It's that rush of adrenaline; that triumphal tone of voice from your friend on the other end of the line:
"Did you see the rally?!"
These times are an exhilarating reminder of why investors have flocked to crypto in large droves, with many abandoning the typical stock and derivative exchanges for more promising returns. New technology has always brought with it a surge of riotous, speculative interest, but that interest has historically been felt on traditional financial exchanges, in the form of company stocks.
Crypto is a different animal altogether.
Entrepreneurs and small companies can now access capital in ways that have never before been seen. The barriers to entry have been lowered sufficiently as to almost completely democratize financing. Yes, these include the tarnished reputation of ICOs, but it's far more wide in scope than that.
Crypto has opened access to new credit markets as well, and has resulted in new platforms and innovations that can help small entrepreneurs and organizations bypass the traditional bank-based methods of securing capital.
And for the person that wants to purchase cryptocurrency, there are no barriers to entry other than a mobile device and an Internet connection. As long as you have those two ingredients, you can immediately start saving and trading in these new financial innovations.
Because of this unregulated nature of the industry, and the way that the market volume leaders have evolved haphazardly over the years based more on fortuitous circumstance than business utility, the tendency is for traders to focus in on boom cycles and disregard factors that are crucial for long-term viability.
Yes, we should celebrate! If you've weathered the crypto storms of 2018 - and what we've seen so far of 2019 - you deserve to pause and cheer for a moment based on this latest rally.
However, the market still has a long way to go. We know that speculative demand is just that - speculative. Most of us that have been a part of crypto for more than a heartbeat are able to look at the entire market and reach the same conclusion: There is a need to base its value on true business utility. For XRP, a massive ecosystem of utility-driven demand is being built by its member businesses and entrepreneurs.
Speculative demand is always welcome; most of us are here to make money on a crypto investment. In addition, remember the pivotal importance of true business utility, and the one crypto that has it in spades.
General Crypto News
One of the latest news stories to draw attention in crypto social media was that of a job posting.
On March 29th, the SEC announced that they were planning on hiring a "Crypto Specialist," and described the responsibilities of the new position this way: 1
"The Crypto Specialist provides expertise and coordinates the Division of Trading and Market's activities regarding crypto and digital asset securities ...
... Developing and maintaining expert-level industry knowledge of crypto and digital asset securities and products, as well as legal and policy developments occurring in domestic and foreign jurisdictions;
... Applying knowledge of federal securities laws to digital asset securities and crypto matters, i.e., broker-dealer, exchange, clearing agency and transfer registrations, exchange product applications, sales and trading practices, etc."
The interesting point in the above excerpt (there were six other points that pertained to organization and collaboration duties), is that the person is expected to develop and maintain expert-level industry knowledge of both domestic and foreign jurisdictions. To me, this indicates a subtle acknowledgment, perhaps, of the fact that the US is currently lagging behind other prominent countries in the area of cryptocurrency regulatory guidance.
And this is almost immediately balanced out with a subsequent nod to their duties to enforce the securities laws of the United States and to review exchange products applications.
The job posting is a positive signal for the cryptomarket in the West, as regulatory certainty is slowly making its way across the landscape in the form of enforcement examples and judicial precedent. While those in the cryptomarket are also in the process of helping champion the Token Taxonomy Act and other legislation, the other side of the coin is enforcement - and guidance - from the SEC.
Having a specific position for this area is a step in the right direction.
If you know of a colleague or friend that fits the criteria in the job posting, encourage them to apply. The more that the crypto community - and the XRP community - come together to help shape both legislation and enforcement, the more that common sense and good policies will prevail.
Who To Follow: INATBA
Trade groups and organizations have often brought together competing entities to help define and champion a new industry, and blockchain technology is no different.
For years, the competition between the various crypto networks, ICOs, and privately-funded projects have inhibited this type of high-profile cooperation, but the market is now starting to take steps that indicate a new level of maturity may be on the horizon - one that benefits all of us.
The highest-profile recent example of this is Ripple's participation in founding the INATBA, which stands for the "International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications." I'll cover that in detail later, but suffice it to say that, for now, the trade group will be one organization to watch closely, as it seeks to work with the European Parliament, its various legislative sub-groups, and European regulators, to provide an interface between entrepreneurs, developers, and policy makers.
While they don't have one, central social media presence for the time being, here are the links to their membership list and board members, which is extensive, along with their "Joint Declaration on the Establishment of the International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA):"
At the very bottom of their home page is a short form to fill out, if you want to sign up for updates through email.
It's wise, especially if you are investing in crypto-assets or blockchain projects in any way, to keep a close eye on this new organization's efforts and developments.
On Monday, April 1st, David Schwartz, Ripple's Chief Technology Officer, held an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session on the Quora platform.
Days in advance of the session, Quora reminded fans that it was scheduled, and encouraged platform members to submit their questions.
Many Quora users did so, and David Schwartz thoughtfully responded to seventeen of them with comprehensive answers. Here's a few of my favorites: 2
Question: "Is XRP susceptible to a 51% attack or takeover?"
Answer (David Schwartz): "Cryptocurrencies that are susceptible to 51% attacks are based on proof-of-work (PoW) and proof-of-stake (PoS) systems, because essentially anyone can accumulate 51% of power over the system through enough mining resources or staking power (just by spending money). Once an individual or entity has that majority control, they can rewrite history on the network, creating a scenario where you might rely on a transaction and then discover that the transaction was "unconfirmed" and a conflicting transaction accepted instead. PoW and PoS systems have no clear recovery path from hostile majority attacks.
The XRP Ledger, on the other hand, is not vulnerable to these attacks as it uses a Distributed Agreement System, in which validation power is acquired through more democratic means – in order to reach such a high concentration of power, you would have to convince the other stakeholders in the network that you should hold that power.
Fundamentally, there is no such thing as an “un-confirmation” in a distributed agreement system. This reduces the harm that can be created by malfeasance and reduces the incentive to misbehave. We worry about mining collusion primarily because colluding miners can double spend and we can’t easily make choices to decentralize mining power."
Question: How and why did you create the XRP Ledger?
Answer (David Schwartz): Jed McCaleb, Arthur Britto and I created the XRP Ledger to solve for the waste and scalability issues that we observed with bitcoin. Estimates suggest bitcoin mining uses approximately 73 Terawatts, the equivalent power of what the whole of the Czech Republic consumes. We also saw some serious issues with speed, scalability and control. Our initial read indicated that there could be significant problems, such as a 51% attack, if any miner obtained greater than 50 percent of the mining power - that risk persists with bitcoin (and Ethereum) today as mining power has consolidated in China.
In June 2012, we created 100 billion XRP all at once, rather than through mining, and it was released on a fully-operational distributed ledger. The XRP ledger makes it easy for anyone to run a node and uses a consensus mechanism to approve transactions, enabling more people to participate using very little power consumption and they settle nearly instantly for just a few cents. XRP’s characteristics (speed and scale) make it the perfect digital asset to solve lots of different use cases across verticals like payments, identity, gaming and virtual goods, digital media and many more industries."
Question: "Is there a particular use case for XRP that you are most excited to see come to fruition?"
Answer (David Schwartz): "Obviously, I’m most excited about cross-currency payments. But that’s far from the only thing XRP can be used for.
Coil is using XRP and the Interledger protocol to make hundreds of millions of tiny payments to content providers, streaming money at the providers as the providers supply content to Coil’s customers. And the important thing is that the content providers don’t have to have any formal relationship with Coil. They just specify in the content where they want to receive payment and Coil, or any other web monetization provider using ILP, can pay them.
Through Xpring, we’ve had conversations with many other groups working on projects related to XRP. These range from wallets to liquidity providers to companies targeting specific verticals such as gaming.
Personally, I’m very excited about the prospect of seeing some of the specific features that Arthur and I built into the XRP Ledger seeing real use. Not only does the XRP Ledger have a decentralized exchanged with order books and automatic pathfinding for complex payments, it has peer-to-peer community credit features as well.
There are numerous XRPL features that build on the account-based design that distinguishes it from UTXO-based designs like bitcoin. These include the ability to change an account’s credentials without changing the receiving address and being able to specify the specific assets you’re willing to accept as payment. I’d love to see these features get more attention and use."
The Q&A session provided a mix of both newly-communicated viewpoints and a retread of some of the information that he's provided in prior interactions over social media, for those of us that are fans.
The session was held just days after Bob Way, a Ripple alumnus, provided a three-hour AMA session via an interview with Alex Cobb, and it was interesting to hear echoes of some of the same viewpoints in David Schwartz's session. Both Bob Way and David Schwartz are able to effortlessly go from 'granular detail' to 'big picture' concept - and vice versa - to communicate important concepts.
The answers that David Schwartz provided are ideal for those that may be curious about the differences between XRP and Bitcoin, and about the specific use cases and capabilities of XRP.
Ripple Membership in INATBA
On April 1st, Ripple sent out a tweet explaining why they chose to become a founding member of the "International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications:"
The industry group was recently founded, bringing together 105 different companies, to work collaboratively with leaders in Europe, such as the European Parliament. The group communicated their goals with four distinct focal points, which can be summarized as: 3
- Facilitate regulatory clarity
- Promote DLT-based infrastructures that support all key stakeholder groups
- Champion interoperability and global standards
- Promote the solutions of trusted blockchain applications
Note that these are my boiled-down versions that reflect my own understanding of the industry-speak that is used on the organization's site; it's pretty clear that this organization seeks to champion a progressive approach to blockchain technology.
Brad Garlinghouse reinforced this message in his short introductory video; I wonder if a mirror version of this same organization would be equally helpful here in the United States.
When I look back on my own experience learning the esoteric facts about the XRP Ledger and some of its capabilities and features, I remember the thought randomly crossing my mind:
"Could somebody just happen to create my same secret key and then access my XRP?"
Even though I knew, with the laws of probability, that it was more likely to pick up an exact grain of sand in the Sahara Desert, it still bothered me on some strange level that the value in most XRP wallets is secured by only a single key-pair.
In 2017, Joel Katz (the online avatar of David Schwartz, Ripple's CTO), took up the topic on XRP Chat, fascinated at how the associated probabilities vexed some ordinary users. And on March 4th of this year, the Founder of Bithomp sent out the following reminder of that memorable conversation:
The use of humor to convey something so improbable is most likely the best approach; the short answer is that good cryptography is simply the best known way to secure your hard-earned value electronically. This is the mathematical underpinning of security for cryptographic networks like XRP.
Bithomp Adds Escrow Support
Bithomp is already, arguably, the most popular site for tracking wallet information on the XRP Ledger. It has a smooth, intuitive user interface that returns information in a human-readable format that some other sites lack. In addition, Bithomp has a myriad of other useful tools, such as access to the testnet, a key-pair generator, the ability to submit a signed transaction, a paperwallet generator, price alerts, a list of all XRPL validators, and summary statistics about the XRP Ledger.
I'm sure I'm missing more than one feature that the team built.
In addition to all of these features that have made Bithomp a staple for many XRP fans, the team just added a new capability:
They provided a version of the tool for the testnet as well, so that users can practice creating these types of transactions before taking the same steps on the live network.
Kudos to the team behind Bithomp, and I look forward to downloading and trying out their new escrow tool!
Note: I do not personally endorse any wallet, program, or site.
MoneyMessage Extended to Gmail
On March 27th, I profiled a new tool called "MoneyMessage" that was created by @SchlaubiD (Twitter avatar).
It is a downloadable program that integrated XRP Tip Bot tipping within Microsoft Outlook, opening an entirely new arena of tipping - through email - for those that wish to use it.
On March 29th, @SchlaubiD announced that he has now extended XRP tipping for those that use Gmail:
The tipping works with a Google Chrome extension, which users can configure and use with the Chrome web browser. Like the Outlook version, the receiver can use any email client; the MoneyMessage service performs a deposit in the background to them. 4
Congratulations to @SchlaubiD on an inspired creation that has now been extended to another high-volume email platform.
Community-based XRP Quarterly Report
Each quarter, Ripple publishes a quarterly XRP Markets report.
This quarterly publication started with the fourth quarter of 2016 and has been released like clockwork ever since, with information about retail and institutional XRP sales, along with contemporary market analysis and notes.
Taking a page from Ripple, Leonidas Hadjiloizou authored a community-based XRP report, starting with the fourth quarter of 2018, publishing it on December 30th, 2018.
The report was comprehensive, and focused in on the exchanges, businesses, and other major business news announcements that took place during the quarter. He published the report on the XRP Community Blog site, and it turns out that his blog was not a one-off effort: On April 1st, he announced that he'd published his second community-based XRP Report, covering the first quarter of 2019:
The report was consistent with the focus that was pioneered in his first quarterly report, and comprehensively addressed the major news items for the quarter.
At the end was where his analysis was the most fascinating to me, because he included a breakdown of statistics, stratified several different ways. Here is my favorite paragraph included in that summary:
"At the moment of writing XRP has:
- 332 Fiat markets (23% increase)
- 640 Crypto markets (15% increase)
- Across 311 exchanges (22% increase)
- A total of 972 markets (18% increase)"
XRP boasted unbelievable global coverage even at the beginning of the quarter, and now the network's liquidity and reach have only grown, by percentages that would be amazing even if measured over the course of a year; but this is one quarter's worth of progress!
The quarterly report comprehensively lists all of the news that happened during the prior three months, and if readers want to be kept up-to-date with the latest contemporary developments, they can navigate to Leonidas's website, called XRP Arcade.
Coinbase Launches International Payments Using XRP & USDC
Remittance companies have expanded into the usage of digital assets well before banks, due to the simplified nature of regulations that govern their business; many of them have opted to adopt Ripple technology, and some have started to use XRP to settle cross-border transfers.
In addition to remittance companies using cryptocurrency, some crypto-based businesses are looking to compete for the same customers, challenging the way that the market thinks about peer-to-peer payments.
The latest example of this is Coinbase.
Coinbase is known as one of the first Western exchanges that specialized in facilitating direct purchases of crypto at market rates for customers, allowing many new retail customers to conveniently enter the cryptomarket. In addition to their traditional services as an exchange, they've been expanding their offerings to include institutional custody, customer education initiatives, and now they've launched a new crypto-based money transfer service.
The service provides users one of two options for money transfer: XRP or USDC, a US Dollar stablecoin issued by Circle. Coinbase also provided a comparison in performance between the two, sliding the metrics next to the traditional SWIFT-based international bank transfers:
The home page for Coinbase's international transfer service was an impartial, fact-based tribute to how XRP can speed up international transfers to help money move as fast as information.
The transfers are free if both sender and receiver are already customers of Coinbase, and involve network fees if sent to third parties. In the fine print on the main page, Coinbase provided the following caveats:
- This is not a money remittance; rather, it is a cryptocurrency transaction with conversion into local currency after receipt.
- Network fees charged on transfers to non-Coinbase accounts; purchases and sales of XRP are subject to a Coinbase fee.
- In countries where Coinbase does not support the local currency, recipients need to transfer their XRP/USDC to an exchange that supports exchanges from XRP/USDC to local currency.
The news of Coinbase's new service spread quickly, and was picked up by crypto news sites and some mainstream press outlets as well. 5 6
Enjoy Market Growth; and Help it Mature
The entire cryptomarket, over the course of the last few days, has forcefully thrown off its stifling winter coat. And the blustering bulls seem to be suggesting that a turn in the weather may be more than just temporary; it may signal a change in season. If this is true, then those that own XRP have all the more reason to celebrate.
Speculative investment in new technology is usually felt across-the-board at its beginning stages, with a gradual shifting to recognition of choices with fundamental value. Think about the steady erosion of Yahoo's first mover advantage to that of Google, the newer, more focused Silicon Valley entrant.
In addition to this historical precedent, we need to consider the unique peculiarities that pertain to blockchains and digital assets.
Part of the technology includes the creation of financial assets; the very nature of this innovation provides potential access to capital for its creators, and with it the ability to champion and grow the network.
Unlike some of the older entrants, XRP was created to leverage these new aspects of the market and its dynamics, rather than throwing a blind eye to them; Ripple, and now its growing network of Xpring-funded businesses, has methodically laid the groundwork for global growth of the network's ecosystem. The largest companies championing XRP know that boom-and-bust speculative investment must give way - will give way - to more considerate, utility-based modes of evaluation.
This vision is why we're here.
For now, we should enjoy the speculative resurgence in the cryptomarket; and for those of us that own XRP, the flip side of the coin - that of fundamental value represented by utility - is just as attractive.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Anthony Delanoix