FAANG stands for "Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google." These five stocks have become staples in mainstream finance investing when it comes to large Silicon Valley power-houses.
Until this point, these companies have formed a unique blend of access and restriction for their user base when it comes to content. Netflix buys the rights to many independent films and projects, and even produces its own fantastic array of content, known as "Netflix originals." And where Netflix focuses on video content, Amazon has expanded its umbrella to include all media types, including music and written content (e-books).
Google, in addition to its massive YouTube video collection, has an online marketplace for music and books. Facebook has shown its interest in connecting to online marketplaces.
Each of these members of FAANG have so far enjoyed a virtual monopoly on most electronic content access, but there is discontent from the artistic and creative community. There are many stakeholders - mainly in the creative community of artists, writers, and musicians - that are not satisfied with the meager earnings they receive from these companies as opposed to more traditional modes of marketing and access. 1 2
How bad are the royalties from these FAANG giants?
According to one article, musicians depending on Amazon royalties will need to have 366,169 streams per month to earn the equivalent of the monthly minimum wage in the United States. 3 This means that only a very small handful of artists can adequately support themselves through current varieties of content monetization if they rely only on these new media monopolies.
Change is in the air.
And this need... this unexploited, massive, pent-up demand for better ways for creative types to both market their wares and receive payment, has prompted some refreshing innovations that are well on their way to becoming a reality.
Who To Follow: Coil
Coil, a new company that was founded by Stefan Thomas, the former Chief Technology Officer at Ripple, has joined ranks of other content monetization providers like Patreon to assist artists in receiving payment for their work.
Coil takes an agnostic approach to the specific channel of content delivery, even allowing artists to use these FAANG sites if they so choose. For example, if a YouTube channel owner wants to monetize their handiwork, they can do that by plugging in their channel in their Coil account; each time a Coil-monetized browser views their channel content, they will receive a Coil payment, denominated in XRP.
For those of us that are in the XRP community, this method of content monetization is a huge win-win.
Many of us are creative types, but because there has been no reliable mechanism of content monetization aside from dependence on the meager payouts from these FAANG monopolies, we've been forced to consider our content creation as 'sideline gigs' only, while we pay the bills with more traditional, business-oriented occupations.
Coil is just starting out, but the feedback from the larger crypto community has been overwhelmingly positive, and you can sense a massive pent-up demand for a way around the unhealthy dependence on these media giants.
How You Can Use Coil
Those webmasters that are adept at technical topics enough to run their own ILP plugin and 'moneyd' instance can actually create their own payment pointer. However, I'm going to assume that most content creators want to 'keep it simple,' so I'll let other authors handle that topic.
If you want to 'keep it simple,' and you're an artist, and this is the first time you're hearing about Coil, it works this way:
- Sign up at coil.com
- Once inside your account, choose to "Web-Monetize Content"
- Indicate your "payment pointer."
NOTE: If you're a member of the XRP Tip Bot community, you have one automatically created already, and just need to log into www.xrptipbot.com and then navigate to https://www.xrptipbot.com/deposit?method=ilp to find it.
If you're looking to monetize your website, this is almost the end of the process. The last step is to copy the automatically-generated meta tag that Coil provides you, and then add it to the (head) section of the web page you wish to monetize on your site:
And even though the project is still in "preview mode," Coil also supports monetization of YouTube and Twitch channels, for those that stream their content over those two services:
And that's it; for now, the options for monetization are comprised of these initial set of techniques.
If you'd like to see much better instructions than my own for how to do any of these steps, I recommend the official Coil-published set of instructions:
- Set Up Your XRP Tip Bot Payment Pointer (by Travis Crist)
- Web Monetize your Site (by Fabian Rühle)
- Monetize your YouTube Channel via Coil (by Travis Crist)
- Monetize your Twitch Stream via Coil (by Travis Crist)
- Test Your Web Monetization (by Travis Crist)
I'm guessing that Coil will expand these instructions in the coming months as they proceed to add more functions and capabilities. For now, though, these options have been enough to seriously energize content creators and motivate many to include the Coil monetization tag in their sites.
The effect of Coil monetization has the result of creating a circular set of participants: Creators, Consumers, and Coil, that combine to form an entire ecosystem that is more attractive to artists on a per-download, per-stream basis:
As long as the reward structure for Coil is more profitable for artists than that of the FAANG-related sites, it will continue to gain traction and grab market share from these major players.
Component Architecture Support
In addition to its own service, the team at coil is also busy supporting each of the components that drives its own product.
This includes creating code proposals for both ILP and the XRP Validator software, and we've seen the team recently release the Rafiki ILP connector (beta).
This work is necessary for the support of other participants in web monetization that may integrate with Coil in the near future, such as streaming payments for the music industry (RISE), or for markets in gaming (Forte).
The vision behind Coil web monetization is profound, far-reaching, and ambitious.
In addition, the Coil team is currently focused on the use of XRP as the base-layer digital asset for much of its tool-set. Coil currently reimburses in XRP. The Codius smart contract platform supports XRP out-of-the-box. And ILP is configured to be agnostic - open to any currency; however, Kava and other companies have so far included XRP among their list of currencies available for streaming support.
In a recent interview, I asked Bob Way, a Ripple alumnus, which XRP ecosystem component that he though would be 'first in line' to significantly impact utility-driven demand for XRP.
Coil Will Alter The Landscape
Bob Way is correct; and I believe we might even see the effects of Coil adoption at scales much greater than their current levels later this year; it's difficult to keep a secret in the new field of streaming micropayments and web monetization. Artists and other creatives want to be paid fairly for their work, and Coil seems to be edging closer to something truly spectacular.
It's for these reasons that I recommend following Coil & its team members. Here is a small subset of accounts; but I'm sure there are many others that should be on the list as well:
Coil on Twitter: @Coil
Coil's Website: coil.com
Stephan Thomas (Coil Founder & CEO): @justmoon
Ben Sharafian (Coil Co-Founder & CTO): @sharafian_
Ethan MacBrough (Coil Lead Scientist): @emacbrough
Adrian Hope-Bailie (Coil Head of ILP): @ahopebailie
If you're a developer or webmaster and you'd like to learn more about all sorts of amazing ways to customize your website and publish content to specifically reward your Coil customers, you should really have a look at all of the scripts that Coil has made available on their Github repository, and take a look at Ben Sharafian's Twitter account.
In addition, Coil has in-depth content and articles posted online in its help center for those looking to 'dig' into Coil content monetization:
Most XRP fans are very interested in xRapid progress.
xRapid is Ripple's liquidity-sourcing tool for banks, financial institutions, and remittance processors, which allows them to reduce their dependence on maintenance of foreign nostro accounts and banking relationships.
xRapid allows remittance processors to utilize the liquidity of the XRP market for settling fiat-to-fiat transfers, with an exchange to a digital asset that can then be transformed into a myriad of other currencies; this market is projected to be massive.
The community, as a result, has been tracking adoption numbers and volumes on exchanges, which has started out with a number of remittance processors and banks, including that of Mercury FX. Mercury FX is a UK-based remittance processor that also has offices in South Africa and Hong Kong. The company is expanding, and processes approximately $1.8 billion dollars globally. Mercury FX's CEO, Alastair Constance, was quoted in an article on March 20th, saying: 4
“We are steaming ahead, to be honest, and we are looking for more jurisdictions and more flow to the jurisdictions we’ve already opened up. We are working very closely with (Mexico and the Philippines) on opening up new channels. We are very keen to move very fast but it’s difficult when you’re building a new network ...
We are actively working with Ripple to market to expatriate Filipino and Mexican communities, but also to companies doing business in those channels.”
And regarding xRapid channels, he commented:
"Once the pipe is open, there is no limit to how much one can put through it. We are actively marketing with Ripple, to try to invite those kinds of clients and, I think, with increasing success. It could be that we have serious amounts of luck and we end up doing hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions of dollars."
The incredible part about his comment is that it reflects the progress that one remittance processor has accomplished using the ultra-low-cost xRapid liquidity sourcing channels.
There are other remittance processors, and banks and credit unions, that Ripple is working with as well, and if Mercury FX is any indication, xRapid is on its way to accomplishing something monumental as it gains traction in payment settlement.
DC Blockchain Summit
The DC Blockchain Summit is a blockchain technology conference that just had its fourth annual meeting in Washington DC. Its focus is much more centered around public policy than other blockchain technology conferences; when I looked through the collection of attendees, events, speakers, and interviews, it is very apparent that the organizers are focused on the "levers and fulcrums" of public policy decision-making.
For example, on its home page, instead of displaying icons of crypto or fintech, the conference displays the photos and short introductions to three US Representatives, all of whom are members of the "Congressional Blockchain Caucus," a group formally established in 2017 to bring clarity and focus to blockchain technology and its public policy implications. 5
The conference is co-sponsored by Georgetown University, and the site communicated its emphasis on public policy:
"DC Blockchain Summit 2019 will feature discussions with innovators and technologists from around the globe, including in-depth conversations with policymakers and regulators on the issues impacting the growing blockchain landscape."
Ripple was there, in addition to many other prominent leaders in fintech, all eager to interact with the legislative leaders who have shown their willingness to provide direction in these new, challenging areas of technological innovation. Brad Garlinghouse, the CEO of Ripple, was interviewed by Jill Malandrino, a Global Markets Reporter for the Trading & Market Services branch of Nasdaq:
About seven minutes into the conversation, Jill Malandrino asked Brad Garlinghouse a question aimed at the differences in regulation and adoption between the United States and other nations:
Question (Jill Malandrino): "It seems to be, everywhere ex-US, and more developed nations, Western Europe; they are adopting cryptocurrency technology, blockchain technology, quicker than we are.
Is that a scalability and regulatory issue? Is it, like I'd mentioned before, we have these legacy systems in place, and they don't have to worry about the old infrastructure?
There's roadblocks here in the US, and what do we need to overcome that?"
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "I'll introduce that question by first telling that I grew up in Kansas; I go see my mom, and my mom will ask me, 'why don't ... you don't have that many (US) customers,' relatively speaking. We've announced two hundred customers, and as a percentage, a very small percentage of those are US-based banks.
So people ask me 'why is that?' There are a handful of reasons; we'll talk about regulatory in a moment ... "
He then made an interesting point about the internal decision-making dynamics of Western banking leadership, indicating that larger Western banks, because their exposure to cross-border transactions are smaller, may not be as motivated to make significant changes to their technology stack. On the other hand, banks that do have a significant percentage of their payments crossing borders are much more willing to look at - and adopt - technology that enables them to significantly lower their cost.
Then his response zeroed in on public policy:
"Some countries clearly have provided more regulatory certainty - clear rules of the road.
I heard it described backstage right before I got on, that we've been asked, as an industry, 'not to speed,' but we weren't given a speed limit.
So it's really important, I think, that governments globally provide frameworks and ... it would be nice if they were all the same ... but they don't have to be all the same; it's just that the companies investing and building capabilities need to understand 'what are the rules of the road' so that we can hire and invest and understand ... when we go live with a bank in Singapore, or Thailand, or the Philippines, what they need to know to go live.
And we can work within those constructs ...
... in contrast to what we saw happen in the Internet space in the late nineties; the US provided clarity. A lot of it was 'hands-off clarity,' but there was clarity. And we don't really have as much of that yet with the US government."
The comparison with the US government's response to the innovations connected to the Internet in the late nineties was fitting, and provides an accurate criticism for the lack of clarity that we've seen with policy towards cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. The uncertainty that many large businesses face when investigating the regulatory guidance for digital currencies is one risk factor that may absolutely impact the timing, schedule, and resources devoted to those projects.
The remainder of the interview included topics that were frequent favorites of Brad Garlinghouse, such as scalability, interoperability, and the focus of Ripple on specific payment use cases; the level of Q&A was geared for a comfortable amount of technological sophistication that would be expected from decision makers in both corporate and legislative positions of leadership, which made many of the topics accessible for a wider audience.
New Joel Katz Blog
Most of the crypto universe knows that "Joel Katz" is the social media avatar on various platforms that represents David Schwartz, Ripple's Chief Technology Officer, and former Chief Cryptographer.
In addition to his normal role as Ripple's CTO, he also takes the time to author pieces about blockchain technology and fintech, generally, in addition to several other challenging topics. His blog, Distributed Agreement, includes two recent inter-related posts he's written on the topic of blockchain, and each of them provides his perspective on topics that have become an interesting battleground for those in the crypto space: the very definition of a blockchain, and then in his latest follow-up, what these blockchains are 'good for:'
"The primary advantage of a blockchain design over previous designs is that a blockchain design naturally allows every participant who wishes to do so to ensure that every system state change complies with every system rule. This is both a security and a design advantage.
It is very difficult and expensive to provide this kind of security in a non-blockchain system. If one tried to put this capability into a non-blockchain system, one would essentially be turning it into a blockchain. It is this property that gives blockchains one of their most important characteristics — the absence of any central data store that needs to be defended."
In these two paragraphs, David Schwartz puts into words what many crypto fans have long understood from a purely intuitive, right-brain standpoint; that the requirement of trust in a central party is greatly diminished by using a blockchain.
He also explores the burgeoning field of 'private blockchains,' and rather than paint the entire category with dangerous generalizations like other analysts, he takes the topic in stride, and provides valuable context for when these networks provide value:
"Consider, for example, the tracking of pharmaceutical products ...
This can be solved with blockchain. Each manufacturer can stand up a private blockchain node ...
This system will run reliably so long as some subset of the manufacturers keep their nodes operating. Manufacturers are not trusting third parties with access to their distribution and sales networks. The public, but encrypted, data allows any recipient to confirm at any time that they are the only recipient of a particular item placed into the system by its manufacturer.
This is a great example of a problem that is a perfect fit for today’s blockchain technology that has nothing to do with cryptocurrencies. It is a real-world use case for a permissioned blockchain."
He continues, discussing the difficulty with using a blockchain solution for various use cases, and then teases some of his future topics at the end; I enjoyed reading both the first and current entries, and it seems to capture David Schwartz's own stream-of-thought realizations about the new industry, combined with crisp, real-world experience and examples.
I highly recommend his blog for any student of XRP, cryptocurrency, or blockchain technology in general.
How many times have you had the inkling to share an idea for XRP use?
For me, it's a constant issue; I'm driving along on the road, with no way to record my thoughts or share them, and suddenly an idea will 'hit' me out of the blue about an innovative use of digital assets. But by the time I reach my destination or move on with my day, the idea has faded or been forgotten.
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a place where we could document our ideas collectively and discuss them, and if they were worthy, fund a developer (or two) to work on them?
Well, now there is:
To me, it's no surprise that Wietse Wind created the idea for a central messaging board to share development ideas - he has a knack for identifying the technological solution to everyday needs that even future users may not have anticipated. If there was a developer "most likely to create the next viral app," it would probably be him.
The suggestion board was immediately overwhelmed with suggestions, so the people involved (which includes Wietse) placed this admonition on the XRP Community Fund Home Page:
"The XRP Community Fund will be used to support the development of tools / apps / integrations / plugins that make it easier to use XRP for (consumer/small business) payments.
We also hope to attract more developers to the community. Bounties will be available for developers working on tools requested over a longer period of time by the XRP Community.
Ideas will be carefully selected. They need to be doable within a decent amount of time, target a great audience, and ideally have a decent amount of votes (not the highest per se)."
However, this doesn't open the door as a free-for-all funding mechanism. Ideas that involve other uses for tipping will not be considered, and neither will any ideas that pertain to gambling in any form. While these standards may not be popular, it's important to keep a narrow focus if the bounties are to have a widespread impact.
Essentially, the suggestion board is there to accept suggestions that involve extending the reach of XRP for use in payment processing - for retail or otherwise.
Some Ideas Will Not Be Considered
In a follow-up, Wietse emphasized one point in particular about the suggestions that should be submitted by users, commenting that they should be concepts ...
"... that make it easier to use XRP for (consumer/small business) payments"
It's this key point that will be the deciding factor in whittling down the suggestions into viable bounties and ones that are not.
As an example of what can be accomplished with the fund, it was decided to initially fund the bounty for the creation of a WooCommerce plugin for XRP, which was constructed within days of the posting:
It goes to show us what a simple idea can do to help XRP adoption, and what a funded bounty can accomplish for our community.
If you have a suggestion, or would like to contribute some amount of your zerps to the community fund, here is the link to both of those pages:
One of the most popular IP phone applications is Skype.
Their customer base is estimated to be somewhere in the range of one-tenth of the worlds entire population. Yes, you read that correctly. Some estimates have put the user base of Skype in the neighborhood of between 600 and 800 million people. 8
Because of this towering customer reach, a recent suggestion by an XRP community member captured the imagination of many on Twitter:
Not only did David share his idea on Twitter, but he submitted a proposal to Skype about the idea on March 20th, saying:
"Dear Skype, The age of micropayments has come and we need your support.
The era of Internet of Value is knocking at the door. My idea is to implement micropayments in Skype. Allow us to buy SkypeCredits with XRPTipBot, allow us to send micro payments on Skype chat as well."
He continued on, providing a great post with supporting links and data for those at Skype to review, including many amazing facts about Wietse Wind's XRP Tip Bot.
Skype responded, providing this feedback the next day:
"Hi. Thanks for sharing this Idea! Cryptocurrency micropayments sounds really cool right. Like any other leading technology company Microsoft is already testing blockchain.
Although I don’t have any information about cryptocurrency adoption for Skype or any other MS product, please keep continue supporting this Idea. I will share it with our teams.
Note: I’ve edited the title of this Idea little bit so it fits to cryptocurrencies generally."
Skype seems to at least understand the importance of customer feedback and interaction; whether or not this idea will gain traction and result in the integration of micropayment tipping or payments, generally, has yet to be seen, but as a reference point, there have been some mobile-based applications that have chosen to enable crypto payments, such as the LINE messenger app. 9
If Skype enters the micropayment and tipping space, it would undoubtedly have a major impact, just from the numbers comprising its user base.
XRP swag is great for breaking the ice with others; and there have been few online shops as effective at creative marketing as the @CrypToe_Man (Twitter avatar). He specializes in cryptocurrency-related socks, but has a wide variety of merchandise and clothing as well. His latest marketing efforts were hilarious:
The video was a comedic spoof on some of the well-known 'real' communications from each of the named individuals, and garnered much positive feedback from the community.
Another online shop that advertised new XRP swag was @INotoriousxrp (Twitter avatar), who offers a line of clothing through the teespring online marketplace.
Here are the links to both of these online shops if you're interested in purchasing some new XRP clothes:
New Businesses and Exchanges
The past week was packed with exchanges and businesses adding support for XRP. Here is a subset of the amazing pace of activity:
Thanks to @LeoHadjiloizou (Twitter avatar) for providing his consistent tracking and updates on additions to the XRP ecosystem of exchanges and businesses.
Some may not know this, but in addition to his timely tweets about XRP adoption by exchanges and businesses, Leonidas also maintains a site where this content is organized in a fun - and intuitive - fashion.
The site is known as XRP Arcade, and it contains specific areas where you can look through exchange listings, businesses, Ripple customers (sorted into categories), exchange wallets, and recent news items.
Oh, and one more thing: It's Coil-enabled!
The Humble Beginnings of Content Monetization
Many innovations that have become accepted as part of our daily life started out with modest origins, and even struggled to find their user base when they first appeared.
In some cases, the underlying technology itself was not equipped to support what eventually became an unstoppable wave of adoption, as in the case of IP phones. There was a time less than twenty years ago when most of the conversations over telephones involved landline-based systems, colloquially known as 'plain old telephone service.' The first IP phones were built on fresh technology and protocols whose back-end systems had recently been developed and released; but their business model was solid, and relied on reduction of costs to a price point far below that of landline-based services.
The initial release of Skype, a VOIP service provider, website, and application, was in 2003.
It was a small, compact team that released the software, and they were based in Sweden and Denmark, with some of the software components having been created by a team in Estonia.
The service quickly found users who were looking for a lower-cost way to make phone calls over the Internet, and very soon, what was a small idea blossomed into a behemoth whose services were in high-demand. Now its user base can be measured as a significant percentage of the entire population of the Earth.
Could this eventually happen to web content that is a part of the Coil ecosystem? If musicians, artists and authors find a much better reimbursement model for being rewarded, and lead the way with their own creative content, there might be an extraordinary impact for the entire world.
Currently, creative content is channeled through a small handful of FAANG-related companies, but if enough consumers start voting for change by paying a small monthly fee - less than that of Netflix - it could start a vast landslide of adoption for both Coil and its preferred mode of reimbursement; that of XRP, the digital asset.
It's something to contemplate for those of us that own XRP.
What we personally support - whether as part of the creative community of individuals that want to give Coil monetization a try, or as consumers - makes a difference. There is much we can do personally to invigorate the adoption of XRP, and it looks like Coil may be an unexpected door to mainstream use of the fastest, most scalable digital asset for payments.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Tom Chen