I know you. Or at least, I think I do...
If you are like me, you are a crypto investor or developer. Getting reliable, well-researched news about crypto adoption has never been easy. We don't have any equivalent to "CNBC" for crypto, and the journalistic standards of some of the crypto news organizations leave something to be desired and are seemingly affected by the political and business whims of the website owners. And those owners? They could be knowingly pumping or dumping at the behest of even larger financial interests in an attempt to manipulate a young unregulated market.
So when you see a headline like the one I included in my blog, you might be wondering what led me to make this conclusion about XRP? What about all crypto-currencies?
Let's Start With XRPIf you're an XRP owner, you probably made that investment choice not solely on XRP's strength as a store of value, but also on its perceived utility by banks and financial institutions.
You may even be aware of the ongoing efforts of the XRP investor community to track the first production usage of XRP by banks, and exactly what that entails... tracking wallets, transactions, and analyzing the numbers and patterns of new accounts. It's not easy, but the community is starting to get more excited; we have a lot to look forward to when it comes to real banking adoption. SWELL is around the corner now, edging closer with each day. 1
Investor Adoption of XRPXRP price levels have "gone parabolic" many times in 2017. 2 3 4 When a crypto-currency "goes parabolic," the demand far outstrips the market's ability to supply the coin at a rate that will satiate that demand, causing a dramatic spike in the price. This has happened with XRP approximately a dozen times in 2017 so far, and I'm guessing that there have been several new millionaires minted as a result of this market behavior.
While I'm not in the small category of investors savvy enough to make money off of these dramatic ebbs and flows of demand and supply, I have noted that well over half of the price spikes do not center around dramatic news announcements by Ripple, but occur entirely on their own through larger market forces - forces which I still don't fully understand.
The South Korean Phenomenon
If there's one country that provides an indication of what retail investor adoption might look like when crypto investing makes its way into the mainstream in the west, it's South Korea. I've blogged on that topic here; suffice it to say that South Koreans have an appetite for the tremendous risk - and rewards - that crypto can bring, and the volume that was initially measured from that country has continued unabated to this day.
In the west, we have yet to see full adoption of retail crypto investing, but it's starting to edge its way into the mainstream. Recent reports have noted large sums of money leaving the traditional markets and heading towards crypto. 5 That means that we can anticipate a steady flow of new investor money into the crypto market for some time to come; but if you have any doubt that there's room to grow, ask yourself this question:
Could you ever see your parents investing in XRP?
If the answer is still "no" then we have work to do. We will get there, however, so keep in mind how big traditional markets are compared to the crypto market before you assume that we are anywhere near the end-goal:
China Ushering In Retail AdoptionThis idea sounds ridiculous to most given China's latest pronouncements on shutting off the tap of investor money from their own country. 6
However, consider this: China is taking this action not in an attempt to destroy crypto or even reign it in; they're taking these steps to solidify their own influence in the way in which crypto investing evolves within their own country. It's a move that we haven't seen any western country make - even in the United States, whose own Securities and Exchange Commission issued the first ICO warning 7 in the summer of 2017.
We are seeing a trend spreading across different countries, however: The central banks of each, encouraged by the IMF8 (and Janet Yellen9), are investigating blockchain technology and trying to carefully decide where it fits into their economy-influencing machinery.
One thing you can be sure of: When the mainstream media starts reporting that government organizations and banks are using crypto-currency - or blockchain in general - the investing public is not far behind.
What Would Retail Investing Adoption Look Like?It's just simple multiplication.
Let's take South Korea's volume and use a direct relationship to its population. Sound fair enough? You can view my numbers and then make any adjustments you deem more realistic, but it will provide some sort of benchmark for you. Let's keep it simple and look only at the XRP 30-day volume numbers:
South Korean XRP Volume - KRW / XRP Pair 10
Keep in mind that South Korea is a market leader in crypto; we really don't know for sure if it can be considered an example of full retail adoption. But it does serve a purpose to provide a benchmark if that's what we're seeing.
Just as an intellectual-curiosity exercise, let's take the proportion of South Korea's population-to-volume and apply it to some of the other countries of the world to see what the result might look like for full retail adoption and the impact on XRP volume.
Note: This doesn't include banks or other fund purchases of XRP - this would only reflect retail investor adoption:
155 billion for 30-day volume of XRP alone. That would imply approximately 5 billion in volume each day only from retail investors. Is this possible?
Yes. Even at current levels of investor adoption, Bitcoin's daily volume is now measured above one billion11 on a slow day.
Hedge FundsWe can deduce from our analysis of the R3 & Ripple legal conflict that the large hedge funds have been told to "go to the general market" for XRP by Ripple.
How can we make this deduction? The escrow amount that Ripple quoted in May was "sans" the 5 billion for the 2016 R3 contract. Despite the fact that there was 60 billion (roughly) XRP outstanding, Ripple only announced 55 billion as the escrow amount.12 In other words, if there are outstanding contracts to sell, lets say, a billion XRP, then we can deduce that Ripple would not be including those in escrow.
Hence, we can assume that either 1) The hedge funds have not yet made their purchases, or 2) The hedge funds were told to "go to the retail market" for their XRP.
As you can see, either one of these two conclusions spells great news for XRP investors; both imply that we have yet to see the hedge fund purchases at the levels that have been announced so publicly throughout mainstream media. 13 14 15 That means, most likely, that the hedge funds are still preparing to handle a much different type of investment than they're used to.
Crypto: It Looks Good on Paper - Oh, The Irony!Despite its name and promise of high technology, owning crypto-currency is not easy, as we early adopters and investors can attest to. We have to understand wallets, in some cases the code underneath those wallets, and we have to be very careful about security and hacking attempts. If you want to hire somebody that is adept at foiling hackers, you might want to consider an early crypto investor - we've learned by painful experience, sharing frightening stories of phishing attempts, social hacking attempts, and just poorly written code.
This means that for hedge funds and other mainstream investment sources, the security of their investment is not easy; it has to be carefully planned for, and merged with their requirements for the ability to quickly purchase - and sell - these high-risk assets.
XRP is the Exception When it Comes to Security
While other crypto-currencies have wallets coded by anonymous third parties, Ripple contracted with (arguably) the most well-respected company for creating secure crypto-currency wallets; BitGo. This is the company that has already developed secure wallets for other crypto-currencies that early adopter investment funds have been purchasing; Bitcoin and Ethereum. On August 4th, BitGo announced16 that they had completed the enterprise, secure version of the XRP wallet for banks and financial institutions (and investment funds).
It's Not Just XRPRemember, when it comes to XRP, this crypto-currency is closely tied to Ripple, the company. And Ripple has a lot more to offer than just the digital asset that's used as the world's next bridge currency; this is the same company that created the Interledger Protocol, the international standard of how payment information is communicated over the Internet.17
The standard came about through the collaborative work that Ripple did with W3C groups and other industry sources. And now we hear the latest news about a collaboration between all of technologies' largest players: Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Mozilla.18
What Is the Payment Request Standard?
The standard describes a browser extension to handle web payment requests from online vendors. The W3C working specification is located here if you’re interested in reading the details. Here is the abstract:
This specification standardizes an API to allow merchants (i.e. web sites selling physical or digital goods) to utilize one or more payment methods with minimal integration. User agents (e.g., browsers) facilitate the payment flow between merchant and user.What does this have to do with ILP?
ILP standardizes the payment portion of crypto and other transactions over the Internet. While the payment request piece is the portion being addressed by the powerful parties that operate all different types of browsers, the ILP will be used to integrate with this standardized browser extension.
Ripple has a huge stake in the correct development of this standard.
In Steps Adrian Hope-Bailie From RippleRipple wants to ensure that ILP and the Payment Request standard work seamlessly with each other; hence Ripple Standards Officer Adrian Hope-Bailie's blog and warning that the Payment Request standard is not yet set in stone, and that stakeholders - specifically developers and companies that have a stake in the UI development - have to voice their opinion for several key areas of change to make it work properly.
To support his efforts, I urge you to read his blog and follow up with his recommendations: https://medium.com/@ahopebailie/currencysystem-is-at-risk-d29aebafdd38
What Does This Payment Request Standard Mean for XRP Adoption?
Here's where we need to widen our lens out again and look at all of crypto, not just XRP. When all of the western world's major browser vendors are collaborating in such dramatic fashion on a new web standard, it's headline news.
Why Now? The answer is crypto-currency. You need to ask yourself; have you ever run into problems transacting on Amazon depending on the browser that you use? The answer is no. Most smaller vendors also use standardized payment plugins and other devices that make checkout easier and convenient.
No, it's not mainstream payment sources we're talking about. One of the prominent leaders of the W3C standard for browser payment APIs is Ian Jacobs. He was recently quoted as saying:
“This is a great opportunity for people to start writing blockchain-based payment method descriptions and to try to test the API. That’s sort of the period that we’re in, the test and interoperability development phase.”This is the exciting part for crypto; this move indicates that there is widespread industry demand for a standardized browser experience when it comes to requesting payments. And that means ordinary retail adoption for crypto is happening as we speak; well-known household names in technology are now jumping into the fray.
No More Window DressingWhen blockchain technology first began to take the stage in 2013, many deep thinkers predicted that it would take years to adopt the technology; it was not like the Internet, and it would not offer immediate advantages for business - the advantages that blockchain offered were more subtle, and had to do with the underlying structure of data and service delivery; these concepts are difficult to convey to corporate C-Level executives that control the purse strings.
I thought that the deep thinkers' predictions of "2017" were too conservative for when true blockchain adoption would begin.
Those experts were right. CEO's are definitely a "no-bullshit" kind of crowd, and despite all the angel investor money flowing into crypto, the adoption of blockchain technology has been slow - very slow - but steady. Here we are in 2017, and XRP investors are patiently awaiting the "flipping of the switch" for nostro account usage of XRP; but the good news? SWELL is around the corner, and Ripple - the company - is now a financial powerhouse already due to XRP.
SWELL Brings Blockchain Into The Light of DayIt's time for the mystery that surrounds blockchain technology to fade with the dim back-room lighting of what currently constitutes this young crypto market. We need to bring this technology out into the open and be able to explain it in ways that illuminate the tough-to-convey details so an ordinary person can understand. Those ordinary people are bank employees and executives that will be attending SIBOS and SWELL in Toronto in October.
Ripple is the best ambassador for crypto. I don't care if you are a crypto-anarchist that dislikes Ripple purely based on the fact that it's a company. It's time to set aside your political motivations and look at the larger picture; what will happen to your crypto investments when Ripple helps open the doors to retail adoption?
What happens when every country in the world starts posting the same levels of volume as South Korea, a nation of only 50 million people?
I'll tell you what happens...