Cryptocurrency is a fast-moving space with new technologies and names arising on a daily basis. One of the largest and more polarizing subjects in the space is Ripple XRP, a private-company-founded platform and cryptocurrency launched in 2012. It has gained notoriety for its unique founding, structure, and operations.
Ardent supporters back its real-world adoption and growth potential. Dissenters contend that because of many of these same factors, it’s philosophically misaligned with cryptocurrency ideals and fundamentals.
Despite these contentions, Ripple XRP has grown to become a household name in cryptocurrency. Here’s everything you need to know about this cryptocurrency, and how to invest in it.
What is Ripple?
Ripple is both a currency-exchange system designed to allow fast and low-cost transactions, and a cryptocurrency in its own right. Ripple’s primary goal is to connect financial institutions, payment providers, and digital asset exchanges to provide faster and cheaper global payments.
Created in 2012 by Jed McCaleb and Chris Larsen, Ripple is perhaps better known for its open-source, peer-to-peer decentralized platform, RippleNet, which enables money to be transferred globally in any fiat or cryptocurrency denomination between financial institutions.
Ripple makes some improvements on common shortfalls associated with traditional banks. Transactions on the Ripple Network are settled in seconds even under the regular stress of millions of transactions. Compare this to banks’ wire transfers which typically can take days to weeks to complete and can cost anywhere from $15 to $30 or more if sending or receiving internationally. Fees on Ripple vary based on the transaction size but overall are minimal, with the minimum cost for a standard transaction at 0.00001 XRP.
What is XRP?
XRP is the currency issued and managed by Ripple (though users can also create their own currency on the platform). Ripple began selling XRP in 2012 to fund company operations, allowing its users to buy cryptocurrency, though it has taken a backseat to the company’s primary objective of developing RippleNet.
Throughout Ripple’s lifespan, leadership has reframed how XRP fits into the company’s business model, originally proclaiming it as the fuel on which its borderless payments technology runs, and later as a more efficient medium of exchange than Bitcoin.
XRP tokens represent the transfer of value across the Ripple network and can be traded on the open cryptocurrency market by anyone. Unlike Bitcoin’s popular store-of-value narrative use-case, XRP is primarily used for payments and borderless currency exchange. While Ripple’s centralized infrastructure concerns some in the cryptocurrency space, its fast transaction speeds, low transaction costs, and low energy usage provide superior performance as a medium of exchange compared to many blockchain-based cryptocurrencies.
(Need a crash course on crypto before you can read any further? Check out our guide to cryptocurrency.)
What is the XRP Price?
At the time of reporting, the XRP price is $0.474494. It’s all-time high was $3.8419 in January 2018. It went as low as $.0041 in November 2015.
How Does Ripple Work?
There are two main technologies to be aware of when it comes to Ripple and XRP. Specifically, the XRP ledger (XRPL) and the Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA). Here’s how they work.
XRP Ledger (XRPL)
RippleNet is built on top of its own blockchain-like distributed ledger database, XRP Ledger (XRPL), which stores accounting information of network participants and matches exchanges among multiple currency pairs. The transaction ledger is maintained by a committee of validators who act like miners and full-node operators to reach consensus in three to five seconds—versus Bitcoin’s 10 minutes. Because there are no miners competing to confirm transactions for block rewards, validators verify transactions for no monetary reward.
Anyone can become an XRP validator, but in order to gain trust and be used by others on the network, validators must make Ripple’s unique node list (UNL), deeming them a trusted Ripple validator. These centralized validators are critical to prevent double-spending and censorship of transactions. There are only 35 active XRP validators; six are run by Ripple.
Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA)
XRP’s design is predicated on speed and cost, as opposed to decentralization. Unlike different types of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are built on the blockchain and validated by miners through the Proof of Work consensus mechanism, Ripple confirms transactions through its own consensus mechanism, the Ripple Protocol Consensus Algorithm (RPCA).
By avoiding Proof of Work’s energy-intensive mining, Ripple transactions require less energy than Bitcoin or Ethereum, are confirmed faster, and cost less. However, this speed is ultimately achieved because of XRP’s centralized infrastructure, which some argue makes the network less secure, censorship-resistant, and permissionless than open-source blockchain networks.
Ripple Cryptocurrency Token Supply
Unlike many other cryptocurrencies, XRP is not mined. The token’s entire supply was created when the network first launched in 2012 and Ripple executives intermittently tap into an escrow to release segments of the supply to sell on the open market.
In other words, unlike Bitcoin’s decentralized economy, XRP’s supply and issuance is centralized and governed by a few authorities. Because the total supply already exists, no more will be created into existence, thus making XRP fixed in quantity and not inflationary.
As of January 2021, only 45 billion XRP tokens are in circulation, out of the maximum total 100 billion. Due to the vast circulating supply, XRP has had one of the largest market caps of any cryptocurrency, even briefly eclipsing that of Ethereum’s second-largest cap late in the 2017-2018 bull market.
Ripple Crypto and Regulatory Trouble
In late 2020, Ripple became the target of an SEC investigation . The regulatory body determined that Ripple Labs Inc. and two of its executives, Co-Founder Chris Larsen and CEO Bradley Garlinghouse, had raised over $1.3 billion through an “unregistered, ongoing digital asset securities offering” to finance the company’s operations. Consistent with recent cryptocurrency rules set by the SEC, Ripple’s leaders were charged with unlawful issuance of securities in the form of sales of its XRP token, raising questions about compliance with cryptocurrency taxes.
The XRP price crashed amid the fallout, from over $0.60 to under $0.30, as prominent crypto exchanges began delisting the token and Ripple executives, including Founder Jed McCaleb, sold off personal XRP holdings worth millions.
Is Ripple a Good Investment?
Though XRP has been impacted by Ripple’s legal blow, XRP is an independent token that can and does function somewhat outside of Ripple’s business model. The crash in price and soured fundamental outlook may not paint a bright picture of XRP as an investment to some. Whether XRP recovers and continues to evolve with the rest of the crypto herd remains to be seen, but as investors look for value in undervalued assets, it doesn’t hurt to do further research and form an educated conclusion.
Pros and Cons of Ripple XRP
Because Ripple is different in some ways from other cryptocurrencies, it makes sense to review its perceived pros and cons before making any investing decisions.
Pros of Ripple XRP
• Fast speeds
• Low fees
• Fixed supply
• Interest/tentative adoption by financial institutions
Cons of Ripple XRP
• Centralized infrastructure, governance, issuance
• Corruptible validators
• Unsupported by many exchanges
How to Invest in XRP
To start investing in Ripple, you first need to join a crypto exchange. Signing up for an account could include different verification processes, depending on the exchange. Once you’re signed up, you’re ready to trade or buy Ripple XRP. You can trade any current crypto you own, or you can buy a major cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum and then use that to buy Ripple XRP.
Ripple XRP is a global digital payments system that sacrifices decentralization for performance. The network and technology is owned and at least partly run by Ripple, the private company, which controls the underlying infrastructure, supply, and some of the limited network validators. While Ripple strays from the conventional decentralization model adopted by leading cryptos Bitcoin and Ethereum, it conforms to some degree through its own specially-designed infrastructure.
Although Ripple’s primary goal is providing a borderless payments and currency exchange gateway for financial institutions, its native cryptocurrency XRP has taken on a life of its own and is actively traded and analyzed by investors. With high-ranking metrics such as fast and inexpensive transactions, some investors argue XRP is a strong competitor to large cryptocurrency blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. Conversely, Ripple XRP’s centralization has been a major philosophical and security concern for others—including US regulatory bodies.
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