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Saturday 19 August 2017
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On the “Death of Ripple”

Announcements

Recently there has been a lot of buzz surrounding RippleOn 2014-05-22 Jed, one of the creators of the Ripple system, announced he will be selling the XRPs (ripples) he received for developing the system. This wouldn’t be newsworthy, if it wasn’t for the sheer amount of currency being liquidated. At the inception of the system, Jed owned 9 billion XRPs, or 9% of the total available supply. Some of the currency was allegedly given away to various charities, but one can expect a good number of them to still be owned by Jed. The announcement has caused XRPs to drop in price dramatically, and Jed is still to sell his share (which he is planning to do two weeks from the announcement).

Another announcement was made today, on 2014-05-23 by Jesse from Kraken. He is one of the first investors to Ripple Labs, the company that took over the development of Ripple from Jed and other creators. Jesse resigned from the Board of Ripple Labs, stating that “I’m no longer confident in the management nor the company’s ability to recover from the founders’ perplexing allocation to themselves of 20% of the XRP”.

Quick note – what are XRPs?

XRPs are a currency used inside of the Ripple protocol to pay for fees. They are mainly used as ananti-DoS measure. XRPs can be exchanged for any other currency inside of the Ripple system, and can also be sent to anyone in the system.

What this means for Ripple

A lot of people in the Bitcoin space appear to confuse two things – Ripple and ripples / XRPs. This situation is very similar to how people outside of the Bitcoin and Crypto space confuse Bitcoin with bitcoins. The former in both cases is the technology and the protocol running the system, while the latter is the currency and unit of account inside of that system. Just like Bitcoin is not just bitcoins, so Ripple is not just ripples. When the price of a single bitcoin has fallen from $30 in June 2011 by 68%, from $15 in August 2012 by 51%, from $266 in April 2013 by 61% and so on, people that thought Bitcoin==bitcoins declared Bitcoin to be dead. The protocol was unaffected, Bitcoin survived.
The story is similar right now with Ripple and XRPs. XRPs are falling in value, while the Ripple protocol is still strong. Just like the price of a bitcoin is the least interesting part of Bitcoin, so is the price of XRP when talking about Ripple.

At the same time, this incident creates a lot more bad press for Ripple and Ripple Labs. People holding XRPs and expecting a growth of value will be disappointed and may be bitter towards the system. A lot more people will once again start to call Ripple a scam. This could hinder adoption of the system further.

At the same time, once the XRPs are sold by Jed the market will become more decentralized. Someone estimated that in November 2013 there were about 7 billion XRPs in circulation. With Jed’s stash, that number would increase that number to 16% of the total supply.

Quick note – do you need XRPs?

Since XRPs are a DoS prevention in the Ripple system, everyone needs some XRPs to use Ripple. However, the amount needed is very small. About 50 XRPs, roughly worth 15 cents at the current exchange rate, should be enough for almost everyone for a lifetime of use (assuming transaction fees remain the same). There are a few places that give one XRPs for free when they sign up for their Gateway, meaning that once doesn’t need to buy any ripples to use the Ripple system.
XRPs are an “app coin”, like WoW gold or EVE Online’s ISK, and don’t make for a good currency otherwise.

What about Ripple Labs?

While Jed’s declaration shook the market up, it’s Jesse’s insight that might be more worrying. XRP price be damned, but the Ripple system is mainly in the hands of Ripple Labs. I am wondering how the current situation is affecting the company and what will happen to them in the future.

To sum all up

XRP price is going down, but XRP != Ripple. Ripple is like Bitcoin in June 2011 – price is falling down, but the protocol and software is still strong. Unless Ripple Labs ditches the development of the software, Ripple is not dead. Don’t put more money in XRP than you can afford to lose, it’s an app coin.


Piotr Piasecki

Piotr Piasecki is a Chief Scientist at Provable Inc, a Vancouver-based software development startup. Since discovering Bitcoin in 2011, he became a reputable member of the Bitcoin community under the nickname “ThePiachu”. Piotr wrote his master thesis on the subject of Bitcoin security in Technical University of Lodz, in Poland. He is also a moderator of Bitcoin.StackExchange.com, /r/Bitcoin subreddit, runs a number of Bitcoin-focused websites, such as Vanity Pool or TestNet Faucet, as well as writes a blog on various cryptocurrencies.


  • Marina

    I feel a bit like scratching an ‘I was ‘ere’ in the bark right now. But of course I wont. Bark is out and ink is in. I get that.

  • David Prochnow

    I think the comparison of XRPs and in-game-“currencies” like wow-gold is
    not correct. Of course XRPs have been generated by a company (or at
    least are controlled by one for the greatest part at the moment), but
    that company can’t produce any more of it without altering the protocol
    and they can’t control in which way “their” coins are used – in this way
    XRPs are more like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

  • AriellaBrown

    I interviewed some people from Ripple for an article I wrote for Internet Evolution last year … The focus (at least at the time) was more on the system than on the currency itself. To quote from the article, “The question is what does Ripple do that Bitcoin can’t? It’s designed to facilitate the transfer of money from any form of currency and to clear transactions in five seconds, as opposed to the 10 minutes minimum required for Bitcoin transactions to clear through the block chain, he said.”