Developers are a simple folk.
You should know that I make that statement with the utmost admiration and affection: And that I consider myself among their number.
Developers take the world as it presents itself, along with the tools that exist, and they build. They connect technology. They 'make things work,' and hope that along the way, end-users enjoy and appreciate some part of what they've accomplished.
They do not like to think of regulations. Or politics. Or the impact of greed on technology.
You can see this preference play out on a large scale in the type of sponsoring organizations that exist in the cryptomarket. Both Bitcoin and Ethereum were created when 'proof-of-work' was still in vogue, and they were created and championed, mainly, by the original developers involved in those respective projects.
Bitcoin has a weak sponsoring organization, as well as Ethereum. They are non-profit entities that exist to help champion the use of the underlying digital asset, but they exist mainly as a reference point, and a center of content organization, not as an active proponent or change agent. I don't hear a lot about representatives from the various crypto non-profit foundations 'pushing for regulatory clarity' or 'meeting with central banks' or 'funding educational initiatives.'
If these types of activities happen in relation to Bitcoin or Ethereum, they are usually done by individuals who have their own financial motivations or businesses that they're championing, or by individuals attempting to monetize their influence in a growing, high-demand market. This is, essentially, what we'd expect from a small non-profit founded by developers.
I'm not saying I would have done it any better, given the lack of any precedent. But I am saying that it's not the best way to champion adoption.
Now let's look at the way XRP was organized at its outset.
Its creators were not only developers, but consisted of a wider variety of stakeholders, including some Silicon Valley visionaries that knew all too well what it would take to champion adoption of a digital asset on a large scale. Chris Larsen had been a part of multiple fintech startups at that point, as well as the other early members. Even the lead cryptographer & engineer, David Schwartz, was a steeled coder that had done consulting stints at WebMaster and at the National Security Agency.
This team was not comprised of starry-eyed, idealistic youth that thought banking would disappear overnight if only the world would adopt their digital asset.
No, this was a very different team, and they knew what it would take to reach true global adoption of digital assets, and specifically what it would take to overcome the implacable hindrance of financially-motivated obstruction.
And in the years since, we've seen them - through Ripple and through other businesses that they've helped start or fund - overcome these obstacles by methodically investing the resources and manpower to do it. They've actively pursued public education about blockchain technology, and have formed the organizations that will push for legislative change if necessary in the US, the UK, and the EU. They've invested in educational institutions throughout the world through the UBRI. They've engaged with community developers and other entrepreneurs that are 'building on XRP.'
And all the while, we've seen steady and methodical growth of the XRP ecosystem, even prior to XRP's widespread adoption as a cross-border payment tool.
It's happening; and we're starting to see the fruits of these labors develop results that will take XRP to levels far beyond that of any digital asset with a weak sponsoring organization. Whether it's the main use case of cross-border payments, or some of the new use cases that are gaining favor with the market, such as micropayments and smart contracts, XRP is flexing its considerable muscle.
It's taken years, but the pieces that have been put in place are now serving as solid stepping stones to a future where XRP supercharges economies on a global scale.
Little did we know that Ripple was working with yet another standards body in banking and finance: The Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS).
Working with prominent Internet businesses such as Amazon and Alipay within the umbrella "CSBS Fintech Industry Advisory Panel," Ripple has helped draft recommendations for streamlining the multitude of state-level regulations affecting money services businesses. 1
What's more, the CSBS actually agreed to the recommendations. According to an article by Bankingtech.com, the CSBS has agreed to implement 14 specific recommendations from the panel. One of these recommendations is to develop a 50-state model law to license money services businesses.
The panel began its work in 2017, but has encountered resistance from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The Conference of State Bank Supervisors have indicated that they will continue their efforts to push for the changes, despite initial push-back from the OCC.
Knowing the impressive list of private and public organizations that are backing these recommended changes, I'd bet that we won't have long to wait before we see beneficial reforms in state-level money transmitter laws and regulations.
In a previous blog, I talked about the strong, pro-blockchain views of Eva Kaili, a European Parliament Member from Greece, who met with Ripple at an event in the UK recently.
It turns out that Ripple has been specifically interacting with the EU Parliament in other capacities as well, to help educate members and other stakeholders about the technology and about Ripple when the opportunity arises. A video was recently published by "The Traders Network Show" on YouTube that shows wide-ranging panel discussion of an EU Parliament Committee that was titled "Blockchain in Fintech:"
Dan Morgan, Ripple's Head of Regulatory Relations in Europe, provided testimony and answered questions. His testimony begins at around the 23 minute mark.
Here's a couple quotes from his presentation:
"We're focused on cross-border payments because they're hugely inefficient ...
... the demand is going up. $22 trillion in 2016, to around $30 trillion. And the way to send it... correspondence banking relationships are declining. Down about 8% annually from 2011 to 2017... It costs ten times more to send money overseas than domestically, in the US.
With xCurrent, you still need to fund accounts overseas ... What xRapid does is replace the need to prefund by sourcing for liquidity domestically through a digital asset."
Dan Morgan's presentation was a great demonstration of Ripple interacting with legislators worldwide to both educate and pursue regulatory certainty, while highlighting the incredible benefits that their innovative products can bring to entire regions of the world. No doubt that EU businesses would benefit from lower fees on their portion of what he labeled as a $30 trillion-dollar cross-border payments market.
One of the topics that is closely tracked by those that own XRP is how much adoption progress is being made by Ripple when it comes to their xRapid solution.
Ripple has three main solution categories, and one of them is a liquidity-sourcing solution for businesses and banks that want to reduce their Nostro account maintenance costs for specific high-volume corridors. The xRapid solution utilizes XRP to fund the transfer to other countries, and settles the transaction within seconds.
In early November of last year, Ripple made a video explaining how xRapid works from a nuts-and-bolts perspective, while at the same time highlighting how it integrates with their other two solutions:
The solution requires the sending party to carry only one type of fiat, instead of maintaining many nostro accounts in other countries.
At the 2018 SWELL conference, Ripple identified the specific money transmitter companies and exchanges that would be partnering to make xRapid work; and because the transactions on xRapid necessarily take place on the XRP Ledger, they are publicly available to some extent.
One XRP fan decided to conduct his own research on how to detect xRapid transactions, and then wrote a blog about it, titled "xRapid — Separating Signal from Background."
His blog detailed the specific techniques he used to cross-section the exchange data, beginning with the identification of the wallet addresses for the participating exchanges. He analyzed the transactions for selected xRapid partner exchanges, and arrived at some conclusions that were then placed into intuitive graphical charts:
His conclusions exposed a daily volume that, while modest, reveals the beginnings of the use of XRP in Ripple's products. Every trend and business innovation must begin somewhere, and it seems that this author has found a way to detect some of the data attributable to xRapid.
For a while now, I've been wishing that there was competition for YouTube's content delivery model. At its beginnings, YouTube wasn't as blighted with advertisements as it is now.
Is it the platform's fault? Perhaps partly; but in reality, for individuals to receive payment for their YouTube content, monetization is one of the most lucrative options. Once a channel's viewers are measured in the thousands, it becomes tempting for the posters to monetize the videos, which means one or more advertisements.
But Coil envisions a different kind of Internet. One in which browsers and viewers don't have to give up their time or attention to advertisements to 'get what they came for.'
Instead, their plan is to support monetization of content via Coil subscriptions.
A user with a Coil subscription will generally navigate to a Coil-enabled site, and then the creator of that site will be paid a specific amount of XRP upon the user viewing it. The creator of the content is paid in real-time with streaming XRP payments.
One company has decided to go 'all-in' on a new site for video streaming, using Coil to challenge dominant players like YouTube. The name of the site is "Cinnamon:"
Cinnamon will automatically charge viewers based on their coil membership, thereby funding itself and making enough money to expand their service. The site is new, and isn't yet live, but those that are interested in learning more can currently sign up to be on their mailing list here: https://www.cinnamon.video/
I'm very enthusiastic about the Cinnamon project and its potential to stir up new registrations for Coil; the more Coil subscribers we can attract, the more we can reward people for their content. And that will attract more talent and content-creators, creating a virtuous circle of supply and demand.
One of the surprises that seems to occur for new XRP fans is the concept of 'account reserve.'
It's an anti-spam measure on the XRP ledger that prevents the malicious creation of millions of wallets. To actually use a wallet, an account holder must 'fund' that wallet with 20 XRP. This fee is not recoverable, and is currently considered 'lost,' because the user of the wallet can never send that 'last 20 XRP' from the wallet.
This concept is prevalent in some other networks, but it surprises some people that are new to XRP.
During a bull market, it is wise to assume that this 20 XRP may eventually translate into a sizable amount of money, and may even become an obstacle to widespread retail adoption of XRP as a payment method for some users. The fee levels are changeable by a vote of the validators, of course, but even so, Nik Bougalis, one of Ripple's leading cryptographers and engineers, has proposed something new called the "Delete-able Accounts" function, which he's discussed with the likes of Vitalik Buterin: 2
It would work this way:
- Fee for funding a new XRP wallet: 20 XRP
- Fee for deleting an XRP wallet: 5 XRP
- Recovered amount: 15 XRP
So the proposed solution doesn't allow a person to recover the full 20 XRP, however, it allows them to recover at least part of it - the majority of it, in fact. And for those that are worried about accidental deletion of an account that still has XRP in it, here's what Nik Bougalis said in a follow-up: 3
"The code requires you to provide an address to receive any XRP that is in the wallet before it can be deleted."
The 5 XRP fee is still needed, it turns out, because there is a loophole if the entire 20 XRP is released: it would open the door to spamming of the XPR ledger with fully funded accounts for a short duration, effectively providing a new attack vector for DDOS attacks. To avoid this, these bad actors would not consider an ill-advised attack if each of their wallets would cost them at least 5 XRP.
The proposed change is still under consideration and discussion, but it's clear that most of the stakeholders discussing the change so far support Nik Bougalis's proposal.
My prediction is that this proposal will make its way into the proposed amendment list soon, and hopefully quickly, as the bear market has shown that it's quickly loosing its grip.
Learn How to Sign Transactions
Ripple has played an active role in hosting some of the most comprehensive content about XRP and its technical components and features. While the role of documentation host has expanded to include several notable third-party Github repositories and web-based content, the primary technical documentation for XRP continues to be the 'Dev Portal' that Ripple hosts.
Ripple recently added a new section to the documentation for developers and others that wish to use the testnet to learn about how to submit and sign transactions independently, either manually or as part of an independent development project.
The new section is located here for those interested in learning more: https://developers.ripple.com/send-xrp.html
XRPL Labs Ask Me Anything
XRPL Labs held their "Ask Me Anything" session on February 20th, and the event was watched by over 15,000 people! The team answered a plethora of questions about projects both in and out of the scope of XRPL Labs:
Wietse's personal projects such as the XRP Tip Bot and XRParrot continue to get an amazing amount of attention from fans, and many of the questions were focused on those topics in addition to the scope of what XRPL Labs is doing.
However, the conversation eventually turned to the three new applications that XRPL Labs is developing:
- Signing Platform (App)
- Cold Storage OS
- Decentralized Exchange UI
Here's a couple questions and answers from the Q&A:
Question (@CryptoEspi): Can you tell us a little about the Cold Storage OS?
Answer (Wietse Wind and Ali): Yes, definitely ... if you go to the XRPL Labs website, the three main projects we'll be working on for the next two years are already on there. Or, at least, just a few sentences on what we are planning to build. One of them is the Cold Storage Operating System.
Ali did an amazing job ... building a Linux installer, to get the most secure cold storage you can imagine today on, like, a cheap laptop...
... the installer will wipe the laptop, install Linux, and the cold storage operating system. And after that, you won't be able to use the laptop for anything else...
... the cold storage is for XRP only ... the operating system will be completely air-gapped. You can import your existing wallets or create new ones ... You will be able to compose transactions offline. It will be able to create a QR code, full-screen. You can then use an XRP wallet application, such as Toast, to scan the screen and then submit the (already-signed) transaction, air-gapped, to the XRP Ledger."
Question (@Tom_Kuster): Under what kind of licensing will you develop the software? And will you be collaborating with others (software companies)?
Answer (Wietse Wind): Yes, we will be collaborating. I don't know what it will look like, but I'm really sure we will.
All the source code will be released under the MIT License. Fully open-source. And we hope that other developers - and also commercial initiatives - will use our platforms and our software, and our libraries, to help the community..."
The Q&A session lasted for over an hour and a half, and demonstrated how XRPL Labs is very responsive to the community; I recommend that you set aside some time to watch it at some point. The event allowed fans to share in the victory that Ripple's Xpring funding represented for the small Dutch start-up.
Good luck to XRPL Labs and its founding team members!
SBI's CEO Re-affirms Commitment to XRP
On February 18th, Coinpost, a Japanese crypto media website, published an interview with the CEO of SBI Holdings, Yoshitaka Kitao. 4
The interview was one of the most comprehensive sources of material I've seen that reveals Yoshitaka Kitao's perspective on XRP and its ecosystem, as well as where it fits in the overall banking industry and cryptomarket. The topics ranged from general industry questions about the cryptomarket and the SEC, to Corda and SBI's Money Tap application.
On the topic of R3's Corda Settler:
"R3 is Corda's system, settlement is done with XRP at Corda Settler.
...we will promote various initiatives including trade finance of R3 company. This trade finance is tremendous, time consuming (it takes time), it takes a tremendous number of days as various insurance companies, import companies and suppliers are involved in various places. If you make this a Corda system, it will solve it in a short time."
On the topic of the US SEC:
"XRP has been positioned as a coin already in Japan's legislation. That's why it's a coin, in Japan. Regardless of the discussion in the US, I hope to do things first in the Japanese market."
On the topic of SBI's Money Tap application:
"First of all, in August 2016, I made a consortium based on banks with "SBI Ripple Asia" as the secretariat for Ripple. The activity there led to the outcome of the next generation money transfer application: Money Tap ...
Each bank and regional bank will be able to use Money Tap as a function of (a new) API infrastructure ...
Eventually, we are considering implementing the foreign exchange remittance function using "XRP" on Money Tap."
The level of detail Yoshitaka Kitao provided about Money Tap, as well as the way in which he connected it to his perspective that its adoption by a wider set of consortium-member banks would help SBI grow its market share, indicated a well-defined strategy and business plan.
In addition, his mention of using Money Tap and XRP for remittance processing was consistent with how other remittance processors are using XRP to achieve lower costs for high-volume payment corridors.
He also reiterated his perspective about XRP in very strong terms, starting off the interview by reinforcing his perspective on the crypto-asset:
"I think that 'XRP' ... is probably the number one crypto asset."
The interview - and his reiteration of previous statements in support of the SBI business plan, sets the stage for the roll-out of SBI's VCTRADE real-time trading, which is scheduled to occur sometime in March, according to previous communications.
My take on Yoshitaka Kitao's statements?
They are bold, consistent with his previous communications, and reflect a leader's optimism. And he's also realistic about the need for further regulatory clarity by the SEC, and the need to carefully roll out Money Tap in a way that gains the acceptance and support of Japan's wider banking market.
The collaboration between SBI and Ripple has been incredibly beneficial to XRP's global reach, in my opinion, and it's taken time to build the tools, business relationships, and other components that make up SBI's massive plan to vertically integrate their crypto businesses. It's now 2019, and we're about to see some of these plans come together in a big way.
Instamatch Global and the Corda Settler
Since we learned that R3's Corda Settler was enhanced with the ability to support settlement in digital assets, there's been both excitement and speculation about the timing of its first use at large scales by financial organizations and banks. The first digital asset that it was updated to support was XRP.
Essentially, it allows those organizations that use Corda's CorDapps, as they're called, to use XRP for settlement of trades and inter-bank financial transactions.
The description for one of those CorDapps, "Instamatch Intraday/Money Market Solution," seems to hint at an integration point between it and the Corda Settler, along with a reference to XRP:
"Inter-bank trading in Intraday markets is made possible with our trading interface. Coupling the (Cor)Dapp with the latest settlement API (R3 Settler/XRP), we are able to offer the high speed of payments necessary for execution of intraday trades."
Instamatch Global is a Swiss company that specializes in matching borrowers and lenders, and taking trades that used to be done via "voice brokerage" and moving them to a digital-only platform. It operates with Corda. In a video from December, the CEO of Instamatch Global, Daniel Sandmeier, explains to Joy Macknight from 'The Banker' how Instamatch Global is successfully streamlining the process of inter-party lending:
Towards the end of the short interview, Joy Macknight asks the following question:
Question (Joy Macknight): "Do you think there's an opportunity for blockchain to disrupt, or add to, the money market's funds?"
Answer (Daniel Sandmeier): "Unsecured money markets are a rather simple market, actually. Borrowers and lenders meeting on a marketplace doesn't necessarily require blockchain use.
But I can think of more complex transactions. As soon as you go from unsecured into secured, and other types of products, there would definitely be a benefit of using distributed ledger technology."
Daniel Sandmeier's response, while measured, hints at the ongoing shifts in financing due to blockchain technology.
And his company is growing fast. According to their own website, they've done over $1 billion dollars worth of loans since they opened for business in 2017, and Daniel Sandmeier indicated that they've opened an office in Germany and are poised to enter the UK market. If this type of fast business growth is any indication, a new ecosystem of blockchain-based banking and financial services may be on their way.
For Instamatch Global, integration with Corda and other tools may pave the way for automatic fulfillment of intraday loans using digital assets; perhaps the company will elaborate more on these points in the near future.
St Jude Referral Program Challenge
On November 12th, I profiled KingBlue's efforts to win the Uphold membership drive contest, whereby Uphold provided a link for their customers to share with others; the link that is used the most to sign up new customers would be traced back to its Uphold account and awarded a grand prize of $25,000 dollars.
If you or somebody you know is interested in establishing a new account at Uphold, it's simple; they can indicate KingBlue's link in their sign-up process and then their membership will be counted towards KingBlue's account.
And if it just so happens that KingBlue wins the contest, that's $25,000 dollars that goes to St Jude Children's Research Hospital!
Thus far, XRP Community's support has definitely helped, and he's currently in 6th place:
To help him win the contest, the link to use for your sign-up - or to share with others - is: https://join.uphold.com/?kid=S1KSS
Uphold is awarding prizes according to the following schedule:
Here's some fine print: Although there have been a lot of sign-ups to help out KingBlue, Uphold is also looking at the funding of the accounts to prevent cheating; this means that each new account that counts towards a sign-up must be funded with at least $100 dollars worth of value.
KingBlue provided the detailed steps for people that wish to join Uphold and at the same time contribute towards the effort:
- Head to https://uphold.com/dashboard/membership/ and click "start"
- Input your current residential address
- Upload one of the following valid government-issued IDs (you have the option to upload a file or to use your computer's camera to scan the document):
- National ID Card
- Driver's License
- Submit a clear photo of your face
- Provide your Social Security Number (U.S. residents only)
The contest is set to wrap up at the end of February, so we have approximately one more week to help KingBlue meet his goal of winning the Uphold membership contest. It's for a worthy cause, and I hope that we can collectively achieve many more member sign-ups for the St Jude Referral Program Challenge.
Thomas Silkjær Updates XRP Graph Database
Thomas Silkjær has authored multiple, incredible research pieces about the XRP Ledger, and has also voluntarily helped track criminals for victims of fraud.
One of the projects that he's known for is taking the entire XRP Ledger and placing the database of accounts and transactions on a graph database.
For those wanting to learn about querying graph databases, or who just wish to try their hand at learning more about the XRP Ledger through an alternative way of organizing its data model, he's indicated that the latest updates to his project have been completed:
Changes in database technology continue to make advances, and most high-usage websites now use alternatives to the traditional relational database model; having an option to use these new technologies is an interesting twist, and may result in new approaches for examining ledger relationships.
XRP's Path is Being Cleared
There is no doubt in my mind that strong sponsorship has benefited XRP's ability to compete decisively against other digital assets, and will eventually result in worldwide adoption levels that will eclipse Bitcoin's current daily volume numbers.
XRP's unbelievable on-chain metrics make it perfect as the base-layer technology for streaming micropayments and for settlement of cross-border transactions. It has the speed and scalability that proof-of-work cryptocurrencies utterly lack, and it uses a tiny fraction of their energy usage.
But most important of all, XRP's sponsoring organizations have shown a clarity of vision that others have not; they have methodically laid the important groundwork for not only XRP, but for digital assets as a whole.
Go ahead and compare for yourself what Ripple, Coil, and others are doing to champion XRP for value-added, creative uses in banking, finance, and micropayments, and conceptualize how this market will look one year - or two - from now.
There is very little doubt which digital asset will be the first to take the crown from Bitcoin; history has been clear that the 'first try' at a new technology is never where it ends.
We are ready: The future belongs to the digital asset with the strongest championing organizations, businesses, and community. The future of digital assets is represented by XRP.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Sepp Rutz