The big secret is out.
Yes, Ripple is led by the author of the Peanut Butter Manifesto, Brad Garlinghouse. And in that famous communication to Yahoo executives, the current CEO of Ripple admonished Yahoo's leaders that they were spreading their resources too thin and losing focus. He was right: Yahoo ended up ceding the search market to others, as well as the other markets like free email, simply because it was trying to do too many things.
A company that loses its edge and laser-focus tends to flounder against other competitors that are more finely-tuned.
And he knows this. But at some point in either late 2017 or 2018, we can deduce that a decision was made to go after an entirely different market than 'cross-border payments.' We know this, because instead of trying to keep this separate market in-house, Brad Garlinghouse and other Ripple leaders decided that it was wiser to split off these separate projects.
And all of them have a consistent theme that is easy for us to identify: Ripple is aiming to dominate the monetization of entertainment.
Here is a timeline of major events:
May of 2018
- Ripple announces the Xpring Initiative
- Ripple hires Ethan Beard (from Facebook)
- Ripple announces Xpring investment in Scooter Braun Projects
- Stefan Thomas founds Coil to monetize electronic content
November of 2018
- Ripple announces Xpring investment in Securitize, to tokenize assets
February of 2019
- Ripple announces Xpring investment in Raised in Space (Scooter Braun)
- Ripple announces Xpring investment in Kava Labs (ILP technology)
- Cinnamon announces plans for Coil-based video streaming
- Ripple announces Xpring investment in Dharma, to help tokenize credit markets
March of 2019
There are two paths represented by this timeline: a technical path and an entertainment industry path. The twist is that the two paths, while separate for most of 2018, are due to join in 2019 if I'm correct in my assumptions; the Xpring investments indicate that the music industry, video content, and even gaming, may be poised to join with the necessary software tools to monetize content.
Coil has now released a new version of an ILP Connector. And two Xpring investments specifically pertain to tokenization, which Ethan Beard has since indicated is key to a long-term plan to enter markets such as gaming:
"There are a lot of assets that people purchase and that are actually quite liquid, they are quite hard to transfer and by tokenizing these things you can make them more liquid and much easier to transfer around.
It starts to shift things like games from being based around kind of free to play and selling virtual goods to almost like a marketplace or a market driven economy."
Xpring is forging alliances that signal an ambitious entry into the intersection of entertainment and digital assets. My prediction is that, while obvious to see, it's too late for most competitors to catch up; it's another example of Ripple entering an area where there are no peers to challenge its leadership, innovations, or transformational ideas.
On March 18th, Scooter Braun sent out the following tweet to his 3.9 million followers on Twitter:
Like a master promoter, the message was designed to point towards the future, and inspire wonder at its creative possibilities. For those of us looking at the developments with Ripple's Xpring Initiative, the message seems to have a clear meaning.
Who To Follow
Scooter Braun's rise is mythic in proportions.
Born in 1981, he started life out as a school-boy in Greenwich, Connecticut. In the 1990's, during high school, he was elected class president, but he credits one event as playing a pivotal role in his self-confidence:
He produced a non-fiction documentary about a tough subject for a high-schooler; it was a documentary titled "The Hungarian Conflict," and it had to do with the plight of Jews in that nation during the events of World War II. 1
The documentary caught the eye of somebody very famous: Steven Spielberg. Steven Spielberg then sent the documentary to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, which validated Scooter Braun's creative talent.
In 2002, at age 21, Scooter Braun then started organizing parties as a strange occupation in Atlanta, Georgia, during his college years. This sideline gig helped introduce him to the high-profile world of hip-hop music and his first entertainment-related position with "So So Def" as a marketing agent.
Directly after his stint at "So So Def," he then began his career as a music agent.
The rest of the story is something you are probably familiar with by now; He worked with Ludacris and then discovered Justin Bieber, a young Canadian singer on YouTube, when Bieber was 12 years old. He's also represented other famous singers and entertainers, including Ariana Grande and Carly Rae Jepsen. From there, the rest is a history of Scooter Braun's ascendancy in media and entertainment, with his founding of SB Projects in 2007. 2 3
Connections to Ripple
We started to see Ripple pursue partnerships and projects with entertainment icons and agents in 2018, with high-profile contributions to charitable causes related to both Ashton Kutcher and Madonna, who are both either connected to or represented by Guy Oseary, and most notably by the very first series of investments announced through Ripple's Xpring fund. Both Guy Oseary and Scooter Braun have been co-investors in other projects. 4 5
In the formal announcement of Xpring's founding, Ripple chose to have it led by a former Facebook executive (Ethan Beard) who saw the potential fusion between gaming, music, news, and digital assets. And in that same piece, it was revealed that the first investments would include an undisclosed amount of capital for Scooter Braun Projects (SB Projects). 6 7
Parallel to that investment was the founding of Coil, which has now constructed (and is still building) the tools for content monetization using Interledger.
I don't believe that anything about that first announcement was a coincidence. It's obvious what the strategy is; Ripple is connecting with leaders in entertainment, parallel to its creation of the technology that will enable those businesses to thrive and realize revenue streams in a very direct way. In the process, other artists looking to monetize their own content will have a much easier time accessing capital in reward for their artistic creations.
A Pivotal Entertainment Industry Icon
Scooter Braun has consistently had the foresight to see potential in both young, struggling artists, and in startups that could transform the entertainment industry; it's for this reason that I recommend you give him a 'follow' on social media - both to keep up-to-date on the latest developments with his Ripple-related ventures such as SB Projects and Raised in Space, and to support his efforts at helping champion use of digital assets and XRP.
My first introduction to how seriously the concept of virtual economies can develop around a game came well before the advent of cryptocurrency. I remember playing Diablo many years ago, and a cult following quickly developed around the game, along with a website where virtual items were traded for 'forum gold,' a centralized precursor to modern virtual currencies.
This was a serious business, and there were some that actually managed to eke out a living based solely on accumulating and selling in-game, virtual items.
As the technologies shifted from packaged products to downloadable, Internet-based and mobile-based games, the revenue model shifted with it, and various game developers experimented with a myriad of ways to integrate in-game economies for virtual items.
Ripple, realizing the potential for using cryptocurrency in these types of transactions, has now partnered with Forte, a company that is specifically targeting the technologies and software that will enable game developers to integrate with XRP.
The Xpring investment is massive.
Fortune magazine indicated that Ripple has set aside $100 million dollars for an investment fund specifically for energizing the efforts around integration of blockchain technology and digital assets with gaming marketplaces. 8 The amounts will be distributed in the form of XRP to specific companies and development projects; it's not clear how much will go directly to Forte as part of Ripple's initial investment.
The new Xpring investment by Ripple was announced on March 12th:
Ethan Beard's tweet included a link to a blog written by Danny Aranda, an Xpring Director for Ripple. In the blog, Danny Aranda reveals that the Xpring investment is only the latest in a series of steps that had been taken to work with the new company: 9
"... we’ve worked with the Forte team from early on to deeply embed Interledger, Codius and XRP in the platform architecture to maximize cross-chain interoperability, security and liquidity.
With this technical foundation bundled other core technologies, tools, and easy-to-use services, Forte is building one of the most exciting platforms that will enable developers to reach mass consumer audiences."
This is an exciting revelation; basically, Ripple has been paving the way for further development by creating the basic tools for Forte to construct their own platform. It's this type of step-wise progress that is going to successfully position XRP for usage in gaming economies.
How big are these economies?
If we extrapolate from the numbers of players, it is surprisingly large: One analyst estimated that 60% of console gamers have purchased virtual items at some point. Roughly 43% of PC gamers and 33% of smartphone gamers have purchased virtual items. 10 This means that the market for virtual items is easily measured in the billions, currently.
Kevin Chou, the CEO of Forte, was very descriptive in his own explanation of what he wants to accomplish for integrating gaming and blockchain tech: 11
"I envision a future where players can transact with each other directly instead of only with the developer. A future where developers don’t need to figure out the maximum value they can extract from their player base, but instead are creatively and economically motivated to foster new types of peer-to-peer game-play.
I believe this vision is possible all while keeping games free and easy to access for billions of users. Reshaping the relationship between player and game developer will bring about a foundational, positive change to the gaming industry, and it’s a future I’d like to spend the next decade of my life building."
Kevin Chou has made the economic models in free gaming into his life's passion, and that is something that makes me appreciate the potential of this latest Xpring investment by Ripple.
David Schwartz, Ripple's Chief Technology Officer (CTO), participated in an interview on March 14th with Sara Silverstein about all things blockchain, XRP, and Ripple:
The interview was recorded by the organizers of the SXSW Conference and published subsequently online. 12
It's hard to pin down the interview to one specific area, because Sara Silverstein covered a lot of ground in her prepared questions. Here's a sampling:
Question (Sara Silverstein): "Can you talk more about the scalability problem? What solution does that (the scalability problem) make blockchain not a possibility for?"
Answer (David Schwartz): "It comes down to whether you have to replicate all the data to every single node; most blockchains today... they replicate every piece of data to every single node. And that sets a sort of baseline cost and expense.
Whereas other systems - if you look at how VISA processes transactions, they're sort of horizontally-scalable. So you have this transaction processor over here, and you have a transaction processor over here, and this one's too busy... they share the load. And if two are not enough, you add four or five or six ...
we don't know how to do that for blockchain, yet ...
If you're in an application where processing tens of thousands of transactions per second is critical to the use case - VISA would be a good example - using a blockchain directly is not a good mix."
Question (Sara Silverstein): "What's the most important thing in a database being decentralized?"
Answer (David Schwartz): "I think it comes down to the rules of the system ...
Decentralized systems don't have parties that can coerce other parties to accept the rules. So what happens is, if 99% of the people in the system want a rule change, they can just make that rule change. They don't need anyone's permission; they don't need to coerce anything.
The one percent ... your freedom to leave is much more fundamental ...
users vote with the code they run."
Question (Sara Silverstein): "... In other places, like with social media and art and with the Internet, there are places where things have become more centralized. Is there a blockchain solution with some of those issues that we're seeing?"
Answer (David Schwartz): "Maybe. I think my fear, particularly when it comes to social media, is that people want systems that are fairly centralized ...
It's like privacy.
Everyone will tell you that they want privacy; but they'll go to these centralized systems, where they're a product. They won't pay five dollars a month, because while they say they want privacy ... hmmm ... maybe - Twitter is a good example - a lot of people asked 'well, why can't twitter allow any speech that's allowed under the first amendment of the United States?' Well, it's because most of the people on Twitter want less Nazi speech. They just do. And they're Twitter's customers. And Twitter has to provide what their customers want.
And we might say 'yeah, I would rather live in a world where people wanted a social media system where anyone could say anything,' but we don't live in that world.
So, in the social media space, I think we kind of - to some extent - deserve what we got. I do think these customers are providing the products that their customers want. So the fault lies with us.
People are building blockchain systems that have these more relaxed rules; and I think, by and large, that's not what people want ...
... we also have to really think about 'what do our target customers actually want?' Not 'what should they want,' as many people do; what do they really want ... and it's often not what we think they should want."
This last comment was one of the reasons I see Ripple as being a thought leader in the cryptomarket; they are not creating solutions for problems that don't exist; they are carefully analyzing the market first, and then figuring out their product fit where it makes sense.
For banks and remittance processors, it's the use case involving cross-border payments and usage of XRP as a bridge asset.
And for monetization, Ripple has obviously made a determination that there is room for a solution involving direct, streaming payments for content.
Ripple, specifically, has developed the necessary software, tools, approaches, and business models that are the necessary components to both of these high-volume use cases.
Adrian Hope-Bailie, the Head of Interledger at Coil, recently announced the release of a new Interledger Connector version, which was so distinct from previous designs that its creators felt it necessary to name it as a completely separate project:
"We could have just called our project Connector v2 but that would have suggested it was simply an update from the old. We have re-used significant parts of the old code-base, and where possible ported all of the existing tests, but the reality is, this is a whole new beast."
He also felt the need to explain the origin of the new connector's name, saying:
"We settled on the name Rafiki for a few reasons. It appeals to our team’s African roots, being the Swahili word for friend (exactly the kind of connector you want to peer with).
It is the name of the coolest character in The Lion King, voiced by South African legend John Kani.
It is also the title of a Kenyan film, released to critical acclaim, but banned in its country of origin for breaching archaic local laws. (So you can see why we like the name)."
The effects of the new design seem to be:
- Reduction in latency through several key changes
- Enabling of "hot reloads" for changes to settings or peers
- Enabling of external settlement
His blog then goes into some detail about the specific design changes for the connector, pairing up the design change descriptions with the team's thought processes behind the updates. In most cases, the design terminology mirrors conveniently-parallel concepts for those familiar with JS architectures, although the term definitions are unique to ILP.
One exception to this caught my attention, and seems worth quoting - a subsection of Adrian Hope-Bailie's description of how the connector detects its peers:
"... all components are designed to handle ... ad-hoc addition and removal of peers from the ground up and each peer can have an entirely custom business and protocol pipeline.
A nice side effect of this architecture is that there is no lifecycle management of the endpoints required within the connector. None of the routing code needs to track lifecycle (connect and disconnect) events on endpoints as they do today with plugins.
Instead we added a heartbeat service that sends a ping to peers. Failed heartbeats can be handled by a rule that notifies the route manager to stop routing down the broken route and successful heartbeats can be used to re-enable a previously disabled route."
Perhaps those more familiar with network architectures may be unimpressed with this change in design, but to me, it seems like the team is clearly focused on latency reduction and architectural resilience and stability in their design efforts with the Rafiki release.
Kudos to the team at Coil for this amazing update; although it's the project's BETA release, it sounds like Rafiki will soon become a cornerstone in the Internet of Value (IoV).
The XRP Community is the largest - and fastest-growing - crypto community on social media. Our numbers now rival that of Bitcoin's.
While the bear market has been especially hard on the market share of proof-of-work cryptos like Bitcoin and Ethereum, XRP's share of the cryptomarket has been steadily expanding based on various measurements of market capitalization and social media activity and web searches statistics.
This trend was made painfully evident in a recent online poll conducted by a new crypto business named PayGlobal:
PayGlobal is a new remittance operator based in the UK that aims to enable payments within its network by enabling and supporting crypto-assets, in addition to fiat currency. Its site states:
• With PayGlobal, you can receive and send your funds – all in one place! • Receive funds through banks, cards, alternate payments and cryptocurrencies • Send funds to banks, cards, alternate payments, ATM and Point of Sale • Fast, secured, easy to use solutions • Monitor all your transactions online using PayGlobal
The company was surprised by the landslide victory posted by XRP in their poll, and responded:
The result didn't surprise me whatsoever; this poll is just the latest in a series of examples demonstrating how much the XRP Community has risen to dominate social media and online forums. The world is turning its collective attention to the next generation of crypto-assets; and it's obvious that its preference is XRP.
Secalot and XRP Toolkit
For those that may not already know, the the XRP Toolkit is a web interface for interacting with the XRP ledger, similar to Ethereum's MyCrypto or MyEtherWallet. It currently supports signing payments, escrows, trust lines and account settings. Supported login options include hardware wallets from Ledger and Secalot, XRPL test accounts and paper wallets/secret keys (not recommended). Support for more hardware wallets are in the works.
XRP Toolkit was the creation of one XRP Community Developer who goes by the name "RareData" or "xrptoolkit" on social media, and he has consistently collaborated with multiple crypto hardware vendors and others to help make XRP storage more secure.
His latest collaboration was one with Secalot, in which he assisted with their integration of all transaction types available on the XRP Ledger. The effort's result was a new version of the Secalot "Dongle" firmware, formally announced on March 12th:
Secalot also published a blog explaining in detail about its security architecture used in the hardware device.
For his part, RareData is excited about this collaboration, communicating over DM:
"We're successfully signing ALL transaction types with a hardware wallet. This is a world's first!"
You can sense his excitement and pride: It demonstrated once again his tangible commitment to the XRP ecosystem of open-source code, tools, and code. His latest accomplishment was significant, as it's the first time a crypto hardware vendor integrated complete support for all XRP Ledger transaction types.
He plans to maintain the XRP Toolkit as a "reference implementation" for hardware wallets and for all of the XRP Ledger transaction types.
Note: I do not personally endorse any crypto wallet - please do your own due diligence!
To learn more, about the XRP Toolkit and Secalot integration, check out this video, along with RareData's own blog:
Entertainment is Big ... Very Big
Ripple's strategy to dominate the new market that intersects between content monetization and digital assets is a stroke of genius that promises to result in the mainstream adoption of crypto-assets for everyday use.
Technology adoption is not a straight line; it goes in short, massive bursts of interest and adoption, until it finally finds its rightful place. Innovations like a trust-less, no-counter-party digital asset have shown their value, and have consistently demonstrated a high demand from individual investors, users, and forward thinkers. It's true 'Internet money' of the future, and XRP is the one that has the scalability and on-chain performance metrics to support global use.
Entertainment has the ability to influence people and the way that they think like no other medium; if you doubt the difference in influence between technology-related companies, individuals, and organizations, and those in the entertainment space, I'd invite you to just take a quick look at the size of the following for Ellen Degeneres or Ashton Kutcher on Twitter. Each one commands an audience on Twitter that is measured in the millions.
What you witnessed in 2018 - the mentioning of Ripple on the Ellen Degeneres show - is just the beginning.
Ripple has now spent almost a year cultivating the necessary ingredients for a takeover of this fusion between digital assets and entertainment; both in developing the technologies necessary to make it happen, and in the industry contacts and influence to bring about adoption of its software.
If you're like me and 'hodl' XRP, then congratulations; the future of both payments and the monetization of entertainment is pointing squarely at our favorite digital asset.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Aditya Chinchure