise to look at the situation from a holistic point of view.  The question you should ask is “Does Ripple have everything it needs to make xRapid work at scale?”

xRapid, to support truly global levels of commerce, will need to have high-volume exchanges where pairings of various crypto-to-fiat trading takes place.  Or perhaps there is some technique where additional software can overlay individual exchanges and create liquidity pools?  There has been much speculation about such an endeavor, but Ripple has been silent on that topic.

Do banks have adequate custody solutions for safely handling (and storing) crypto?  We know that Ripple has talked about this factor independently of the overall topic of xRapid adoption, but think about it in context; banks are usually not keen on building software themselves.  They are also new to handling digital assets.  These are real obstacles that must be overcome, and Ripple was the first organization to not only spot these obstacles, but actively plan for them.

We are quickly approaching the point where the puzzle will reveal the entire picture; I am prepared – and anticipating – what will happen to XRP liquidity and volume when that happens.  Are you? XRP_new1

Sources:

  1. https://twitter.com/miguelvias/status/956181062668840961
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Imperial_Bank_of_Commerce
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_Montreal
  4. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bank-hack-tuesday-1.4682018
  5. https://www.ccn.com/hackers-demand-1-million-in-xrp-after-breaching-two-canadian-banks/
  6. http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bank-hack-tuesday-1.4682018
  7. https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/brainard20180515a.htm
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/30/business/volcker-rule-banks-federal-reserve.html
  9. https://ripple.com/dev-blog/rippled-version-1-0-0/
  10. http://www.livebitcoinnews.com/ripple-ceo-we-may-come-to-find-that-bitcoin-is-the-napster-of-digital-assets/
  11. https://twitter.com/UNCHAIN_Con
  12. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/santander-launches-international-payment-built-152849526.html
  13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_banks
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santander_UK
  15. https://www.ft.com/content/87c97744-fd4e-4f14-9740-7f487ce5b460
  16. https://ripple.com/insights/live-transaction-santanders-onepay-fx/
  17. https://www.businessinsider.jp/post-166536
  18. https://www.reddit.com/r/Ripple/comments/8nr30y/sbi_virtual_currency_site_has_been_updated/
  19. https://xrpsymbol.com/
  20. https://coinmarketcap.com/exchanges/coincorner/
  21. https://www.financemagnates.com/cryptocurrency/exchange/japanese-cryptocurrency-exchange-gmo-coin-add-ripple/
  22. https://www.financemagnates.com/cryptocurrency/news/gmo-internet-offers-four-new-cryptos-trade-introduces-new-wallet-app/
  23. https://www.cryptoninjas.net/2018/05/31/japans-bitbank-achieves-number-one-in-30-day-ripple-xrp-volume/
  24. https://xrpcharts.ripple.com/#/xrp-markets
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xRapid Tipping Point Reached?

The use of the term ‘tipping point’ is used to designate when momentum behind a new idea’s adoption becomes unstoppable.

Has xRapid, Ripple’s solution for sourcing liquidity with the cryptocurrency XRP, reached that point?  Brad Garlinghouse doesn’t pull any punches when he points out the differences between the industry’s first mover – Bitcoin – and the newer network that doesn’t depend on mining to secure its transactions – XRP.  But he is also realistic about what it will take to get banks, one of the most conservative customers, to use digital assets: 1brad_garlinghouse3

“I think the same thing will happen in banking. People who are invested in us love xCurrent but they’re not sure about xRapid… I think it’s just the beginning.”

He compared xRapid adoption to a ‘crawl-walk-run’ situation, highlighting how remittance processors will be the first ones to verify and document XRP’s cost savings.

And he’s right.  Thus far, four of the confirmed eight (yes, eight) remittance processors have verified and published their positive verification of xRapid’s cost savings:

xRapid_Pilot_Progress

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

For clarity, understand that hundreds of banks are signing up to use Ripple technology.  So many that Ripple discloses new xCurrent customers in batches; xCurrent is Ripple’s replacement for most of the functionality behind SWIFT’s messaging system.  I like Ripple’s quiet confidence regarding xCurrent and xRapid.  If even XRP fans are left guessing which banks will be the first ones to flip the switch on using XRP as a bridge asset, you can rest assured that analysts from SWIFT are wondering the same exact thing.

When correspondence banking starts to utilize xRapid for sourcing liquidity, and a who’s who of the world’s largest banks are using ILP for messaging, it’s a sign that SWIFT’s glory days are now in the rear-view mirror along with the status quo.  Changing an industry is never an easy task, and it’s taken Ripple more than five years to finally convince conservative financial institutions that using a digital asset can result in real-time payments that settle in less than four seconds.

General Crypto News & Impacts on XRP

On May 21st, several news outlets covered a statement made by Bruno Le Maire, France’s Finance Minister.  In an interview with Alex Stachtchenko, He stated: 12

“I was a rookie a year ago, but now, I’ve been seized by a sudden passion. It took me a year. Let’s teach this knowledge to our fellow citizen to make France the first place for blockchain & cryptocurrency innovation in Europe.”

This statement arrives on the heels of France’s decision to decrease the tax rate on cryptocurrency sales from 45 percent to 19 percent.  The French government also has announced that it will look at creating a special regulatory framework to assist entrepreneurs with overcoming obstacles to starting new blockchain businesses.

Coincheck

Coincheck suffered a black eye from the adverse publicity arising from the NEM hack in January of this year. 13 As a result of the hack, Coincheck received a business improvement order from the Japanese Financial Services Agency (FSA) on March 8th14   The exchange was allowed to continue operations as they made improvements, including implementing stringent KYC and AML requirements.

To comply with KYC and AML, the exchange made the decision to de-list all trading of privacy tokens, due to the fact that the technology allows ease-of-use for those attempting to launder money or otherwise avoid detection. In fact, no exchanges that have applied to the FSA have listed any privacy coins.

If you want to own and trade in XMR, ZEC, DASH, or REP, you’ll need to work with an exchange outside of Japan.  How does this affect XRP?  It shouldn’t impact XRP, other than the general benefit of a narrowing of choices on the exchange.

While XRP can be anonymized by usage of a technique called “Pathshuffle,” it does not contain any native code for the purpose of anonymity.  In other words, to anonymize an XRP payment, the technique would involve obfuscation of sender and/or receiver through a method of using the network.  It’s not an inherent capability, and this puts it in the same category as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies that Coincheck will continue to support. 15

Ripple News

Block Show is a series of events and conferences sponsored by Cointelegraph.  The latest one occurred in Berlin, Germany, from May 28th through the 29th.  Among the attendees and participants were David Schwartz (@joelkatz on Twitter and other social media) and Tiffany Hayden (@haydentiff on Twitter).

The conference organizers live-streamed a presentation by a number of panelists including David Schwartz, on May 29th:

When the panel discussion started, the facilitator asked David Schwartz immediately about the level of decentralization of the XRP Ledger, along with the utility of XRP.   David Schwartz provided his perspective on those topics in a very intuitive manner.

Here’s a portion of that introduction:

Question:  “Is it (the XRP Ledger) centralized?”

Answer (David Schwartz):  “I don’t think so.  I think that’s a buzzword that people define to create a criterion that their favorite project sort of “passes,” and the projects that they like less, fail.

I think that when people want a system that is decentralized, what they want is a guarantee  that the system will treat everybody fairly; that there isn’t someone who can arbitrarily change the rules; that the system will behave the same way next year as it does today.”

As always, David Schwartz provided his intuitive perspective on complex topics in a way that nicely summarized the logic – or lack thereof – of some of the points.  Not every venue captures the genius behind his problem-solving skills, but this panel seemed to be a great example of his ability to quickly frame up complicated issues.

xRapid Pilot Results for Currencies Direct

You may not have known about this xRapid customer – I know it was a surprise to me when I saw the announcement; Currencies Direct has been a part of a pilot using xRapid for sourcing liquidity while making cross-border payments.  In addition to being an unannounced xRapid customer, Currencies Direct issued a statement about their initial trial, saying: 16

“Our goal is to offer the best possible service. We believe that utilising cryptocurrencies in this way – as a transfer of value, rather than as a store of value – is the next logical step for our industry. It is, after all, the intended purpose of cryptocurrencies and we’re proud to be leveraging new technology to deliver the most convenient and seamless experience for our customers.”

The announcement then went on to explain the mechanics behind XRP’s use in xRapid, which was a refreshing primer for any readers that didn’t already understand the basics.

How big is Currencies Direct?  Its reach extends to eight countries and they handled $4.5 billion in currency swaps last year.  They pride themselves on providing better rates on currency swaps than traditional banks. 17

With all of the remittance processors using xRapid and unanimously validating the cost savings associated with XRP’s use, I predict that XRP owners won’t have long to wait before utility-driven demand makes itself known.

Japan Society of Monetary Economics

XRPWorld recently discovered that SBI Ripple Asia was due to speak at the Japan Society of Monetary Economics.

Reyc, the author of the article, noted the following: 18

“Interestingly, SWIFT will speak right before Mr. Okita on the subject of ‘Global Payments Innovation’ presented by Hiroshi Nakatake representing MUFG Bank”

I agree that it would have been quite interesting to see the SWIFT presentation and then Mr. Okita back-to-back. 19  Perhaps it was an intentional ordering of the presentations, so that listeners could be apprised about facts regarding the status quo vs. the new technology that is now being adopted en masse by global banks.

The meeting was scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 27th at the University of Senshu in Tokyo, Japan. 20 From a few quick searches, it doesn’t look like the Japan Society of Monetary Economics posts videos of their conferences, but perhaps eventually an audience member may upload a video of the conference.

Bank of America?

An XRP fan noted on Reddit that he’d come across a reference to Ripple technology in recent Bank of America collateral.  On May 17th, Bank of America held its “Development Day;” this included a presentation on the topic of Blockchain technology and its use in trade finance.  The author of the Reddit post provided two direct quotes contained in the presentation: 21

“Ripple provides an opportunity to reduce complexity of integration to enabled partners, standardise data protocols and formats and eliminate errors and reconciliation through use of blockchain distributed ledger technology”

and

“Pilot to enable more efficient cross-currency payments by reducing lengthy/unknown settlement times, eliminating multiple layers of cost and providing greater transparency over FX, fees and data shared between originator and recipient.”

While there is no specific mention of xRapid, I would assume that BOA is piloting xCurrent for usage as a replacement for SWIFT messaging.  I also placed a question mark at the beginning of this section, because even though this second-hand account of the presentation is encouraging, there has been no formal confirmation or announcement of BOA as a Ripple client.

Hopefully we’ll see BOA or Ripple make a formal announcement in the near future.

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) Joins RippleNet

Banks worldwide are joining RippleNet in greater numbers; among this list are many banks based in the middle East, and that list includes at least one central bank as well.  The latest bank to join the network is the Kuwait Finance House, or KFH for short. 22

KFH was established in 1977 as the first “Islamic Bank” in Kuwait. 23

What is an “Islamic bank?”  An Islamic bank is a bank that handles its affairs and its investments in compliance with Sharia, or Islamic law.  This gives it some unique characteristics, such as following the Muslim restrictions on “riba” or “usury” which essentially prohibits interest on loans.  That’s just one example of what sets apart an “Islamic” bank from an ordinary bank. 24

KFH is heavily owned by the Kuwaiti Investment Authority, which essentially handles investments for the Kuwaiti Sovereign Fund.  KFH’s reach extends internationally to several other countries, such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Malaysia.  The addition of KFH exemplifies that RippleNet is connecting all parts of the global banking system, including those economic powerhouses that exist in the Middle East.

National Bank of Kuwait

The National Bank of Kuwait was established in 1952, and has grown into one of the largest regional banks.  It manages total assets of roughly $79 billion, and posted revenue of $3.2 billion in 2016. 25  On Tuesday, May 29th, the National Bank of Kuwait’s Twitter account formally announced their membership in RippleNet:

The Kuwait Finance House (KFH) and the National Bank of Kuwait both announced their RippleNet membership within three days of each other.

Coincidence?  Unlikely.

XRP News

Coinome is an Indian-based exchange owned and operated by IndiaIdeas.com Ltd (BillDesk). 26  Because their volumes are not included in coinmarketcap.com, I don’t know how large they are, or what impact they will have on overall XRP liquidity.  It’s nice to see their enthusiasm on display in their Twitter announcement:

It appears from its currency pairings that Coinome offers fiat support for INR (Rupee), although I have yet to receive confirmation from Coinome on whether this applies to XRP as well.  Regardless, this new listing is a welcome addition to XRP’s presence on the subcontinent, and hopefully it adds to the amount of INR trading that we can utilize for the overall XRP network.

European Meetups

If you’re in Europe and want to participate in an XRP meetup, you’ll be interested to know that Claire Arthurs Kart, Ripple’s Head of Community, is organizing three potential gatherings.  Ripple hasn’t committed to anybody specifically for these meetups, but is planning on fielding company representatives to meet with fans:

To participate, please access and fill out one of Clair’s questionnaires so she can plan for an appropriate venue and other factors.  It’s great to see XRP’s European fans have an opportunity to meet with representatives from Ripple, as well as have an opportunity to connect in the brick-and-mortar world with each other.

XRP Symbol Voting Starts June 1st

The community effort at submitting XRP symbol designs for inclusion in the final vote has been happening steadily over the last two weeks, and the Twitter account leading the effort – @xrpsymbol – has communicated some high level information about the timeline:

“Voting is set to start on June 1st and last for one week.”

That means there is only one day left for new submissions at the time of this writing.  Those that wish to submit a last-minute design need to keep in mind that there are some stringent guidelines before their proposal will be included in the formal vote:

  • Images may not contain defamatory, controversial or graphic imagery.
  • Submissions may not contain trademarked components. Submissions that impinge on existing marks will be removed prior to voting.
  • Images must be easy to write by hand, and need to scale well (think 8 point font).
  • A brief, written description of the symbolism must accompany each submission.

The information about the voting and submission timeline(s) can be found in the “FAQ” section of the website:  https://xrpsymbol.com/

Voting itself will require users to authenticate with their Twitter login credentials.  If they are a confirmed Twitter account, they will be allowed to vote once.  @xrpsymbol indicated that three XRP community members helped him with the website, along with the subsequent Twitter authentication.

Any effort to arrive at a new design – for anything – necessarily involves personal taste and aesthetics; Not everybody will agree with the winner, but I can’t wait to see which symbol obtains the most votes.

Apple Stocks App

Apple Stocks is an iPhone application that allows users to keep up to date on finance information such as stock prices.  Apple recently added XRP to their app, listing it with  value pairings against other cryptocurrencies.  One article speculates that this comprehensive listing is a signal that new global exchanges have decided to list XRP. 27

Whatever the reason or background, the listing on the Apple Stocks app created a certain level of buzz following the high-profile appearance by Ashton Kutcher on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Naga Wallet

Those that follow news about initial coin offerings (ICOs) may already have some cursory knowledge of the Naga wallet.  The Naga ICO closed in December of 2017.  They are now executing their business plan and have created a multi-currency wallet to allow investors to purchase and store various cryptocurrencies.

On May 24rth, the Naga team tweeted an announcement that they would be adding support for XRP:

The Naga wallet is one of the centerpieces of their ICO, and it is described as supporting a wide range of cryptocurrencies, including XRP:  28

“NAGA WALLET users can store, send, and withdraw all of the major cryptocurrencies, as well as 1,200+ ERC-20 tokens.”

There are several highly-reputable wallets that support XRP, however it’s always great to add another highly-functional option to the list.  I look forward to hearing about the user experience of the first adopters that choose to purchase and store their “zerps” with this wallet.

Send XRP Via Text: Enhanced Website

The innovations were developed quickly by two XRP Community developers: @WietseWind and @baltazar223.  While WietseWind developed a method whereby users can text XRP to other users – even those without an XRP wallet – baltazar223 developed an application that integrates with another popular messaging platform: Telegram.

The XRP community reacted with enthusiasm, helping to promote and use the two methods, and assisting with content for a central website to house user instructions, educational material, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).  If you’re interested in sending XRP to another person over SMS or Telegram, refer to the website here:

https://xrptext.com/

IMPORTANT WARNING:  Usage of the SMS Text app is not free – the service is provided by Twilio, so fees are involved.  Also, the two developers emphasized on the website that the project, while impressive, is still considered a ‘beta’ project.  They issued this warning on the website for new users: 29

“Please note!  This project is in public beta. There may be glitches.
I (we) won’t accept liability for any loss of funds.”

Other Developers Take Note:

In addition to providing yet another facet of the XRP ecosystem, these two projects also blazed a trail for other developers to follow.  If you are a developer in search of some sample code or if you’re just plain interested in how they went about it, you can refer to the Github repository(s) here:

Tipping Point Achieved?

XRP will reach its tipping point with momentum to spare, and in fact it may have been reached already.  What inspires my confidence regarding XRP’s success, and why do I believe that the tipping point for adoption of this digital asset is close – or even in the past already?

Malcom Gladwell is a Canadian author and speaker, and a noted expert in various sociological phenomenon.  He’s authored numerous books, including “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” (2013) and “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” (2000). 30

He stated: 31

“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts”

What are these gifts?

  • Connectors:  The people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions.
  • Mavens: The people we rely upon to connect us with new information.
  • Salesmen: The charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills.

When I look at the above descriptions of the three groups largely responsible for social change, I cannot help but overlay the descriptions onto various people in both the XRP Community and those that work directly for Ripple, the company.  In fact, I’d venture to say that some individuals seem to possess all three characteristics.

And when it comes to company leadership, each executive within Ripple rates highly against each of these three descriptions.  When you conduct your own research into various other cryptocurrency networks, teams, and projects, look for yourself at the composition of the individuals involved and determine if they rate as strongly as the team that comprises Ripple.  When it comes to real, tangible business results, there is no other fintech company that has achieved what many naysayers thought was impossible: the utilization of blockchain technology to achieve real-time settlement of payments across borders.

Thanks to four remittance companies verifying its cost savings, we are now looking to the world’s correspondence banks to follow suit; it’s time for the worlds’ economies to benefit by usage of XRP.  XRP_new1

Sources:

  1. http://meedax.com/2018/05/25/ripple-ceo-brad-garlinghouse-thinks-ripple-will-be-a-winner-in-the-longer-term/
  2. https://www.financemagnates.com/cryptocurrency/news/cuallix-uses-ripple-cross-border-payments-u-s-mexico/
  3. https://ripple.com/ripple_press/ripple-and-moneygram-partner-to-modernize-payments/
  4. https://ripple.com/insights/more-global-payment-providers-idt-and-mercuryfx-sign-up-to-use-xrp/
  5. http://fortune.com/2018/02/14/ripple-xrp-western-union-money-transfers/
  6. https://trademarketsnews.com/cambridge-will-use-xrp-faster-global-payments/
  7. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180510005148/en/Ripple-Reports-Positive-Results-xRapid-Pilots
  8. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeldelcastillo/2018/05/10/ripple-reveals-results-of-first-pilots-using-xrp-cryptocurrency/#53d679b3662d
  9. http://www.cuallet.com/en/ripples-global-financial-network-will-work-with-cuallet/
  10. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180510005148/en/Ripple-Reports-Positive-Results-xRapid-Pilots
  11. https://www.cryptoglobe.com/latest/2018/05/currencies-direct-completes-successful-european-pilot-of-ripples-xrapid-and-calls-xrp-a-game-changer/
  12. https://cryptotimes.org/cryptocurrency/french-finance-minister-seized-sudden-passion-cryptocurrency/
  13. http://fortune.com/2018/01/29/coincheck-japan-nem-hack/
  14. https://news.bitcoin.com/coincheck-delists-xmr-dash-zec-rep/
  15. https://news.bitcoin.com/coincheck-delists-xmr-dash-zec-rep/
  16. https://www.finextra.com/pressarticle/74072/currencies-direct-completes-successful-pilot-of-xrp-for-fx-payments
  17. https://www.currenciesdirect.com/en/about/currencies-direct-key-facts
  18. https://xrpworld.com/sbi-ripple-asia-jsme/
  19. http://www.jsmeweb.org/en/en_annual/prog18s_en.html
  20. http://www.jsmeweb.org/en/en_index.html
  21. https://www.reddit.com/r/Ripple/comments/8lijex/bank_of_america_and_ripple_devday/
  22. https://twitter.com/KFHGroup/status/1000347465080541184
  23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuwait_Finance_House
  24. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_banking_and_finance
  25. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Bank_of_Kuwait
  26. https://www.coinome.com/pages/about_coinome
  27. https://ambcrypto.com/apple-ripple-xrp-currency-pairings/
  28. https://naga.com/wallet/
  29. https://sms.xrptext.com/
  30. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Gladwell#Awards_and_honors
  31. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tipping_Point#The_Law_of_the_Few

Mainstream Adoption of Blockchain Tech and Crypto Asset Investing

Marco Krohn from genesis mining recently tweeted about a billboard outside Warrengenesis_mining_CEO Buffet’s office.  It was a humorous tweet; sometimes even the most serious of crypto analysts take time to share a joke once in a while.  Here’s what it said: 1

“Some new billboards outside Warren Buffet’s office!”

The picture included with the tweet was of this billboard that somebody financed to display outside Warren Buffet’s office:

warren_buffet_sign

Did Genesis Mining purchase the billboard?  Unknown: But I consider it a likely scenario.  You may have forgotten, but it was Genesis Mining who financed the memorable mock “banker demonstration” against Bitcoin on the opening morning of Blockchain Week in New York City: 2 3

bankers_against_bitcoin

The protest was fake, of course, but it afforded an opportunity to steer many onlookers and curious people to a website where alternative viewpoints to popular finance gurus could be communicated.  The effort is part of a multi-year effort by Genesis Mining to raise public awareness of cryptocurrency & blockchain technology.

It’s one of many steps that need to happen to invite cautious investors from mainstream finance.  Is this type of marketing a good idea?  Will it appeal to groups that have not already expressed an interest in digital assets and fintech?

I believe the answer is yes.  We need to see more of these types of guerilla marketing efforts that will shake up the status quo; blockchain technology is revolutionary, but no technology – no matter how incredible – will sell itself.  We need viral applications.  We need advertising.  And we need to make it safe for ordinary investors, along with traditional financial organizations, to own cryptocurrency.

General Crypto News & Impact on XRP

Amber Baldet is a former member of JP Morgan’s blockchain technology group.  While JP Morgan’s lead executive Jamie Dimon makes disparaging remarks about investing in cryptocurrencies, its former blockchain guru left and started her own company, Clovyr.

Here’s what Amber Baldet had to say about the banking industry’s reluctance to implement or use blockchain technology: 4Amber_Baldet

“I think it’s coming sooner than people probably think…But even where the will is, the legal and regulatory framework is challenging.”

The article’s author then went on to analyze some of the factors that are causing the current delay in banks and other regulated finance organizations using digital assets:

“Amongst banking culture, many are still shying away from it…security is the primary cause of concern.”

eToro Survey

eToro is a popular platform for crypto trading, and it supports XRP among many other cryptocurrency choices.  For a while now, the company has been tracking its user’s preferences for specific digital assets; and on May 20th, a news site published their findings, indicating which investments were popular according to age group.  Here are the results: 5

  • Age 18 – 23: XRP
  • Age 24 – 35: XRP
  • Age 36 – 54: XRP
  • Age 55+: XRP

I’m seeing a trend here.

The article went on to break down the demographics tracked by eToro, saying:

“Male investors dwarf female investors 91.5% to 8.5%.

(of investors), 30% are out of the job market.  Of the professional workers, nearly an equal percentage are in sales and marketing versus computer and IT services.  People working in the finance sector represent 8.48%.”

These demographic trends are what we’re used to seeing; crypto markets are currently composed of a very limited representation of the larger population, and are heavily skewed towards the younger male population.  While I’ve quoted these demographics in the past and decried how it exemplifies that mainstream retail investors haven’t yet entered the market, the progress towards a more representative slice of investors continues.

Hopefully when we see the next survey – from whatever source – we’ll observe some statistically-significant changes in demographic composition.  Until then, however, it’s at least encouraging to see new investors hungry for the smartest, most logical choice in crypto; XRP.

Ripple News

On March 27th, Ripple donated $29 million to Donor’s Choose, a site that organizes “classroom requests” for donations to teachers.  Every single classroom request in existence at that point was filled by Ripple’s donation.  This act resulted in immense amounts of gratitude from the site’s founder, along with the individual teachers whose projects were now fully funded. 6

Continuing on this philanthropic trend, on May 23rd Ripple donated $4 million dollars to the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund via a special appearance of Ashton Kutcher on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. 7

ellen_Ashton

Not only did this donation make headlines throughout mainstream media, it solidified once again Ripple’s commitment to using their treasury holdings of XRP not just to build out liquidity but also to help improve the world through philanthropic efforts.  I was ecstatic over Donors Choose, and I’m equally as excited with Ripple’s donation to Ellen’s Wildlife fund.

Mainstream News Coverage of Ripple’s Donation

The donation to Ellen’s Wildlife fund made international headlines, and resulted in a surge of those curious to learn more about Ashton Kutcher’s tech fund as well as Ripple and its technology.  One XRP community member researched Google trends to see if there was a significant increase in interest about XRP. 8  Here’s what he found: 9

Google_trends

It hit its peak on the day of the announcement; Google trends is not an intuitive measure however, so even though it’s maximum percentage of searches occurred on the 23rd, the absolute number of searches kept increasing as the day wore on. 10

Even though publicity is not the goal for philanthropic donations, and advertising tends to be much more focused and direct, this free coverage is also quite positive as the search engine statistics exemplify.

XRP News

For those that don’t already know, Uphold now supports XRP trading.

In January, when Gregg Kidd recently invested in Uphold, it was announced that part of his $57.5 million capital infusion would be used to insure the deposits of the exchange. 11 This was welcome news, and the official statement from the CEO of Uphold, Adrian Steckel, indicated that the money would also be used to fund something called “Uphold Labs,” to conduct R&D on consumer solutions, as well as creating new “Ripple-centric projects.”  Uphold also decided to list XRP in its trading of digital assets.

Furthering this progress, Uphold announced that it would move to “full support” of XRP.  This means that traders would have the option to withdraw their XRP to an external wallet if they chose.  This was something that many in the XRP community were waiting to see – an easy-to-use cryptocurrency trading application where they could also withdraw their XRP for safekeeping. 12 13

uphold_withdraw_option

With more application-based exchanges entering the market such as the RobinHood application, Uphold is taking smart steps to support its leadership in the trading of digital assets.  It will be interesting to see the customer adoption numbers for Uphold alongside its competitors in this space.

LMAX Opens Exchange

LMAX opened the first cryptocurrency exchange that specifically targets only institutional investors.  According to their own press release: 14

“LMAX Exchange developed LMAX Digital at the request of its existing institutional clients, who desired a credible, efficient and trusted platform on which to trade digital currencies with like-minded institutions.”

The exchange will start out offering only the most liquid of the cryptocurrencies, including XRP, Ethereum, Bitcoin (Core), Bitcoin (Cash), and LiteCoin.  Unlike other high-value exchanges, however, it’s not clear if LMAX will be considered an over-the-counter market or a real-time open market that will report its volume and prices to CMC.  It does not appear to be an OTC market due to this information published within its formal communication:

  • “Full custodian solution” (most OTC markets do not handle custody)
  • Matching latency under 350μs
  • High throughput >100,000 messages/second
  • Superior exchange performance: uptime 100%
  • All orders time-stamped in microseconds (receipt to execution)

All of these features point to a real-time exchange, not an OTC market.

True to its public-facing information, I don’t remember seeing any institutional-only exchange with these features.  The part I’m curious about is its eventual levels of volume and liquidity – can institutional-only membership really drive volume at significant levels?  The company’s CEO David Mercer claims that their trade platform moves trillions: 15 16

“Over $10 trillion of FIAT has been traded on our exchanges to date.”

Clearly this is one exchange to watch; will it be included in Coinmarketcap listings and other price & volume consolidation sites?  It should be, especially if the exchange can draw the level of volume mentioned in the news release.

FUD Bingo

In crypto market parlance, “FUD” stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.  More to the point, in crypto, it refers to when one or more individuals intentionally spread fear or try to infer something negative about a cryptographic network with no reputable source of information.

FUD is an unfortunate occurrence for any cryptocurrency, and for XRP, the community has created what it considers to be accurate responses to the most common misconceptions about the XRP network by new users.  To consolidate this list, the XRP Community’s most famous developer – Wietse Wind – created a website to host the responses to these common questions.

fundbingo

As you can see, it has a very intuitive interface, with the most common statements or causes of FUD listed, along with an easily-accessible response to each.  I’ve already referred to the site on several occasions to address the points that tend to be repetitive.  The website is located here:  https://fudbingo.com/

Where Will You Be When Mainstream Investors Adopt XRP?

The question is meant to be a humorous statement reflecting the fact that mainstream adoption does not happen when people are looking.  It takes a series of events, news stories, regulation, and other events to sway the general public.  We’ve made great progress in 2017 and 2018, with the SWELL conference and other high-profile blockchain gatherings, but this trend must continue at an even more intense level to convince the most conservative and skeptical of those in traditional finance.

As time passes and they observe the progress that the crypto markets are making and how blockchain technology like Ripple and XRP are engaging the market, they will start to be convinced, slowly but surely.

In crypto, we need companies, cryptographic networks, academics, and corporate stakeholders to help champion the adoption of not only crypto market investing, but also the technology that underpins decentralized and distributed systems and applications.  Adoption of new technology doesn’t happen on its own, and it has been (and continues to be) met with resistance from traditional stakeholders that derive income from broken technology or processes.

It will take time, but remember Brad Garlinghouse’s admonition: 17

“It’s incredibly important that the entire industry recognizes that we have to work with the regulators , we have to work within the system. The blockchain revolution is happening from within the system – it’s not going to happen from outside the system.”

It’s wonderful to be reminded that Ripple, the organization that is responsible for championing the adoption of XRP, is led by a man who possesses laser-sharp accuracy for judging what it takes to truly champion an entire industry’s shift in public perception. XRP_new1

Sources:

  1. https://twitter.com/mkrohn5/status/996892758299303937
  2. https://www.imobie.com/news/bankers-against-bitcoin-protest.htm
  3. http://ncrypto.com/2018/05/16/genesis-mining-organises-fake-protest-against-cryptocurrencies-in-new-york/
  4. https://toshitimes.com/banks-will-start-trading-crypto-sooner-than-you-think-former-jp-morgan-executive/
  5. https://dailyhodl.com/2018/05/20/etoro-study-ripple-xrp-is-the-most-popular-investment-new-male-investors-dominate-crypto-market/
  6. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/28/ripple-donates-29-million-after-donorschoose-org-founder-dared-himself-to-ask.html
  7. https://www.ellentube.com/video/ashton-kutcher-shocks-ellen-with-a-huge-donation.html
  8. https://twitter.com/MrDuke67/status/999378937074634752
  9. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=now%207-d&geo=US&q=ripple
  10. https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-interpret-Google-Trendss-search-volume-index
  11. https://www.finextra.com/pressarticle/72342/ripple-and-coinbase-investor-greg-kidd-backs-digital-money-platform-uphold/retail
  12. https://uphold.com/en/blog/posts/uphold/uphold-now-offers-full-functionality-with-xrp-ledger
  13. https://twitter.com/UpholdInc/status/998626326872379393
  14. https://www.lmax.com/press-centre/lmax-exchange-group-brings-crypto-currencies-to-the-mainstream-with-institutional-only-exchange
  15. https://cryptorecorder.com/2018/05/22/ripple-xrp-listed-on-institutional-exchange-with-100-trillion-trading-volumes-good-tidings-ahead/
  16. https://www.lmax.com/press-centre/lmax-exchange-group-brings-crypto-currencies-to-the-mainstream-with-institutional-only-exchange
  17. https://www.reddit.com/r/Ripple/comments/83ms4p/top_10_quotes_by_brad_garlinghouse/

XRP: The Best Crypto Choice for Long-Term Investors

The pivot was quiet.

Ripple is a fast-moving, decisive private company, which means that it can respond to opportunities and threats much faster than other types of organizations like nonprofit foundations or a decentralized network of developers.  They don’t have to run things by a committee; if they believe that a change in focus is needed, or a re-ordering of steps in the building of the next global payments network, they can simply act on it.

And they did. BradG_5

Brad Garlinghouse might be the author of the Peanut Butter Manifesto, but he also knows when a strategic shift in resources and battle plan is in order.

Banks are reluctant to experiment with digital assets for the moment.  Right now, remittance companies are blazing the trail across the landscape when it comes to using XRP to lower their payment processing cost, and settle cross-border transactions in real-time.  Banks will come around only after the regulatory landscape is cleared of potential issues.  In the meantime, xRapid is moving forward, but not in the order that most analysts expected.

Ripple’s Pivot to Internet Companies, Remittance Processors, and Micropayments

Instead of banks bravely forging the way, they acted as they always have – with timidity towards new technology, and with a conservative “I’ll wait to see what happens” mindset towards digital assets.  In the meantime, Ripple’s strategy is following these steps:

  1. Build out the banking network with RippleNet via ILP solutions (xCurrent & xVia)
  2. Pilot xRapid with remittance processors (xRapid)
  3. Support new use cases for XRP through Internet companies (Xpring)
  4. Support new use cases for XRP through enabling micropayments (Coil)

Once the regulatory landscape has a number of rulings and case law, the last step can be accomplished: Integration of xRapid into the correspondence banking system.

This strategy reflects a very pragmatic view towards building out the network of organizations that currently use XRP as a bridge asset, and as a form of settlement.  The entire XRP network is growing in average daily volume year over year; however, much of this volume is based on trading and speculation in the crypto market as a whole; the utility-based demand has not yet shown itself in a noticeable way.

The first step – building out the banking network with ILP solutions – has been under way for more than a year, and banks are signing up at a fast clip.  Ripple has branded its ILP-based solution as “xCurrent.”

Banks Love xCurrent

In the SWELL conference last year, banking executives and staff indicated that they were very enthusiastic towards blockchain technology in general, and that they wanted the ability to do what xCurrent allowed them to do – settle cross-border transactions with other banks in the RippleNet network at a very lost cost – all in real-time.

However, they indicated that they were not going to forge ahead with utilization of XRP until the regulatory landscape around digital assets – and cryptocurrencies – was more well-established.  This made sense to me when I heard those comments; banks are conservative, and they need to have a well-established path to using proven technology before many of them are comfortable with it.

In the meantime, Ripple has signed up well over 100 banks so far, with new announcements seemingly every week; it’s so frequent that Ripple has taken the tact of announcing new customers in batches.

xRapid Pilots

After Ripple branded their XRP-liquidity-sourcing solution as xRapid, most XRP owners started to closely follow which of Ripple’s customers might use it to address Nostro-Vostro account replacement.  After all, the initial cost analysis paper from years ago had studied correspondence banks’ cost of payment processing across borders, and the cost savings implied a replacement of Nostro-Vostro account holdings as part of the promised cost savings.

Instead, we noticed something profoundly different about the initial organizations interested in using XRP to source liquidity; they were cross-border remittance (payment) processors.  These are not considered banks, although their global reach exceeds all but some of the larger correspondence banks.  The trend of xRapid announcements was unmistakable: Ripple was going after remittance processors: 1

xRapid_pilot

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

This is great news for XRP owners; remittance processors should add enormous volume to the XRP ecosystem.  XRP is the undisputed leader in digital assets that are capable of supporting global transaction levels, and these companies have done their homework.

Xpring

Ripple saved several high-profile business announcements for Blockchain Week in New York City.  One of those was the introduction of Xpring.  Similar to the RippleNet Accelerator Program, Ripple is using its treasury holdings of XRP to stimulate development on the XRP Ledger.  In their own words:

“Xpring is a new initiative by Ripple that will invest in, incubate, acquire and provide grants to companies and projects run by proven entrepreneurs.

Every entrepreneur will use the digital asset XRP and the XRP Ledger, the open-sourced, decentralized technology behind XRP, to solve their customers’ problems in a transformative way.”

Basically, Xpring will finance the development of projects that run on the XRP Ledger.

Not only that, but Ripple is making it crystal clear – to entrepreneurs who want access to the incubator funds – and to XRP investors – that this program will require the use of XRP.  It’s exactly what the XRP community wants to hear, as these projects should do the job of increasing demand organically.  So what type of companies is Ripple looking to assist with financing and resources?  Here is a brief statement: 18

Question: “Do you support just companies or individuals as well?”

Answer:  “We’re focused on investing in projects with needle-moving business plans. Those projects may be existing companies with proven success or new companies founded by entrepreneurs with great track records building successful companies.”

I interpret this as an astute communication informing interested parties that the program is not a free-for-all, and that Ripple is going to have some very specific requirements before considering a project for inclusion in Xpring.  That being said, there are a number of community-driven projects and applications that probably are worthy of consideration, in addition to those that are considered formal businesses or stakeholder organizations.

A Dedicated Internal Ripple Team

Prior to Xpring’s announcement, we’d heard about some significant investments made by ripple.  This included a massive infusion of capital to Omni, a household storage and sharing application that runs on mobile devices.  However, these investments were announced as one-off decisions that indicated a “fire and forget” sort of approach similar to how venture capitalists approach new projects.

But Ripple’s investments are different; they are specifically placed to encourage development using XRP, and because of this, it’s not ‘just about money’ – Ripple has made the decision to create a new division within its company whose purpose is specifically to oversee these investments and then support the downstream integration of XRP into the financed businesses and projects: 11

“In order to offer the best support, we need a great team.

That’s why we’re bringing on Ethan Beard as a Senior Vice President to lead Xpring and Ripple’s developer program. Before moving into an advisor role at several technology companies, Ethan served as Director of the Facebook Developer Network from 2009-2012, where he oversaw worldwide developer relations, operations and product marketing for the Facebook API.”

The team within Ripple that has been tasked with Xpring management is in charge of reviewing business opportunities that will benefit XRP liquidity.  That’s it’s purpose.

The importance of this development on future XRP liquidity cannot be overstated.  In the last paragraph of their announcement, here’s a hint that Ripple drops:

“While the Xpring team is already vetting hundreds of amazing projects, they remain open to hearing from serious entrepreneurs and businesses.”

and then continuing on the new Xpring website: 12

“…These characteristics make XRP and the XRP Ledger game-changing innovations that entrepreneurs could apply across identity, trade finance, gaming and virtual goods, provenance, real estate, insurance, digital media and many more industries.”

New Use Cases

Remember Stefan Thomas’s quote about getting into the specialty token use cases?  That comment was made in response to a question on Quora in 2017. 13  In addition, The Xpring announcement was telegraphed by Brad Garlinghouse at Asia Money 2020 when he stated: 14

“We, Ripple, will stay focused on solving that institutional use case, but we would certainly partner with companies that are looking to use XRP in lots of different ways.”

Subsequent to these statements, it’s apparent that Ripple is following through in a very major way.  Here are the use cases that are explicitly mentioned on the Xpring website: 15

  • Identity Management
  • Trade Finance
  • Gaming
  • Virtual Goods
  • Provenance
  • Real Estate
  • Insurance
  • Digital Media

This list brings to mind a variety of areas where new market entrants could add significant demand – and liquidity for – XRP.

New Development Portal

All of these use cases will require a massive building effort on the part of third parties and new businesses.  To support this increased level of development, Ripple recently redesigned its developer portal website to accommodate for ease-of-reference:

dev_portal

If you’re a developer, this redesign is welcome news; the old site was also quite functional, but the new design sports a more modern look and feel, along with an intuitive navigation style. It was a good step for Ripple, and it allows stakeholders to quickly locate resources to help them address questions or obstacles.

Ripple’s Goal with Xpring: Make XRP A One-stop Shop

Perhaps you run your own company.  If that’s the case, then you can identify with having to deal with limited time and resources to get things done.  And you can also identify with the benefits of the “KISS” principle:  In business, “KISS” stands for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  It’s a phrase that is jokingly quoted when solutions to problems become too convoluted to execute or maintain.

In business, it also pertains to a lessening of complexities in ares where your business is not strong – like developing software, for example.

When banks, financial institutions, and other large businesses opt to incorporate blockchain technology into their business, will they want to deal with four or five different companies – and specialty cryptocurrencies – or will they prefer to deal with one company?  You already know the answer – and so does Ripple.

Coil

While Xpring’s purpose is to start out new businesses that will significantly grow demand for XRP, one of its projects should be considered in a league of its own.

What is Coil?

stefan_thomasStefan Thomas is the creator of the concept.  He envisions a new type of Internet experience for those that want to opt out of invasive advertising and other current models of content financing.  Stefan Thomas wants to allow Internet browsers (people and their browsers) to be able to access and pay for content and services without human interaction.

It’s a revolutionary idea, but he thinks it just might work.

I’ve talked about the concept of “pay-for-content” in other blogs, but suffice it to say that, in order for this concept to work – and work with XRP no less – we have to be able to configure browsers to do this.  Currently, even the new W3C Consortium’s “Web Payments” API is not enough.  According to Stefan Thomas: 16

“We’ve worked with Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, and others to create the W3C Web Payments Request API that has been rolling out to billions of iOS and Android devices but we can go so much further. With the technologies we’ve helped build at Ripple — XRP and Interledger — we can process trillions of transactions per second without any central authority. What if we managed to apply these tools as a way to offer an alternative to today’s ad-supported web? Imagine an open protocol that provides a third option outside of the advertising and site-by-site subscription models”

So, essentially, Coil has its work cut out for the foreseeable future.  Their path must include:

  • Championing a new Web Monetization Standard for browsers
  • Building the API for Web Monetization
  • Integrating the API with Browsers

It’s an audacious goal, and one that will be challenging from a code perspective as well.  The API(s) will need to integrate with the Interledger Protocol (ILP).  Stefan Thomas once again set the bar very high for Coil’s eventual micropayment solution:

“With the technologies we’ve helped build at Ripple — XRP and Interledger — we can process trillions of transactions per second without any central authority.”

While I knew that Payment Channels were horizontally scalable, to hear the former CTO of Ripple talk about “trillions” of TPS is amazing.  Currently, XRP supports up to 1,500 TPS on-chain, but XRP Payment Channels can scale horizontally, and was clocked at over 50,000 TPS in its initial load tests.  Trillions is a number of orders of magnitude above even that number; perhaps he was only talking about ILP speed, but suffice it to say that it will be fascinating when Coil publishes the first version of its API!

Coil Website:  https://coil.com/

Impact on XRP Demand and Liquidity

Let’s review what just happened:

  1. Ripple created an internal company division with the specific goal of funding and championing external third-party projects that directly use XRP in some way.
  2. Xpring funded Omni, which will use XRP for settlement
  3. Xpring funded Coil, which will build new ILP APIs that will utilize XRP for micropayments
  4. Coil was formed by the former CTO of Ripple, and includes an impressive team out of the gate: at least 2-3 former Ripple architects and developers will be joining Coil

These announcements were all planned for Blockchain week in New York City; Ripple saved these announcements, kept them quiet in top-secret fashion, and then successfully announced them on the first day of Blockchain Week.  It’s a demonstration of how important they viewed these communications.

Xpring Will Supercharge XRP Liquidity

Will projects from Xpring happen overnight?  No.  They will take time to design, build, and deploy.  Coil will need to work with the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to convince other stakeholder groups that adding support for Web Monetization is the right thing to do.  Businesses like Omni that plan to use XRP will need to make it easy for customers. All of these efforts take significant time and effort.

For those that are tempted to judge individual projects’ impact on volume: It’s not just one project or application adding liquidity to the XRP ecosystem; its about making it easy for others to build on XRP and add new viral apps on their own.

Can Apps and Other Use Cases Add Significant Liquidity?

In a word, yes.  The case study for this is Ethereum.

While XRP was targeting its payment use case with laser intensity for multiple years, Ethereum was focused on building apps (DApps) on its blockchain, and supporting ICOs (initial coin offerings).  While these sources of activity are nowhere near the amounts of liquidity that we’d expect from business use cases such as remittance processing, correspondence banking, or ForEx trading, look at the effect on Ethereum volume: 17

“CryptoKitties, an online game that debuted on Nov. 28, is now the most popular smart contract — essentially, an application that runs itself — on ethereum, accounting for 11 percent of all transactions on the network.”

You may snicker at “Crypto Kitties,” but the application literally caused performance issues on the Ethereum network because its popularity.

This constant foot traffic through the Ethereum network has increased the daily volume for its token substantially; while Ethereum may be a slow network compared to XRP, it’s a case in point when trying to understand what you should expect from new use cases on the XRP Ledger; gradual but steady increases in daily volume.

Daily Volume Contributions in XRP

When we take a look at the entire XRP ecosystem, and then factor in these new future sources of liquidity, we can see a massive swell of demand incoming.

I decided to chart out a conservative scenario all the way to 2021, starting with the current proportions comprising XRP volume, then I gradually progressed the possible shift in volume composition as new sources of liquidity come online: 19

2018 – $400 million average daily volume2018

  • Organic Speculation
  • Some Remittance Processors
  • ForEx (arbitrage between exchanges & market making)

2018-2019 – $3.3 billion average daily volume2018-2019

  • Organic Speculation Growth
  • Remittance Companies
  • Internet companies (starting with Omni)
  • Micropayments (using Coil APIs)
  • Derivatives Market (banks and others using Codius)
  • ForEx (arbitrage between exchanges & market making)

2020 – $11 billion average daily volume2020

  • Organic Speculation Growth
  • Additional Internet companies
  • Micropayments – additional companies
  • Additional Derivatives
  • Correspondence Banking – 1st Adopter Banks
  • Nostro-Vostro Replacement – 1st Adopter Banks

2021 – $270 billion average daily volume2021

  • Organic Speculation Growth
  • Additional Derivatives
  • Correspondence Banking (XRP captures 5% of market)
  • Nostro-Vostro Replacement (XRP captures 5% of market)

To view the detailed analysis for the above volume scenario, please refer to the XRPChat forum: https://www.xrpchat.com/topic/23782-volume-scenario-analysis-2018-2021/

Ripple’s Track Record

Things to keep in mind when looking at these additional future sources of liquidity:

  • Does Ripple have an established and well-documented history of accomplishing what it sets out to do?  Yes.
  • Does Ripple do things quickly?  Yes.  They do things quickly and with high quality – a combination not ordinarily found paired together in technology.
  • Does Ripple have the resources to make good on their investments?  Yes.  According to their own published XRP reports, they should have as much cash on hand as four large-sized ICOs.

Traditional investors looking to add crypto to their portfolio will be looking at the cryptographic networks with the strongest future prospects.  When fund managers, bank executives, and CEOs look through the blockchain technology space, what will they find?  Which company has the history and the reputation to back up its claims?

We know the answer to that question.  Now consider which network has unequaled on-chain performance metrics.

Is there any doubt in your mind which digital asset that astute financial analysts and investors will be investing in?  Do your homework; and after doing your own research, see for yourself if you agree with me: XRP is the only cryptocurrency with the characteristics that are necessary to support global levels of commerce for a wide variety of use cases and applications.  Yes, it’s the best cryptocurrency for settlement, but something tells me that speculators will soon prefer this digital asset over others for a store of value as well. XRP_new1

Sources:

  1. https://twitter.com/markolution/status/997950410014027776
  2. https://www.financemagnates.com/cryptocurrency/news/cuallix-uses-ripple-cross-border-payments-u-s-mexico/
  3. https://ripple.com/ripple_press/ripple-and-moneygram-partner-to-modernize-payments/
  4. https://ripple.com/insights/more-global-payment-providers-idt-and-mercuryfx-sign-up-to-use-xrp/
  5. http://fortune.com/2018/02/14/ripple-xrp-western-union-money-transfers/
  6. https://trademarketsnews.com/cambridge-will-use-xrp-faster-global-payments/
  7. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180510005148/en/Ripple-Reports-Positive-Results-xRapid-Pilots
  8. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeldelcastillo/2018/05/10/ripple-reveals-results-of-first-pilots-using-xrp-cryptocurrency/#53d679b3662d
  9. http://www.cuallet.com/en/ripples-global-financial-network-will-work-with-cuallet/
  10. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180510005148/en/Ripple-Reports-Positive-Results-xRapid-Pilots
  11. https://ripple.com/insights/welcome-to-xpring/
  12. https://xpring.co/
  13. https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-future-for-Ripple/answer/Stefan-Thomas-1?srid=5Ojt6
  14. https://techcrunch.com/2018/03/13/ripple-wants-to-invest-in-startups-that-can-put-its-xrp-cryptocurrency-to-work/
  15. https://xpring.co/
  16. https://medium.com/coil/coil-building-a-new-business-model-for-the-web-d33124358b6
  17. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-04/cryptokitties-quickly-becomes-most-widely-used-ethereum-app https://ethgasstation.info/gasguzzlers.php
  18. https://xpring.co/faq/
  19. https://www.xrpchat.com/topic/23782-volume-scenario-analysis-2018-2021/

Ripple, XRP, and Blockchain Week in NYC

Blockchain Week in New York City brought out a myriad of companies, people, products, swag, and general party-goers.  The week started off with big news items almost immediately, along with some publicity-seeking promotions by various blockchain technology companies and exchanges.

What energized me the most about this particular Blockchain Week – and perhaps it’s not completely fair to generalize like this – was the overwhelming feeling of celebration as the events – both crypto and Ripple specifically – unfolded.  ripple_icons_blockchain_week

It was very refreshing to see XRP community members meet the Ripple heroes that are championing XRP adoption, as well as see the mainstream press coverage that resulted from many of Ripple’s high-profile announcements.

Consensus Attendance Growth

One of the largest gatherings was the Consensus Conference, which has been organizing gatherings about blockchain technology for a few years now.  Here’s an interesting info-graphic about the level of increasing interest in the conference over the last few years:

consensus_attendence

It’s only one of several measurements of the increasing level of mainstream interest in blockchain technology – and the ticket prices also reflect this level of enthusiasm. 1

Unfortunately, the high price tag to attend has resulted in negative publicity, with Vitalik Buterin saying:

“The conference costs $2-3k to attend.  I refuse to personally contribute to that level of rent seeking.”

I applaud him for taking a stand – ticket prices that high are probably why content from Ted Talks finally made its way into the public domain.  While authors should be paid for content – and the conference should be able to cover its costs – price tags in the thousands will restrict the conference to only the well-heeled.  Perhaps it’s not what authors of Bitcoin (the Satoshis) originally intended.

On a more positive note, a data analyst recently created an info graphic about the level of buzz on Twitter regarding Consensus-related news items and attendees.  I want to share this, because other than the Twitter account that sent out a picture of the mock banker protest on Monday morning, the other top buzzwords included JoelKatz (Ripple’s Chief Cryptographer David Schwartz), Ripple, and Tiffany Hayden, perhaps the highest-profile XRP supporter on social media: 2

Blockchain_Week_Buzz_Twitter

It will be interesting to see how mainstream media covers Blockchain Week, and what headlines result from all of the significant announcements – both for crypto generally, and for XRP in specific.

General Crypto News Impacting XRP

Blockchain week was an epic mix of headline news for crypto, educational talks, presentations, and high-profile interviews and panels.  I’m still going through all of the various live-streams of the events as well as leafing through all of the news items that pertain to crypto generally, and of course XRP.

Comments from Governor Lael Brainard

Lael Brainard is a member of the US Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.  She’s a former faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has worked for McKinsey and Company. 3

On May 15th, she gave a speech at the “Decoding Digital Currency Conference” in San Francisco. 4

Here is an excerpt:

“…it is not obvious what additional value a Fed-issued digital currency would provide…”

“Even though the case for a digital currency for general use may not be compelling, opportunities for more targeted and restricted use may nonetheless prove to have value.”

But the most promising quote(s) in my view:

“Such wholesale digital settlement tokens could potentially reduce the time and costs required for wholesale financial transactions. This is being discussed, for instance, for the use cases of interbank payments, securities settlements, and cross-border transactions, where the introduction of a digital token native to a platform may facilitate certain types of settlement.”

and

“For cross-border transactions, the process for sending payments via the existing correspondent banking network can add time and money. Distributed ledger technology could potentially lower the costs and time it takes funds to reach the recipient through more direct connections, reducing the number of intermediaries required to effect the transaction.”

For those of us familiar with Ripple, it’s hard not to see how XRP is being discussed here.  In fact, I’d bet that Ripple technology and XRP are specifically what the Federal Reserve Governor had in mind.  However, keep in mind that the Federal Reserve has been careful in the past to avoid crowning any specific company or technology, and has stated as part of their Faster Payments Task Force that they prefer to let the market decide on the eventual solution.

Comments from James Brian Bullard

On the same day that Lael Brainard was giving her speech in San Francisco, The Federal Reserve’s President, James Brian Bullard, was giving a speech on blockchain technology in New York City as part of Blockchain Week.  In concert with Lael Brainard’s comments, he also took a disparaging view of a “Fedcoin,” noting that there would be no reason for the central bank to do something like that. 5

He provided a mix view  – positive and negative – of the innovation of cryptocurrency: 6

“People have not liked that kind of thing, they want a uniform kind of thing. A dollar is a dollar”

and 7

“The Fed is not a monolithic organization. We have different businesses – we have cash, we have payments, we have monetary policy, and regulation as well.  It is possible that blockchain will have a role in the future of any of those.”

To some extent, James Bullard has a point; when talking to each other about the value of a tangible or intangible item, it’s very convenient for people to have some sort of common way to measure it.  The US Dollar has so far served this purpose, not just in the United States, but internationally as well.

However, he makes one critical error in judgement; personal preference.

If you give individuals the choice on which currency to hold, most would like to hold one that does not diminish in value.  The US Dollar, while being a convenient common basis for value measurement, has historically only gone in one direction when it comes to value: It loses it.  This concept is called inflation, and it’s become almost an accepted part of the ecosystem of the US Dollar since the gold standard was abandoned.  while the decision to abandon the gold standard was not a democratic one, the choice of whether to own crypto currency certainly is.

And throwing out the blanket term “monetary policy” is not going to impress many people after the mortgaged-backed security mess was followed by three rounds of quantitative easing. 8

No, people are probably not going to ‘choose’ the US Dollar for very much longer; but the question is ‘how long?’

Ripple

Ripple held off making many major announcements about Coil and Xpring until Blockchain week.  This definitely proved wise, as the buzz around some of these moves reverberated in both the crypto and mainstream press, and maximized much of the free publicity that resulted from the various events.

One of these events was a live demonstration of xRapid.

Live xRapid Demonstration by David Schwartz

xRapid is Ripple’s software solution for sourcing liquidity when moving money across borders.  It utilizes XRP, as XRP was specifically designed to serve as a bridge asset while converting one fiat currency – like US Dollars – into another fiat currency – like Mexican Pesos.

In between this transaction is XRP, and Ripple’s xRapid solution automatically uses it to transfer this currency at rates that currently result in better margins than the traditional correspondence banking system.  And it does it in real-time.

Ripple took the opportunity during Blockchain Week to demonstrate xRapid for those attendees interested in seeing how it all works together to bring a smooth end-user experience to banking and remittance customers.  How many people attended?  Enough so that it was standing room only: 9

xRapid_demo_David_Schwartz

We heard from actual attendees that Monday’s demo proceeded flawlessly, exemplifying how much the customer experience is improved from its current limitations using the traditional correspondence banking system.  In addition to it’s overall value proposition, David Schwartz discussed a hot topic that has been debated occasionally on social media: Volatility.

Volatility of XRP within xRapid

One of the questions that’s been posed occasionally is “why would a business hold XRP if the value gyrates so wildly?”  In his demonstration of xRapid, David Schwartz explained how the current implementation doesn’t require organizations to buy and hold XRP:

“So, the most common question that we get from our customers: What about volatility? Digital asset markets are so volatile. Price moves up and down. Well, the beauty of this product, is that our customers don’t have to hold XRP directly. They can initiate payments in their domestic currency, dollar, euro, or anything else. And then xRapid in the back end uses XRP as the bridge to convert between domestic currency that it originated from and the beneficiary currency that they want to receive payment into.

So, the fact that xRapid does not require our customers to hold XRP allows our customers to enjoy all the positive benefits of blockchain technology and digital assets such as security, speed, and transparency, without necessarily being exposed to volatility.”

This aspect to volatility management – the dynamic acquisition of XRP on exchanges – benefits both the organizations using xRapid, and also those of us that own and have invested in XRP from a speculation standpoint.

Congratulations to Ripple and David Schwartz on a demonstration that effectively highlighted XRP’s strengths.

MUFG

We knew that Standard Chartered and MUFG (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group) were customers of Ripple, but we didn’t know they planned on teaming up on cross-border payments between these three banks – until the formal press release on May 14, 2018. 10

In the formal press release, it was revealed that these three banks will be building an application under the Bank of Thailand’s Regulatory Sandbox Framework.  This location of the development will avoid any conflict with regulatory bodies in the other countries where MUFG and Standard Chartered are based.

The pilot has the goal of:

“…making cross-border payments more convenient and further improving the capital efficiency of corporate groups.”

and

“…to improve cash management with a real-time, multi-currency, multiple-bank platform.”

To me, “cash management” sounds a lot like the funding of Nostro-Vostro accounts.  However, it’s a general term that could indicate the speed of cash flow and velocity of money as well.

Here are the details about the pilot that MUFG published in their press release:

MUFG_Press_Release

Usually we’re content to report on banks and other Financial Institutions joining RippleNet to use Ripple’s existing products; a press announcement about a very specific alliance between RippleNet members is intriguing, especially since the back-end will be RippleNet. 11

Xpring

Are you ready?

Ripple is now pivoting in a major way towards XRP-specific use cases.  This isn’t just an accelerator fund.  It’s not just an incentives program.  It’s a division of Ripple’s company specifically tasked with the goal of assisting projects that will be built on the XRP Ledger.  What is Xpring in Ripple’s own words? 12

“Xpring is a new initiative by Ripple that will invest in, incubate, acquire and provide grants to companies and projects run by proven entrepreneurs.”

Ripple made the decision to create this company division after many projects have already been started independently by others; this includes Omni, Blockchain Capital Fund, Coil, and a new one you may not have heard of previously: SB Projects.

SB Projects is headed by Scooter Braun, an entertainment talent manager.  This is the same man that managed Justin Bieber. 13 His goal is to utilize the XRP Ledger to monetize and manage artists’ content.  He had this to say:

“Blockchain technology and digital assets like XRP will provide artists with new distribution channels and revenue streams.  This creates more space for artistic freedom, and I’m excited our team is among the first in the entertainment industry to lean into the blockchain movement. This is only the beginning as we will continue to build out more use cases for XRP. ”

Mainstream news media also covered the new Ripple division.  TechCrunch ran the following analysis on Monday when Xpring was announced: 14

“You can bet that Xpring, while outside of Ripple’s core financial services focus, will be a very key focus for building a community and ultimately usage for XRP.”

Get ready for more of these announcements as Ripple takes XRP adoption and liquidity to a new level in the second half of 2018: I predict that they will have double this number of investments by the end of the year – based on the Ripple investment trend we’ve seen so far.

Coil

Coil is the vision of its creator, Stefan Thomas.stefan_thomas

Stefan Thomas envisions a different kind of Internet than you currently experience.  Remember the headlines about Facebook selling your data?  That’s the price that we all actually pay for what previously was considered a ‘free’ networking service.  Instead of paying Facebook, it was considered ‘free’.

But the word ‘free’ implies that there is no cost; we now know that’s not true.

The cost is the loss of personal data, privacy, and living a life with curtailed liberties.  It’s something that rubs us the wrong way, in an intuitive fashion that we sometimes struggle to put into words.  Perhaps it’s related to seeing advertisements for a Keurig coffee maker after searching for a favorite brand of Starbucks coffee.  Whatever the case, we’ve all encountered the ‘creep factor’ when using the Internet, and it can be unsettling.

Stefan Thomas’s vision is pay-for-content.

I’ve written about this paradigm shift before, in a previous blog where I quoted a famous author – Jaron Lanier – where he talked about the loss of the ‘creative class’ to this quest for ‘free everything’ online.  He described how this penchant for free information has been a race to the bottom for those of us that create content – we’re not paid for our work, essentially, and it’s accessible as soon as it’s created.  Each platform that purports to give artists a stage has also succumbed to the temptation to take more than their fair share of the profits from content creation, leaving the journalists, musicians, illustrators and photographers fighting for survival.

So what is Coil, exactly?  Is it a browser?  A collection of micropayment APIs?  Perhaps it’s a combination of these things.  Here is how Stefan Thomas described it in his blog: 15

“Coil’s first product will be a flat-rate subscription for consumers which will allow them to support creators, breeze past paywalls, see less ads, and unlock additional features and content. Instead of building yet another proprietary platform, Coil will be the first company to pay out to any website using Web Monetization, a new standard for how browsers can pay websites using Interledger. We’re excited to see how users will react to being able to support creators directly and how creators will reward them with extra features and content.”

Web Monetization Standard

I absolutely guarantee you that 90% of all readers will miss the hyperlink that Stefan Thomas included in his blog: It’s important.

I clicked on the link, and guess what?  Coil is proposing a new standard called “Web Monetization.”  In fact, it’s so new that the link navigates to a sub-directory within the Interledger Github repository!  This is proof positive that Ripple – and now Coil – know how to develop in ‘stealth mode.’

How is using web monetization different from how the browsing experience works today?  The simplest explanation are these two sentences: 16

“With advertisements, the browser decides whether to display the ads and the user decides whether to engage with the ads. With Web Monetization, the browser decides whether to pay the site and, if so, how much to pay.”

This is an exciting development, and it appears from Stefan Thomas’s description that the Coil team is not far away from putting this vision into reality.

He was careful not to specify any specific date for the new product(s); I’m sure starting a company and creating a new team will take some of his time, as well as promoting his idea to other influential developers and then, of course, websites where the actual content is created and sold.

My only request of the Coil team?  Make sure we can pay with XRP.

Ethan Beard

As part of the Xpring initiative, Ripple has hired away a Facebook Director.  His name is Ethan Beard, and he formerly headed up Facebook’s developer network.  He is a high-profile addition to Ripple’s team, and it’s not the first time that Ripple has hired a former Facebook executive: Tom Channick was also from the Facebook team. 17 18

FOX Business Interview with Cory Johnson

In the midst of all the events this week, you may have missed an impressive, if brief, interview with Cory Johnson, Ripple’s Chief Market Strategist.  On Monday, he sat down with Liz Claman from Fox News to discuss Ripple and XRP.  Liz asked him about Ripple and XRP, and Cory took the opportunity to clarify what Ripple is doing with XRP and its technology stack, as well as introduce Xpring.

The interview was on-point, and at the end Liz brought up Warren Buffett’s negative comments about blockchain technology.  He responded with this comment:

“There isn’t a bigger Buffett fan than me: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about here.  I think if he were to do the real work to see the real use cases, for example – what we’re doing at Ripple – he would start to understand.”

XRP Community

The XRP Community is rising in prominence in its role in the XRP ecosystem.  Blockchain Week in NYC elevated this participation as many community members attended Consensus along with the Ripple-sponsored community night.  The pics and stories from New York were fast and furious on Tuesday night.

IMF Document

On May 8th, IMF Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang gave a speech about the Digitization of Money and Finance at the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank Conference.  He touched on financial technology, crypto-assets, bank regulation, and the work that the IMF is doing to support its members.

What makes this speech remarkable from the perspective of the XRP Community is that he mentions two Ripple clients by name. 19

“Some useful technology is being developed to improve market efficiency. For example, services have slashed from days to minutes the time it takes for cross-border payments to reach destinations. These include relatively small firms like BitPesa in Africa and BitOasis in the Middle East and such well-known companies as Western Union and Moneygram.”

It’s comments like the ones above that remind me of XRP’s potential to reduce costs for remittance processors and banks.  We’re no longer in the “maybe” stage of XRP adoption – we’re now counting the companies that use XRP for cross-border transfer.

Esoteric Trading Solutions

Esoteric Trading Solutions produces videos periodically that analyze various topics in cryptocurrency, and recently an analyst named Suzy displayed increasing enthusiasm for XRP compared to other cryptocurrencies in the market.  It was an encouraging find, and her analysis has been factually-based; she tends to have a no-nonsense demeanor and mode of communication.

XRP fans love her, of course, because she is trumpeting what some of us have discovered on our own – that XRP is the obvious choice when it comes to lowering your risk and (potentially) heightening your reward.  While I’m definitely no expert in financial analysis, Suzy is.  Here is her latest video:

This was an engaging analysis, and of course XRP holders will appreciate the title of the video that includes a very specific XRP price prediction.

Blockchain Week & Consensus 2018

One of my favorite things about this Consensus was the constant stream of pics, videos and Tweets from attendees as they listened to speakers, watched demonstrations, and enjoyed the evening entertainment.  While I did not attend myself, others provided some commentary and shared their experiences as the events unfolded.

One of the attendees, Daniel Carroll, is one of the founders of a company known as Secure Block Chains – the same company that created the Reservoir Lite application and the Harbor Wallet.  When I asked about the most impressive innovation(s) that he observed, he had this to say:

“The most interesting implementation of blockchain I saw was Streamr. They have created a data monetization and streaming marketplace. Individuals can use various devices to collect and sell data. This can be any data you’re accurately collecting. Weather, movement, pollution, energy consumed, the number of people who’ve walked through a door, barometric pressure, noise pollution etc. There are an incredible amount of applications and this could be a whole new way for people to be introduced to the profitability and potential of blockchain.”

Pics from Consensus

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.  I came across literally dozens of pictures on Twitter that people shared direct from NYC.  It’s impossible to include every XRP community member that attended, but here are a few notable pics in no particular order:

ripple_team

Nordic_Ann_David_Schwartz

beard_pic

Rabbit_and_JoelKatz

snoop_dog

Marvin_Durazno_Brad_Garlinghouse

mGAMERdude_and_JoelKatz

Reverend_Ripple_and_Brad_G

Until the Next Blockchain Week

Congratulations to Ripple on a successful and very high-profile week.  The quick succession of major announcements did not disappoint:  Coil is giving not only XRP fans food for thought – it’s sparking the imagination of many web content creators and artists that are looking for a more even playing field.

When it comes to handling the communication of complex technology concepts in Blockchain technology, there is one company that is a consistent trend-setter.  Watching interviewers, panelists and other speakers parrot Ripple’s holistic and responsible evaluation of use cases, one cannot wonder how much this company has impacted the entire culture of the crypto market.

It’s refreshing to see a shift in the global crypto identity as represented by this latest Blockchain Week; the XRP community was well-represented, and if the pictures shared over social media are any indication, the fun factor was a palpable ingredient.

Perhaps every week should be like Blockchain week. XRP_new1

Sources:

  1. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-13/snoop-dogg-dorsey-bring-crypto-to-masses-during-blockchain-week
  2. https://twitter.com/geoffgolberg/status/996361880351531008
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lael_Brainard
  4. https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/brainard20180515a.htm
  5. https://ambcrypto.com/private-and-public-currencies-can-co-exist-james-bullard/
  6. https://nypost.com/2018/05/14/cryptocurrency-could-tank-us-economy-james-bullard/
  7. https://www.nasdaq.com/article/feds-bullard-says-cryptocurrencies-only-adding-to-tangled-market-20180514-01180
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_easing
  9. https://twitter.com/Ripple/status/996103003118551045
  10. https://www.mitsubishicorp.com/jp/en/pr/archive/2018/html/0000034695.html
  11. https://www.newsbtc.com/2018/05/03/standard-chartered-pushes-wider-adoption-ripplenet-across-asia/
  12. https://ripple.com/insights/welcome-to-xpring/
  13. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2016/04/01/bieber-and-beyond-the-evolution-of-scooter-braun/#7456ab8c61ed
  14. https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/14/ripple-xpring/
  15. https://medium.com/coil/coil-building-a-new-business-model-for-the-web-d33124358b6
  16. https://github.com/interledger/rfcs/blob/master/0028-web-monetization/0028-web-monetization.md#web-monetization
  17. https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/14/ripple-xpring/
  18. https://viraldocks.com/ripple-hires-facebook-comm-exec/
  19. http://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2018/05/08/sp050818-digitization-of-money-and-finance-challenges-and-opportunities

Banks and Remittance Processors: Cooking with Ripple & XRP

Do you like to cook?

Some don’t.  I lack the experience and knowledge to make some of the complex dishes that are my own favorites, whether it’s a confetti salad or stuffed vegetables.  But give me a ready-made pizza crust from Trader Joe’s and I’ll whip you up a mozzarella cooking_picbasil pizza in less than a half hour.  The key is ingredients and preparation; if either is off, then the end product will not be high quality.

What’s my point?

When it comes to building out a bank network, Ripple has both.  The ingredients are the software packages, and the tools that work; the cutting edge software is what sets Ripple apart at a foundation level from any would-be competitors.

So what’s the “preparation” in my culinary analogy?  The people and and the processes.

Again, Ripple scores off the charts.  It’s not just the leadership team, or the board of directors; it’s every single employee I’ve heard of, interacted with, or seen in action.  Now consider that they follow a rigorous process and are very self-disciplined in how they communicate as a team; very rarely do we discover any organizational dissonance between its various parts – and the company is getting big.

So what is the “dish” they are preparing?  How about near-zero-cost, real-time cross-border payments?  It’s a complicated dish, but I think everything is in place for this particular meal.  And for those invested in XRP, it’s going to be delicious.

General Crypto News

The overall market threw curve balls at price levels this week, but for reasons that most analysts say are connected to Bitcoin.  I’ll cover that in a second.  In the meantime, XRP is clearly at an attractive price point for traders attempting to capitalize on market fear.

Keep in mind that the overall climate may change appreciably for the positive.  It’s rare but refreshing to see all the ‘coin tribes’ get together at industry conferences and celebrations like what will happen in the next few days in New York City.

Recent Market Downturn

According to a recent Twitter poll where over five hundred users responded, 74% of individuals say that they check XRP price “multiple times per day” or that they “have a problem.” 1

price_check_poll_twitter

Prices – not just for XRP, but for all of crypto – took a significant hit recently.  What’s causing this downturn?  Different analysts attribute the recent market doldrums to a variety of factors, but one author in particular thinks that he found the two main causes: 2

  1. UPbit South Korean Exchange Raided
  2. Mt. Gox Trustee Bitcoin Sales on Open Exchanges

UPbit is the largest crypto exchange in South Korea, and according to Reuters it was raided on Thursday, May 10th on suspicion of fraud.  So far, neither the the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office nor UPbit is providing any other details about the action, but UPbit sent a note to clients informing them of the action, and that they are cooperating with authorities and that they guarantee the safety of all their clients’ assets. 3 Nevertheless, the crypto market doesn’t like trouble with exchanges.

In addition to the issue with UPbit, crypto analysis have tracked the sale of approximately 8,200 more Bitcoins by the Mt Gox bankruptcy trustee.   This action by the trustee continues the controversial choice to use the open market to dump the Bitcoins, rather than choosing an OTC market to make the sale.  In theory, if an OTC market was used, the price of Bitcoin on open markets would be un-affected, as a spot rate is used for the entire transaction.

While neither of these items directly impact XRP, Bitcoin’s volume tends to set the direction for the entire market, and XRP was already facing some of its own fear and uncertainty from a prior Wall Street Journal article about a possible SEC pronouncement (that never materialized).  All of these factors combined may have contributed to the temporary downturn in XRP price on the open exchanges.

Am I worried?  Not in the least; however, I’d like to see the crypto market mature to a point where it doesn’t react in hyperbolic fashion to what should be minor events in a much larger journey towards mainstream XRP adoption.

Blockchain Week in NYC

Blockchain week in New York City is upon us!  This includes a wide variety of events, including both the Consensus conference, and the Ripple-sponsored XRP Community Appreciation Night.

Snoop Dog

As part of the Blockchain Week celebrations in New York City, Ripple is sponsoring Community Night – this time featuring none other than Snoop Dog.  snoop_dog

To distribute the limited number of tickets to the event, Ripple held two community contests via Claire Arthurs Kart, Ripple’s Head of Community.  Claire organized two different community competitions; a trivia competition and a meme contest, and awarded the winners tickets to attend the community night.

At the time I originally covered the ticket contest, the award for the memes had not yet been announced; since then, the two memes awarded first prize – and the tickets – were these two: 4 5

meme1

The above meme was submitted by @KhunSanchez.

meme2

The above meme was submitted by @mhschmidt2.

Congratulations to all the winners of the tickets, and looking forward to hearing from the attendees.

Consensus 2018

The Consensus conference is the Coindesk-sponsored forum for discussion of blockchain technology, businesses, and innovation.  While Ripple’s SWELL conference tends to center around banking & financial institutions, Consensus sports a wider array of topics, including ICOs, retail adoption, novelty use cases, and other inventions that may be peripheral to fintech applications.

Ripple is fielding one speaker for the Consensus conference: David Schwartz. 6

joelkatz

Hopefully we’ll be able to see some engaging video from Consensus that includes commentary or other content that features David Schwartz; he’s one of the most respected minds in crypto & very few cryptographers and developers can trace their resume all the way back to Bitcoin’s (and XRP’s) origins and development.

SEC Provides Perspective

The SEC on May 2nd published a formal communication that provided more perspective on how they plan to rule on tokens, ICOs, and cryptocurrencies.  In it, the SEC emphasized that they would be applying the Howey test to determine if either a token or a cryptocurrency is going to be considered a security from their perspective: 7

“Although the Court in 1946 hardly could have foreseen the development of ICOs 70 years later, the facts of Howey show that this is not the first time the SEC has had to grapple with the fundamental question of what, functionally, is a security.”

One of the encouraging aspects of the SEC’s communication on May 2nd was the stated overall goal of fostering innovation and standing aside to oversee the crypto space, much as a “lifeguard” on a beach.  At the end of the address, the commissioner provided a few key wrap-up points, one of which was very encouraging:

“As we sit atop our lifeguard’s stand and survey the beach, however, let’s not lose sight of the benefits new technology can provide in the area of capital formation, market efficiency, economic growth, and overall societal well-being.”

I agree with her; while innovation should not be stifled, it’s imperative that the SEC monitor the ICO space for fraudulent activity that may harm users or investors.

Ripple News

Ripple is looking at a week of high-profile publicity as Blockchain Week in New York City approaches.  Although, with the number of conferences, panels, interviews, and social media, it’s a wonder that they even really notice; Ripple is clearly upping its game with regards to spreading its message about exactly what its incredible software products can do.

Innovation Week

YPO is an organization you may not be familiar with.  Basically, it’s a: 8

“…global platform for chief executives to engage, learn, and grow.  YPO members harness the knowledge, influence and trust of the world’s most influential and innovative business leaders to inspire business, personal, family and community impact.”

One of the events that YPO sponsors is something called “Innovation Week” where there are a number of meetings, conferences and panels.  One of them took place at Ripple headquarters in San Francisco on May 7th: 9

Ripple_HQ_Innovation_Week

In addition to the panel discussion (above) that involved David Schwartz, Ripple’s Chief Cryptographer, Brad Garlinghouse also gave a presentation:

YPO is an organization whose members consist of CEOs and other executive leaders; these are the individuals that control the direction of technology budgets, efforts, and direction.  It’s clear from Ripple’s increasing presence at conferences and industry forums that they are well aware of the importance of getting the message out about what their innovations can do to help banks, businesses, non-profits, and governments.

Code Updates

Perhaps it’s the numbering scheme.  Perhaps it’s just confusion from business users that don’t understand what “rc” really means.  For whatever reason, the latest Rippled version is causing more excitement than usual.  The prior major version of Rippled was considered 0.90.1; it’s the most common version that most validators are currently running.

But Ripple has run out of digits in the second column, so it’s time to turn over at least one digit in the first column, which – you guessed it – will result in release 1.0.0, otherwise known as “release 1.”  Even though the numbering of the release is significant, Ripple has indicated that it’s a standard release into production. 10

That being said, it’s still impressive as Ripple is always impressive: A new release will contain new features, any bug fixes, and other updates that will help grow the network and its capabilities and performance metrics.  This particular new release is 1.0.0-rc1.  What does “rc” stand for?  The “rc” stands for “release candidate” meaning that it is a candidate for promotion into production, when all of the validators will be asked to upgrade to a new version.

I honestly don’t know if there is additional significance to this release, but the numbering of the software version is certainly fueling speculation ahead of Blockchain Week in New York City.

Apple May Adopt ILP into Payment Request API

Multiple news sources claim that Apple’s new version of the Safari browser now contains the new “Payment Request API,” which is a change recommended by the W3C consortium.  This API has the ability to integrate with ILP, allowing developers to build applications that can hook into crypto networks such as the XRP Ledger or Bitcoin. 11

It’s yet another high-profile accomplishment for Ripple, as Apple’s market reach via its mobile market and the Safari browser is extensive worldwide. 12

Now that developers have the tools they need to easily integrate via the Safari browser, I predict that new apps will start to appear that leverage this capability.  There is definitely money to be made for the first group of developers that can capitalize on this new feature of Safari. However, one author had this sobering reminder to any would-be developers using the Payment Request API: 13

“Note that this does not deliver an end-user product. A product will need code that links this Apple Interledger API to a blockchain or cryptocurrency. Anyone that attempts this better make darn sure it addresses all of the regulatory issues, just as Santander did with OnePay.”

Coinone is Integrated into RippleNet

Coinone is one of the largest South Korean exchanges.  It was one of the first exchanges in South Korea that raced to add XRP pairings back in 2017, and it’s responsible for a large amount of volume on a daily basis for XRP.

And on May 8th, Ripple announced formally that they would be proceeding with xCurrent integration with Coinone: 14

“Starting in June, xCurrent will power the launch of a new remittance service called ‘Cross’ for Coinone Transfer’s retail customers to address the country’s growing demand for faster and cheaper payments across the region.”

It’s one more example of RippleNet’s expanding reach – not only among traditional banks, but also non-traditional crypto and ForEx exchanges.

Tracking xRapid

For many months, XRP fans have been following xRapid adoption progress closely.  Since Ripple organized their software into the distinct three offerings of xRapid, xCurrent, and xVia, it’s been important for the community to discern how each of those packages use XRP, and to what extent.  For xRapid, we know that the solution allows any organization to source liquidity at exchanges using XRP.

In fact, we were able to access some collateral second-hand that shows how Ripple initially viewed its configuration – integrating with exchanges such as BitSo (Mexican-based exchange) and Bitstamp. 15

This was exciting, because it showed us that xRapid had the potential to supercharge demand:  If the standard integration of xRapid included accessing open crypto markets on exchanges, then it has the potential to make it’s demand known in a way that influences the price of our investment.  This discovery of xRapid’s planned production configuration was encouraging; in addition, we surmise from SBI’s quarterly reports that xRapid will also integrate with it’s new virtual currency (VC) exchange.

All of this news is exciting, especially the news about SBI VC; it is projected to have millions of customers when it opens for official production use.

xRapid Cost Savings Formally Communicated by Ripple

On May 8th, Ripple formally published the cost savings for xRapid. 16

Their formal communication focused on the xRapid integration between the US and Mexico, detailing the specific cost savings that were discovered by initial pilots:

“For payments in the critical remittance corridor between the U.S. and Mexico, financial institutions using xRapid saw a savings of 40-70 percent compared to what they normally pay foreign exchange brokers.”

In addition to detailing the cost savings, Ripple’s Insight article also re-emphasizes how the same crypto (and ForEx) exchanges that are used for XRP trading are also used for xRapid integration:

“A payment journey with xRapid looks like this: a financial institution connects directly to digital asset exchanges in both the originating and destination corridors. The originating currency is exchanged into XRP which provides the necessary liquidity to power the final payment, and then in seconds that XRP is exchanged into the destination currency in the second digital asset exchange. Once this transaction takes place, the funds are sent out on the local rails of the destination country for payout. The transaction is tracked end-to-end, and the result is a cross-border payment that is cheaper and faster than ever before.”

This last part solidifies what most investors are curious about when it comes to usage of XRP by xRapid; just how XRP facilitates the flow of value from one fiat currency to the next using XRP in the middle as a bridge asset.  It’s central to XRP’s value proposition, and demonstrates how replacement of Nostro-Vostro liquidity by XRP will work.

List of xRapid Pilots

It’s a concept that is very appealing to large remittance processors, and it’s why they’ve chosen to pilot xRapid in the first place.  Here is a reminder of which of those large remittance processors are currently either in a pilot to verify xRapid integration, or have completed a pilot and are moving into production usage:

  • Western Union (Pilot In Progress)  17
  • MoneyGram (Pilot In Progress) 18
  • Cambridge FX (Pilot In Progress) 19
  • Mercury FX (Pilot Complete: Entering Production) 20
  • IDT (Pilot In Progress) 21
  • Cuallix (Pilot Complete: Entering Production22
  • Viamericas (Pilot Complete: Entering Production23

That’s three of seven remittance processors that have confirmed the promised cost savings with xRapid and who have entered production usage of XRP for bridging cross-border payments.

This new stage of xRapid usage is exciting to watch, and as more of the larger remittance processors transition into production usage, the confidence in Ripple’s technology will build even further, adding momentum to XRP’s adoption by both the banking and remittance industry, and by retail investors in cryptocurrency.

XRP

The community supporting XRP and its adoption had a busy week.  In addition to tracking news of XRP adoption and progress, the community is continuing to promote XRP along several fronts.  Included in these efforts are an ongoing coin promotion on XRPChat, the effort at determining a new symbol to represent XRP, and readying for the upcoming Blockchain Week events in New York City.

Different members of the XRP community are writing, making videos, or sharing their combined knowledge on Discord or other social media.  Being an active member of the XRP community is all about picking an activity that you enjoy and then connecting with other XRP investors.

Coindeal Removes BTC Paring… and Adds XRP

Coindeal is an exchange based in Cyprus, a country with low regulatory hurdles for new crypto enterprises and ICOs. 24 25 In March of this year, based on investor demand, they added XRP as one of the trading choices. 26

In a move that may be a harbinger of future exchange trends, Coindeal de-listed an existing BTC pairing and replaced it with a new XRP pairing: 27

XRP_pairing

Yes, this is one anecdotal example; but as more crypto traders gain experience with how easy and fast it is to move XRP into and out of exchanges in response to changing market conditions, I predict that exchanges will be adding XRP pairings at an increasing rate.

Dutch News Agency Accepts XRP as Payment

XRP’s retail payment reach is extending a bit further with each new business that accepts XRP during checkout.  XRP’s main use case is acting as a bridge currency for fiat-to-fiat money transitions, however, it can be used just like any other cryptocurrency – for payment or transfer of value peer-to-peer without any transition from one currency to another.  One of those new businesses that accepts XRP sent out a tweet recently, pointing out that they are the first online news content site to accept XRP as payment:

The English translation of the Dutch announcement reads:

“We are the first Dutch marketing agency where you can pay with cryptocurrency.”

Paying for online content is a new concept that is starting to be revisited in an effort to pursue new applications and technologies that do not depend on advertisers or selling of data as a revenue model.  It’s nice to see XRP being used in this new trend.

Updated Ledger Statistics

It’s time to take a fresh look at the ledger statistics.

One of the most prolific developers in the XRP community is @WietseWind (Twitter handle).  He’s created a number of applications that run on the XRP Ledger, including the Kyte online wallet (beta), the XRP Tip Bot (for Reddit, Discord, and Twitter), and a website that automatically queries and publishes ledger statistics when prompted by end-users.

The name of the website that he developed is called the Ledger Exposed, or: https://ledger.exposed/

In my March 24rth blog, I covered wallet statistics.  The one data point I tend to track relentlessly is the “1%” statistic.  This statistic measures how much XRP you must own to be considered in the “top 1%” of wallets on the XRP Ledger.  It’s a statistic that is related to how many funded wallets (wallets that have paid their reserve fee of 20 XRP) exist on the network, because as more and more individuals create a wallet, the dispersal of ownership increases.

xrp_richlist_stats

Basically, the statistic says in common language “99% of all XRP wallets have 72,000 XRP… or less.”  The increasingly-small number represents a consistent trend towards a more dispersed ownership of XRP, and it’s growing smaller as XRP continues its path to adoption.

Updates to Richlist Stats on Ledger Exposed

One update that @WietseWind recently added to the statistics website was the ability for a user to query for the amount and percentage of all XRP owned by the “top 100 accounts” with a denominator being whichever number the user prefers: either 1) All the XRP in existence, or 2) only the XRP not in escrow.  The different denominator will necessarily result in wildly different percentages; i.e. the denominator will be much larger if you use “all XRP in existence” and hence the ‘top 100 accounts’ will own a much smaller percentage.

This feature was added to address subjective preferences by those that are communicating the dispersion of XRP ownership, and using that number to compare to other crypto networks.  Obviously, a smaller number is better, since that would indicate less centralized control of the monetary supply.  You can see how much this preference affects the overall statistics below:

Richlist_stats1

richlist_stats2Untitled

In the case of XRP, the situation is more complex, because most of the XRP supply is locked away in cryptographic vaults known as “escrow contracts” where the XRP is not accessible until a specific date.  When the date arrives, the specified amount is made available to Ripple (the company).

This wrinkle in the XRP supply statistics has resulted in sometimes-contentious debates about comparing crypto ownership centralization among the top cryptocurrencies.  Some crypto analysts strongly prefer using all the XRP in existence, whereas others prefer to measure the top 100 accounts compared to only XRP that is currently available.  Hopefully @WietseWind’s new feature will do its part to satisfy the curiosity of both groups.

Are You Ready for the Internet of Value?

Ripple is making a souffle with an incredible ingredient; XRP.

It’s cost savings have been proven and documented.  The largest remittance processors in the world are quickly jumping aboard to leverage the cost savings; others may be left behind to face the consequences of trying to compete on a very uneven playing field.  The market will reward those companies, payment processors, and banks that make the switch to Ripple technology early, and with time the others will see their market share dwindle like analog phones.

It won’t happen overnight, but what we’re seeing are the beginning stages of the cross-border value transfer revolution; and Ripple has been at it for over five years.

When this “Internet of Value” souffle is pulled out of the oven, you’ll want to be ready to sample the finished product. XRP_new1

Sources:

  1. https://twitter.com/C3_Nik/status/994990247107878912
  2. http://usavibe.com/2018/05/11/at-least-we-know-whats-killing-the-markets-today/
  3. http://www.businessinsider.com/south-koreas-largest-crypto-exchange-upbit-raided-by-prosecutors-2018-5
  4. https://twitter.com/clairearthurs/status/992557152031010816
  5. https://twitter.com/clairearthurs/status/992557830170279936
  6. https://www.coindesk.com/events/consensus-2018/speakers/
  7. https://www.sec.gov/news/speech/speech-peirce-050218
  8. https://www.ypo.org/about-ypo/
  9. https://twitter.com/Ripple/status/993656563381428226
  10. https://twitter.com/nbougalis/status/993665806247612416
  11. http://paymentsjournal.com/santander-ripple-onepay-apple-interledger-protocol/
  12. https://globalcoinreport.com/apple-inc-nasdaqaapl-integrates-ripple-xrp-interledger-technology/
  13. http://blockchainnewsgroup.com/2018/04/28/santander-deploys-ripple-in-onepay-fx-and-apple-may-adopt-interledger-protocol/
  14. https://ripple.com/insights/koreas-coinone-transfer-joins-ripplenet/
  15. https://www.credit-suisse.com/pwp/ws/videobroadcast/?pid=9ceVakBGCElMdKCKL5I4T6_prgxnKHap (20:45 forward)
  16. https://ripple.com/insights/first-pilot-results-for-xrapid/
  17. http://fortune.com/2018/02/14/ripple-xrp-western-union-money-transfers/
  18. http://fortune.com/2018/01/11/ripple-moneygram-xrp-cryptocurrency-bank-transfers/
  19. https://ripple.com/insights/cambridge-use-xrp-faster-global-payments/
  20. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeldelcastillo/2018/05/10/ripple-reveals-results-of-first-pilots-using-xrp-cryptocurrency/#53d679b3662d
  21. http://fortune.com/2018/01/24/ripple-cryptocurrency-bitcoin-xrp-idt/
  22. http://www.cuallet.com/en/ripples-global-financial-network-will-work-with-cuallet/
  23. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180510005148/en/Ripple-Reports-Positive-Results-xRapid-Pilots
  24. https://coindeal.com/about-us
  25. https://www.capitalandconflict.com/investing-in-bitcoin/top-crypto-friendly-and-hostile-countries/
  26. https://twitter.com/coin_deal/status/976511289961959424
  27. https://www.reddit.com/r/Ripple/comments/8im5uh/coindeal_is_removing_shndbtc_pair_and_replacing/

What’s in a Name… or a Symbol?

What do you think of when you see the Ripple logo?

ripple_triskelionFor most of us that have been around since XRP’s early days, it represented XRP.  The fact that Ripple owns the rights to the symbol as a trademark didn’t seem to factor in when we communicated with each other or when exchanges listed XRP as one of the cryptocurrencies available for trade.

At the end of most of my blog entries, I include the Ripple logo as a reminder to readers of our common investment in XRP.  I’m not affiliated with the company – I’m an owner of the digital asset XRP, and as such, I blog about topics that affect my primary investment.  While Ripple happens to be a company with large holdings of XRP, the cryptocurrency should really be considered independent of any company, bank, or financial institution.

But we have a problem with the symbol; The triskelion-shaped blue logo is a trademark that belongs to Ripple, the company.1 Its purpose was not to represent XRP the digital asset – it is supposed to represent Ripple, the company.

Ripple’s Theme

If you haven’t realized it already, Ripple opted early on for a water-based theme for its company.  For a very small Silicon Valley startup at the time, the choices about how to symbolize and market their company were very astute.  By using a water-based theme, it evokes connections in peoples minds to a small pebble making large ripples in a pond; in my view it represents the awesome potential of a new idea or innovation.

ripple_water

If you’ve purchased XRP already, this information is probably nothing new to you.  Ripple now has a marketing division that is trained to interact with corporate-owned trademarks, logos, and other designs.  This is not surprising – every Silicon Valley company spends part of their energy and resources creating the elements that go into a corporate brand.

The Problem

The Ripple logo – the triple-drop triskelion symbol – represents the company.  We need a symbol to represent XRP.

zerp_vs_company_logo

Look at the constant correcting all of us do – to each other – on social media.  Some industry media outlets still call XRP “Ripples” even though the crypto market has largely made the distinction over the years between the company and the digital asset it uses in some of its solutions.

To discover just how bad this confusion can be, one of the XRP community members – @XRPTrump (Twitter handle) conducted a quick poll a couple days ago:

xrp_ripple_confusion_poll

The poll was one of those “open polls” where anybody with a Twitter account can vote, so it was relatively unscientific; but even if a small percentage of people are confused, it’s problematic – for Ripple and for the XRP community.  We want investors to be clear in what they’re purchasing.

XRP are not “ripples” – they represent a decentralized digital cryptocurrency that existed before the company, and will continue to exist – even without the company.  Most of us understand this concept, but for reasons unclear to us, sometimes other crypto market participants confuse the issue.  In other cases, individuals don’t understand the difference between the company and the cryptocurrency.

Unicode Standard

The other part of the problem is more subtle.

An XRP community member – who is also an industry expert in technology – noticed something peculiar.  He found that Bitcoin had been assigned a Unicode symbol.  The symbol represents Bitcoin, and resembles the shape that most of the world has come to associate with it:

As you can see, I didn’t paste an image – the symbol is part of the Unicode character set that is recognized and used by most technology platforms and operating systems.  However, XRP does not have a Unicode symbol – instead, it uses the currency code “XRP” which is nothing more than the letters designating the cryptocurrency.

To remedy this, he wanted to propose a symbol for inclusion in the Unicode Standard.  If you’re curious about the process of Unicode character adoption, please refer to the Unicode Standard website:  https://www.unicode.org/standard/standard.html I won’t delve into the Unicode Technical Committee‘s process for approval of new characters, but even before this step, the XRP community member realized that it would be necessary to vet any symbol with the larger community.  He knew that the Ripple logo was a trademark, and that it represented the company, not XRP.   This is where he made the decision to start a new Twitter account to help him bring the issue to the public’s attention.

@xrpsymbol and Github Repository

@xrpsymbol is the name of the Twitter account that he created to organize public discussions about what symbol he should use to propose to the Unicode Technical Committee.  He started things out with a simple tweet on May 2nd:

In addition, he organized a Github repository to store the collateral and graphics that people would inevitably submit during this process.  The Github repository already contains a large collection of submitted designs for the symbol:  https://github.com/xrpsymbol

He then went about asking for comments from the public on the submitted designs:

Then he held an preliminary vote to gauge the community’s response to the first set of submitted designs on May 5th. This prompted a second wave of community interest, however, and he was forced to annul the first two voting rounds while waiting for more submissions.  It was worth the wait.

Ripple Joins In

Ripple (the company) decided to submit a design option as well.

Ripple’s design team spent a significant amount of time & effort, and even conducted a legal review on their proposed XRP logo.  Just to be clear – Ripple indicated that they would hold no rights to this symbol – their submission would be a contribution to the community and the community would have full rights to the graphics and collateral.

Here is their submission:

XRP_Symbol_Ripple_submision

Claire Arthurs Kart, Ripple’s Head of Community, organized the design effort for Ripple, and had this to say about Ripple’s submission to the project:

“Its “x” refers, in part, to XRP’s role in efficiently moving value across borders. An “x” also mathematically suggests a multiplier effect — where entities are building on one another to create something bigger — the same way the community drives innovation with XRP and the XRP Ledger.

Up and down arrows represent sending and receiving — the two sides of completing a transaction and the possibility of increased connectivity across different entities.

The organic shape of its curves is suggestive of the human form — a nod to the community that supports XRP and its ecosystem.

Most importantly, the symbol is simple to draw, allowing for easy adoption by anyone.”

My reaction to this design proposal?  I immediately fell in love with the Ripple-submitted design.  Before seeing their proposed design for the XRP logo, I was ambivalent about the others, although I tended to prefer the one that @xrpsymbol has on his Twitter account:

xrp_symbol_graphic

Regardless of the the symbol that you prefer, stay tuned for further updates and recommended steps for community input.  As a group, we will have to decide which symbol to support. So far, over fourteen entries have been submitted. 2

To arrive at one symbol to submit to the Unicode Consortium, we’ll need to get a final decision by the community via a public response mechanism – whether it’s a vote or just a broad consensus of the community.

The XRP Symbol Belongs to the Community – Not Ripple

Yes, that’s a strong statement, but it’s true.

Even Ripple supports this notion – it’s imperative that we all draw a line between XRP and the company that does most of the building on the public network.  XRP is an open-source project, and anybody can contribute to it.  The community should choose a logo that belongs to it – belongs to all of us – to use as we see fit.

Next Steps

Stay tuned for more information about how to provide input.  If you wish to submit a design, comment on one, or engage with the effort in another capacity, you can refer to the instructions that @xrpsymbol published in his tweets.

We are at a pivotal moment in the history of XRP.  What will be the symbol that defines its characteristics and communicates its meaning to the wider world?  The XRP community decides.  We must come together, make our voices heard, and decide on a logo; more importantly, we must stand ready to adopt and use the symbol when we collectively decide on its image – this is going to require maximum effort across all of the community.

We’ve let this go for far too long – it’s time that XRP had its own identity apart from the company that has been building on the XRP Ledger since 2012.

Even Ripple agrees.

Sources:

  1. https://ripple.com/terms-of-use/
  2. https://github.com/xrpsymbol/xrpsymbol.github.io/tree/master/suggestions-box