Navigating chaos means taking decisive action, sometimes with limited knowledge. Each of us has developed our own techniques for finding our way through unknown territory. Proficiency comes with experience.
To arrive at an optimal decision, a person needs to look at a situation from more than one angle to truly understand all the possible outcomes, and this applies to the analysis of blockchain technology adoption, and the adoption of its associated crypto-assets by banks, big business, and financial organizations.
Slogans, memes, and group peer pressure may seem to make sense on social media platforms that purport to analyze blockchain trends and cryptocurrency investment choices, but you have to methodically put yourself in the shoes of other groups that can affect an outcome. If the use case for your crypto-asset involves customers using a new token on your platform, will it have enough liquidity - i.e. trade-ability and exchange volume - to support that notion?
This is the trap that many in crypto were caught in when 'ICO fever' hit in 2017. While the ideas behind some of these ICOs may have struck readers like they were reading the pitch for a potential Silicon Valley unicorn investment, in reality the odds are long, and are dependent on adoption by businesspeople that tend to be very skeptical of new, unproven technology.
Those investors that may have been burned on an ICO or two have learned over time, however, and the market is now changing; the drumbeat of 'do your own research' has now shifted slightly into 'do our own research,' and groups have sprung up to assist each other in navigating incomplete and slanted information available on news outlets.
It's true - unbiased information is hard to obtain.
Early in the lifespan of crypto, social media platforms were treated as little more than rumor mills, vehicles for new coin promotions & airdrops, or a means to shout down competing voices that may be jostling for investment dollars.
That trend has started to shift into a more mature version of its earlier self, where crypto veterans and skeptics are starting to speak up and make their voices heard. These new leaders are leaning towards the need for clear business insight and accurate market information. The early loud voices that amplified misinformation or shared weaponized slogans and memes are finding that their target audience is quickly disappearing because of market results that don't match with the positions they were recommending.
This change in the market is refreshing, and even on days when a market retracement happens, we're noticing some interesting behavior with regards to XRP. It is noticeably de-coupling from the overall price behavior of the market and moving slower or faster depending on the day. Speculative demand is, slowly but surely, giving way to rational market movements that point to XRP's leadership.
On the sidelines of the Singapore Fintech Festival on November 12th, Bloomberg interviewed Brad Garlinghouse about several hot-button topics, including XRP adoption, regulatory uncertainty, and rumors about SWIFT. 1
It was a superb and fascinating interview, because the topics that Bloomberg hit on were some of the most-discussed subjects popping up online in chat forums and social media. Here are some of the key questions and answers where I was rapt with attention:
Question (Bloomberg): "Institutional adoption. When can we see that happen? ... And what is hindering that?"
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "Yes; well, it's a great question. And I think, one of the reasons why we're seeing so much interest here in Singapore, and one of the reasons I'm here, is because you've seen regulators provide clarity about how they're going to approach crypto - about how they're going to approach blockchain. And it's allowed companies like Ripple, and other companies in this space to invest with clarity and with certainty ..."
Question: (Bloomberg): "How soon do you think, though?"
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "That is part of the challenge; you need a global framework; and you're seeing some countries really lean in, and be progressive and provide that clarity. Here in Singapore, the MAS has been, truly, a leader.
Other markets have been slower. Even in the United States, there's some lack of clarity - particularly around the SEC and some things they've announced around ICOs
... Until that clarity is there, it's hard for companies to invest in a big way.
To your point, I would have predicted that 2018 was really the year of institutional adoption of crypto. Here we are in Q-4, and I would say it has underachieved what I would have guessed we'd have achieved this year, largely, I think, because of some of the regulatory uncertainty, and also in terms of custody solutions, and really, the ability from a security point of view, to support institutional adoption and usage of these crypto-assets."
Question: (Bloomberg): "I'd like you to address some of the rumors ... there are rumors that your biggest rival - SWIFT - will be joining you. Could you shed some light?"
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "Well, look; SWIFT is owned by the banks, and we are here to help the banks ... There have been opportunities where maybe there's partnership opportunities. We haven't been able to bring those to fruition ... Strictly rumors ... And I'm hesitant to comment on any rumor."
Question: (Bloomberg): "Is there a possibility that Ripple could take over SWIFT one day?"
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "Well, I think what we're doing - and executing - on a day-by-day basis is in fact taking over SWIFT. We've now signed up well over a hundred banks. Some of the largest SWIFT-enabled banks in the world are now using Ripple's technology ... We certainly want to see banks succeed in this new world order, and take advantage of these technologies. To the extent that we can work with SWIFT to do that, then that's great."
My impression of this interview was very positive, and Brad Garlinghouse seemed to be laser-focused, on-point, and confident in each of those responses. The 'adoption obstruction' items he talked about, such as regulatory uncertainty, were things that Ripple has little control over, and has been emphasizing to regulators and government agencies worldwide - in the United States, the UK, and throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
The fact that 2018 is what he regards as 'behind schedule' in terms of adoption was something that surprises all of us, because it seems like there is a growing chorus of crypto-asset supporters worldwide that would like to see the asset class find its place in a currently-diverse global collection of financial innovations.
Commerce International Merchant Bankers (CIMB) Group is an international bank headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has approximately 40,000 employees, with branches in 18 different countries. 2 It is the fifth-largest bank in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes the countries of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 3 4
The ASEAN geographic corridor of the world plays a large role in international remittances, and is currently measured at well over $100 billion. 5
On November 14th, Ripple announced that CIMB had joined RippleNet, and was using one of Ripple's solutions to enhance CIMB's remittance service, known as "SpeedSend:"
Ripple had kept the collaboration under wraps until the announcement, and in their Insight article, indicated more details about how its software is underpinning CIMB's high-profile remittance service:
"The enhancement improves their access to cross-border remittances across the globe — both inbound into ASEAN and outbound to other countries. It is already enabling remittances to corridors such as Australia, USA, UK and Hong Kong."
Ripple is amassing an impressive list of Asian banks in its RippleNet network, methodically extending its global reach in a gradual takeover of correspondent banking. Thus far, we know that two of the top ten largest banks in Southeast Asia have already joined Ripplenet: Siam Commercial Bank and now CIMB. 6 However, based on Ripple's ability to keep its partnerships under wraps, there may be more of these partnerships in the pipeline.
Recently, we learned about a new remittance company that planned on using xRapid for transferring money from the United States to the Philippines. The company had disclosed their plans to American Banker in an article on October 21st. 7
This news alone was exciting: Ripple has been more circumspect with their partnering announcements of late, and this news was announced not by Ripple but by the remittance company involved. In a follow up on November 5th, the CEO of SendFriend, David Lighton, indicated to XRP_Cro (Twitter avatar) that they were specifically targeting Q1, 2019 for their production usage of xRapid:
Some in the XRP Community are already bench-marking volumes for comparison purposes - i.e. 'before-and-after' snapshots of exchange volumes for XRP.
For those interested in tracking the first significant volumes of XRP's use as a bridge asset, SendFriend provides one more opportunity for inquiry; most likely they'd be using the one Philippine-based exchange that Ripple identified as their preferred partner in that region: Coins.ph.
During the San Francisco Blockchain Week event from October 8 - 11, a panel discussion featured the topic of "Layer 1 vs. Layer 2: Scalability," and it included the following participants: 8
- Akash Khosla (Blockchain at Berkeley)
- Evan Schwartz (Interledger)
- Dan Robinson (Chain)
- Nate Rush (UPenn)
- Mo Dong (Celer)
The video of the panel discussion was finally released on November 10th:
The session began with an active discussion about the definition of "layer one," which served to demonstrate the fluidity of terminology even among the technology-proficient participants of the panel. Evan Schwartz provided an eloquent book-end to the topic:
"I actually think it's important to marry both scalable layer one solutions with scalable layer two solutions. Specifically with the value transfer example, I think a lot of times, we're going to see there's many repeated transactions with the same parties.
Those make a lot of sense to do off-chain, in things like payment channels.
Payment channels are bilateral examples. There's also multi-lateral examples like side-chains and things like that. So I think that makes a lot of sense; to move a lot of those transactions off-chain.
At the same time, if you're doing that for latency, or transaction throughput reasons, you still want the layer one blockchain to be pretty fast, and pretty cheap; otherwise you end up with a pretty bad experience for even just opening and closing these types of relationships.
So if you want to move money into a payment channel, and you have to wait an hour - or hours - to do that, this is a terrible user experience. That also means if you want to deposit more money into that or withdraw money from it, it's again, that really long delay, and maybe very high cost.
So, I see it as 'its important to have both pretty fast, pretty cheap transactions on the blockchain,' even if you're only using those to set up payment channels and close them down."
Evan Schwartz's comment was a brilliant commentary on the importance of layer one, and it was also apparent that the XRP Ledger met the criteria that he summarized with his perspective.
It was at that point that Mo Dong posed a new question:
"... (what is) the ultimate goal of blockchain scalability?"
Here is the answer Evan Schwartz provided:
"I'm very focused on value transfer, and payments, exchanges, and things like that. I think a lot of people like pointing to VISA's numbers as 'the numbers to beat'; fifty thousand transactions per second.
I think that is way, way, low-balling it by many orders of magnitude.
Because, if what this whole space is marching towards is the idea of an Internet of Value, or something along those lines, I think what we're going to see is value transfers on the scale of Internet packets.
I don't know how many packets per second the Internet processes; I'm not sure that's a 'know-able' number ... packets are individual transactions. So the main point I wanted to make was like... my home router ... can do somewhere between one hundred thousand and one million packets per second. And that's just what you have at home. That's not commercial-grade ...
So when I think about packets per second, that's the way that I'm thinking about it ...
It should happen at the speed of the physical network latency. When we think about payment latency at Interledger, we're worried about the constraints of the speed of light. At a certain point, you can't move faster than the electrons going physically from me to you.
I think that's the way we should be thinking about payments."
If there was any doubt whether Ripple understood the future direction for the Internet of Value, or what sort of scalability that it required, that description eliminated it.
With that comment, Evan Schwartz may have indicated the future technological direction that the company plans to take. When you consider the combination of his comment on moving frequent transactions off-chain, and the raw number of value packets that he anticipates in the future, it's apparent that Ripple is planning on staying ahead of the curve.
Also note that Evan Schwartz authored his blog titled "Layer 3 Is for Interoperability" subsequent to this conference; perhaps some of the topics and ideas discussed during the San Francisco Blockchain Week informed his ideas contained in that blog.
Ripple has some collateral available to the general public on its corporate website, but I couldn't locate any document talking about the specific differences between versions of its proprietary solutions for xCurrent, xRapid, and xVia.
Instead of through their corporate website, they made this material available during a recent conference, and the specific features contained within the latest version of xCurrent were spelled out clearly. Of the ten items mentioned, two were of key interest to those that own XRP:
"Multi-Hop Payments: Leverage new liquidity arrangements for nostro account consolidation and further payment reach"
"Increased Product Interoperability: Seamlessly access xRapid for digital asset payments."
We'd heard about Multi-Hop and its ability to find the lowest-cost routes for payments, and even its ability to split a payment if the costs could be lowered by dividing it up between different settlement pathways. It implied that there may eventually be the ability for some non-xRapid banks to utilize a connection to an xRapid bank for efficient settlement.
The dissection of the possibilities for Multi-Hop took place almost immediately after Ripple's formal announcement of the feature.
The other feature for the fourth version of xCurrent was eye-opening, however, as it confirmed what many in the XRP Community had been speculating for approximately a year: That the banks Ripple was adding to rolls of RippleNet would be able to - eventually - seamlessly activate their ability to source liquidity through xRapid, which uses XRP for settlement.
Some naysayers continued to claim that xCurrent did nothing to help the adoption of digital assets, while others - me included - insisted that it would be a multi-step adoption process whereby banks could carefully 'dip their toes' into the water without fear of regulatory uncertainty.
And now we see that Ripple has used technology once again to clearly and easily address that concern; if banks are in fact able to easily activate or deactivate the ability to settle in digital assets, what is preventing them from giving it a try?
This discovery in xCurrent 4.0 was very promising indeed.
Epicenter is a YouTube channel that covers topics in technology generally, but focuses on blockchain technology and decentralized ledger technology. In the past, they've hosted Miguel Vias from Ripple, and in their latest video, they interviewed Ben Sharafian and Stefan Thomas from Coil:
The two interviewers for this episode were Brian Fabian Crain and Sunny Aggarwal, who are both associated with the Cosmos project, which focuses on a software development kit (SDK) for building interoperable blockchains. 11
The interviewers were methodical, and began by asking both Ben Sharafian and Stefan Thomas about their professional history and how they came to be a part of the new Coil project, and then moved on to a discussion about the Interledger Protocol, or ILP, for short.
Once the discussion got rolling, Stefan Thomas revealed a couple points that I didn't know previously. One was that they (Coil) uses a company called "Strata" which is a professional Interledger service provider, for all of their 'uplink traffic.'
Stefan Thomas also talked about ILP's ability to break apart large payments into smaller, standard-sized ones and then re-constitute them later in the flow:
"Liquidity becomes much less of an issue. Because if you exhaust liquidity on some path, the next packet will just take a different path. And also, people that see a payment in progress ... you can actually go and provision more liquidity in real-time to make sure that link doesn't go down."
This average packet size, Ben Sharafian revealed, is currently set at forty 'micro-dollars;' a small enough amount to support non-exhaustion of liquidity for an individual ILP node.
The discussion covered Coil's updates to Codius, and how ILP allows ease of monetization without having to tie the smart contract hosting platform to a specific settlement network. This point also segued into how Coil received its name; it is an amalgamation of "Codius" and "Interledger," which was another point I didn't know.
For those interested in more complex questions, such as how a user of Coil can indicate their preference to 'pay more' or 'pay less,' and how Coil may prevent abuse of its service by click-bait sites, the video contains possible answers. If you've wanted insight into what a brainstorm session at Coil might be like, topics like these provide some perspective.
The interview also contained an in-depth discussion of what prompted the creation of Coil as a separate company, instead of Stefan Thomas opting to stay with Ripple and pursue a new product line. If you're following Coil, or the developments in its ecosystem, I highly recommend you make time to watch this video.
The XRP network is comprised of a historical sequence of ledgers, each tracing to the subsequent state of the network in the next ledger. Every three seconds (approximately), a new ledger is created, and the old one closed. This settlement of transactions has happened 43 million times without incident, creating a ledger history that is now quite large in size - a size that is larger than can be handled by most hobbyists running a validator.
The ordinary researcher has typically been able to use the account explorer available at different sites such as Bithomp and XRPCharts to trace wallet movements and changes, but it's advantageous to make this full ledger history available to anybody that is interested, no matter if they run a validator or not.
Recognizing this need for independent researchers and other stakeholders to run queries on the ledger history, WietseWind took this on as one of his team's projects, and managed to create a Google BigQuery dataset:
WietseWind also indicated that he will keep it up-to-date with new ledgers as the history grows. Specifically, he's configured it so that the dataset will be updated every fifteen seconds. The Google Big Query tool is going to seem familiar for anybody that's constructed or worked with Structured Query Language (SQL) before:
This addition to the XRP ecosystem allows any hobbyist to run SQL commands against the data set and obtain results that can then be used to create graphics, charts, and other artifacts fit for sharing with others, using connected tools like Google Data Studio.
The Google Big Query platform is a product that is offered free by Google, and they currently allow users to sign up and receive "$300 worth of services." This is important, because large queries that are inefficiently written against such a large data set will necessarily use up significant processing power; if you are new to writing SQL, I recommend working with a developer to access or download the data that you need.
For now, if you are new to SQL and are itching to try it out, you can start with the following query:
SELECT STRING_AGG(DISTINCT TransactionType) as TransactionType, Account, COUNT(Destination) as TxCount, SUM(AmountXRP) as SumXRPDrops, SUM(Fee) as SumFeeDrops, MIN(LedgerIndex) as AccMinLedger, MAX(LedgerIndex) as AccMaxLedger FROM xrpledgerdata.fullhistory.transactions WHERE AmountXRP IS NOT NULL AND TransactionType = 'Payment' GROUP BY Account ORDER BY COUNT(Destination) DESC LIMIT 5
If you're interested in what some hobby ledger investigators have done already with this tool, Thomas Silkjær has authored a blog in which he reveals some interesting trends. You can read more about some of his analysis in his recent blog, located here: Thomas Silkjær Blog
WietseWind's efforts at making this data publicly-available are outstanding, and is a huge win for XRP Community stakeholders.
St Jude Update
In my most recent blog, I discussed KingBlue's effort to compete for the $25,000 first prize money in Uphold's customer referral contest.
The rules are straightforward: The customer with the most referrals will win the grand prize. KingBlue has indicated that he wants to win and donate this amount to St Jude. This effort was profiled on CKJ Crypto News's YouTube Channel on Saturday, November 10th.
Since that initial media push by KingBlue, he indicated that he's received some 200 referrals!
This number is probably far and above what most individual competitors can compete with, so it certainly places him in a good position for the contest. If you know somebody that is already thinking of opening an account, perhaps with Uphold, feel free to share the referral link with them so that KingBlue receives credit in his drive to donate that prize money to St Jude.
Here is the link: https://join.uphold.com/?kid=S1KSS
I sincerely hope that KingBlue wins the contest, bringing even more attention to his XRP fund-raising efforts for St Jude.
Epic XRP Movie Trailer
Every once in a while, an XRP fan publishes an artistic creation that seems to 'go viral,' and is shared across platforms. This happened on November 13th when XRPArmy (Twitter avatar) published an epic-looking-and-sounding video on Twitter:
The video contained in the tweet was well-constructed and contained amazing graphics and music, interspersed with facts about the XRP ecosystem that would flash across the screen. He indicated that two other XRP Community members had helped him in his effort at creating the video.
Kudos to XRPArmy on his creation & hopefully it is used to inspire others to take a closer look at XRP and its ecosystem.
XRP Tip Bot Update: Paper Gift Accounts
CKJ Crypto News is on a roll; on a recent Video broadcast, he interviewed KingBlue about the St Jude charity drive, and now a few days later, he interviewed WietseWind about a new feature for the XRP Tip Bot:
The feature is something that WietseWind is calling a "paper account," which simplifies tipping to people - such as a waiter or waitress in his example - that may not be famliar with crypto or XRP.
It starts with a current XRP Tip Bot user. A current XRP Tip Bot user can log into their account - whether online or through their mobile XRP Tip Bot app - and print out a 'paper account' to give to somebody. The paper contains QR links to an empty XRP Tip Bot account.
In our example, let's say I want to give a paper account to a waiter:
- He gets a paper account from me, which is a piece of paper that contains two different QR codes: The Pairing QR and the Donation QR.
- He must download the XRP Tip Bot app.
- Then he must scan the Pairing QR on the piece of paper.
- The app will then ask him to choose a PIN number for his account.
Now, helping him set up an account is great, but you'll notice that his XRP Tip Bot account is empty. So, the polite thing to do would be to send him some XRP - perhaps his first tip - from your own account. To do this, you can pull out your own mobile phone and scan his Donation QR and send him some XRP.
Pro Tipper Note: You can actually pre-fund a paper account before you give it away by scanning the donation QR with your own phone.
At the end of his demonstration, WietseWind commented "..let's hope it spreads," to which CKJ replied, "there's no hope about it!"
I agree with CKJ.
In addition to demo-ing the new paper account function of the XRP Tip Bot, both WietseWind and CKJ discussed some of the techniques for using the XRP Tip Bot on social media platforms such as Twitter. For those that want to know about some advanced 'tips' for tipping, this later discussion contains some fascinating twists and turns for how to tip with style.
Thanks to both the XRP Tip Bot team and CKJ Crypto News for the outstanding video and new feature. I have a feeling that paper accounts may help those in the XRP Community reach even more potential crypto fans through sharing a zerp or two!
Critical Thinking will Lead You to What Matters Most
One thing you'll notice right away if you're new to the fan base for XRP; we are confident.
While some supporters on social media may react with strong emotion, in the case of XRP that emotion tends to be pride in their own analysis of the investment, not fear stemming from a lack of rational thought. And when it comes to figuring out what are the important aspects of a choice - whether an investment is good for the environment, whether the organizations championing the asset are supportive of charitable causes, or whether the crypto-asset's use case will power future demand, you should never compromise on using your own judgment.
Once you've found the answers you're looking for, consider sharing your findings with a friend or family member.
One thing I've come to realize is the power of one person talking to another. Misinformation still persists about cryptocurrency and its various topics; the concepts can be challenging, and large investors have shown a strong willingness to play a protectionist role for their early miss-steps into Bitcoin.
To counter this, we must be active and assertive when necessary. This means making your voice heard occasionally. Some of us are only comfortable playing a background role because life is busy, and that's understandable; but it's also important to make your opinion known, especially when it may impact the future of blockchain technology adoption.
Collectively, we've waited long enough: It's time for the next version of crypto to step forward. It needs to be able to scale to global transaction levels; it needs to be able to support micropayments; it needs to have a negligible environmental impact.
Oh.. and one more thing: It needs to be fast.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Aron and Daniel Gonzalez