There is one unavoidable truth that was learned in the past few days; real utility of a crypto-asset will impact its value.
Even those segments of the market purely driven by unhindered emotion have begun to acknowledge the importance of the long-term viability of the underlying asset being traded. Pure speculation and first mover advantage is not enough, and are now showing a profound lack of investor confidence - as they should. The only question for me is why it took this long for the market to wake up to the self-indulgent, shrill cries of those seeking to play a protectionist role for outmoded technology.
The circular logic of some that would seek to defend proof-of-work's energy-draining nature reminds me of SWIFT's defense of its incremental improvements on its multi-day service levels for international transfers.
For those of us that have already swiveled to the new consensus models of transaction validation, however, it's not enough to rest on the promise of this new technology; the focus on 'future' adoption has also shown its weakness. It is no longer enough for those of us in the XRP Community to talk about how large the pending utility is for XRP; we must focus on the here-and-now, and track our adoption progress in real-time.
This stalwart honesty has become synonymous with those in the XRP community, and also sets a progressive example for what is expected of future cryptocurrencies that wish to capture a substantial market share of trading; the utility of the underlying digital asset must be plain to see, and must be something that is supported and championed by one or more large institutions. In the case of XRP, that use case, as Brad Garlinghouse puts it, is payments.
And no matter which company, team, bank, or individual is building on XRP, it is that central, core strength that is its value proposition for the market; it was specifically created for - and continues to be updated to be the strongest in - handling payments. Whether using its streaming capabilities to scale up to global transaction levels for micropayments, or handling settlement via its bridging features, XRP is poised to enhance global liquidity by bringing the cost of cross-border payments to their lowest level in history.
And it is this type of real utility on which we must focus as the crypto market continues to re-order itself.
TechCrunch sponsors a number of crypto conferences around the world each year, in addition to fintech and other general technology events. Their latest conference, TechCrunch Shenzhen, takes place in Shenzhen, China, and its focus is listed as follows: 1
"TechCrunch is hosting TC Shenzhen this November, a four day conference, startup competition, VC meetup and Startup Alley where hundreds of early stage startups will demo their products and services."
The conference ran from November 17th through 20th, and Emi Yoshikawa, Senior Director of Joint Venture Partnerships, was there, participating in a fireside chat titled "Blockchain and the Payment Revolution." 2 No video has yet been released from the conference; however, Ripple highlighted one quote from Emi Yoshikawa:
The comment was an interesting one to highlight, and I think it shows that the one missing puzzle piece to overwhelming global adoption of digital assets is a clear, internationally-scoped taxonomy of regulatory treatment. Some analysts seem to focus on one country or another, and may lose sight of the fact that the technology itself points to an approach that spans across borders. This lack of regulatory clarity is one of the last remaining obstacles - no matter how insubstantial given platform use - that may obstruct widespread adoption.
While Ripple technology will continue to be adopted regardless of this uncertainty - its solutions are agnostic when it comes to settlement currency - it would very much like to see greater use of XRP for a means of settlement. Its own holdings of XRP notwithstanding, the usage of a digital asset will allow banks, remittance processors, and corporates to achieve a much higher level of cost savings.
Ripple's focus on regulatory clarity has been a consistent drumbeat heard from its executives at conferences, in interviews, and through social media and blogs.
BBVA and Santander Join International Association for Blockchain Applications
In April of this year, 27 European countries decided to join together to create the "European Blockchain Partnership." It was an organization formed to look at developments in the blockchain space, and determine what impact they have on the European Union, as well as to determine if the European Union should take steps to promote or handle the new technology in certain ways. 3
Recently, on November 22nd, the group formally announced the creation of the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (IATBA), which would be comprised of European banks and other stakeholder organizations that would benefit from regulatory clarity around blockchain technology.
The first two banks to be publicly announced as members of the organization included BBVA and Banco Santander, both high-profile customers of Ripple. 4
Here's what BBVA said in its press release on the topic: 5
"... this association will work to promote the interoperability of these technologies, develop intra-sectorial guidelines and protocols, promote EU standards around the world and provide information for the implementation of a European strategy for 'blockchain.' Based on the debate between leaders of the private industry and the public sphere, the association could be legally established in the first quarter of 2019."
My guess is that the reference to "intra-sectorial guidelines" (translated automatically from the original text) is referring to the need for regulatory clarity, which I fully agree with. If the EU can benefit from this group's consistent treatment of a common taxonomy, hopefully the US and the UK will also follow suit and develop consistent guidelines.
The Bahrain Fintech Bay was created in late 2017 as a result of a collaboration between the Bahrain Economic Development Board (“EDB”) and FinTech Consortium (“FTC”). 11
It's an extraordinary commitment from the government of Bahrain to stake a claim as a major player in the new fintech space created by blockchain technology. The organization is not merely window dressing, but instead represents a substantial investment in both physical office space for the hub - estimated to be around 10,000 square feet - and also a myriad of digital resources, publications, research, and conferences. 12
They also sponsor conferences and speaking events, including one that recently took place in Manama, Bahrain, called "BlockOn."
According to its own website, the conference focuses on: 13
"... one day of inspiring talks, new demos and interactive networking to over 300 attendees from the Blockchain community with a uniquely designed itinerary. Blockchain enthusiasts of diverse backgrounds will find engagement in topics such as collaboration, competition, culture and regulation on Blockchain."
Navin Gupta, Ripple's Managing Director for India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa was there, participating in a fireside chat titled "Ripple Distributed Ledger Technology in Blockchain (begins around 1:58):" 14
At one point, Navin Gupta is asked "What is so special about Ripple, when you compare it to SWIFT?" Here is part of his answer:
"Most of the time, your experience (in using SWIFT) ranges from 'terrible' to 'just okay.'
Ripple wants to transform that experience ...
Why do we love 'WhatsApp?' ...at any given point, you know where your information is ... that's exactly the first thing that we bring to banking; that is, even before there's a debit that happens to your account, we send the information to say 'here's the name; here's the account number; what is the FX rate for this transaction; what will be the fee that will be charged to this transaction; and can you complete all your AML checks; and this all happens even before a debit happens to your account ...
This is the bi-directional messaging just like WhatsApp - but between the two banks."
This nuts-and-bolts explanation is a good way to introduce newcomers to the shocking limitations of SWIFT, and how Ripple plans to transfer value as fast as a text message. It was a spot-on analogy that gets to the heart of what Ripple's value proposition is for banks.
Sometimes I wonder what it is that sets WietseWind's projects apart from some others that I've seen; he seems to understand the dynamic potential of the XRP Ledger in an intuitive fashion that supports user-friendly applications, the most notable of which is the XRP Tip Bot.
The XRP Tip Bot began in 2017 and quickly grew in popularity across multiple social media platforms, and then after @baltazar223 and @ThisIsTriss joined his team in October, he released a mobile version of the XRP Tip Bot with enhanced features, including a recent upgrade that allows users to generate 'Paper Gift Wallets.'
These paper gift wallets are essentially empty XRP Tip Bot accounts that can be funded by anybody - normally the person giving the gift wallet will fund it to start things out - and once logged in, the new user can withdraw that XRP or else use it for future tips. To learn more about how this process works, you can access: XRP Tip Bot Paper Gift Wallet Instructions.
The number of people creating paper wallets has grown quickly, and recently, an enterprising entrepreneur named @sleone_76 (Twitter avatar) decided to expand his XRP memorabilia business to include 'custom-printed' XRP Tip Bot paper gift wallets:
Sleone was previously known as a memorabilia shop owner that specialized in stickers and printing QR codes for XRP fans, and this extension of his offerings is a fun way to jazz up the paper gift wallets, which in my view makes a perfect holiday gift.
Sleone indicated that he is originally from Italy, but now resides in Germany, working as an IT director for a private company. He was drawn into crypto in November of 2017, and became a more active part of the XRP social media community in early 2018; after organizing some raffles and sticker giveaways, he was asked by XRP Community members if he would consider selling stickers.
After meeting with WietseWind in person, he was inspired to sell his wares in combination with the XRP Tip Bot's functions.
When I asked Sleone about what is his best selling item, he indicated it was the new customized XRP Tip Bot paper gift wallets. I also asked him if he had a quote that he wished to share, and he replied with a mysterious comment - perhaps about the future of XRP:
"Very, very soon." He replied. His assessment resonated with me.
It's great to see new products in the XRP ecosystem that may lead to more XRP fans and, generally, more crypto-aware friends and family.
XRParrot Statistics Update
XRParrot is a service created by the XRP's most famous developer, WietseWind, to conveniently help XRP purchasers convert their Euros stored in their bank account into XRP, using competitive exchange rates in the XRP Ledger's decentralized exchange (DEX).
For users, it's a convenient service that they can use for a one-time transfer, or a periodic withdrawal to slowly build up their XRP holdings.
XRParrot went live less than a week ago, and I reported on its estimated volume in my most recent blog. Those numbers only reflected a weekend transfer, and recently, XRParrot's creator, WietseWind, issued the following tweet with the results of XRParrot's first three business days:
This is a phenomenal amount of XRP purchased through the XRParrot application, and it benefits both WietseWind's team, and also the Gatehub exchange that partnered with him to make the application work 'under the hood.'
XRP enthusiasts can choose any exchange to obtain their XRP, but for those in Europe, I would strongly suggest considering XRParrot, due to its competitive fees and convenience; but even more importantly, it indirectly supports WietseWind's efforts at building other fantastic applications. Using XRParrot is a win-win for European XRP Community members.
The Bitkub exchange is a new exchange headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand. 6 They support crypto trading directly against the Thai Baht (THB), and on November 20th, they announced that they'd be adding XRP support:
Bitkub follows two other Thailand-based exchanges to recently add XRP support, including TDAX and BX Thailand. Bitkub may be a smaller exchange at present, but adding XRP may serve to help expand their customer base. 7
For those that already own XRP, it's good to have even deeper liquidity for the XRP-THB corridor.
XCH4NGE is a new, London-based, peer-to-peer (P2P) trade platform that connects crypto traders together in a decentralized fashion, using an escrow model of trading. Their official account on XRP Chat indicated that the exchange is in the process of obtaining their Electronic Money Institution License (EMI) from the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and is already listed as a member of the UK's Electronic Money Association. 8
The exchange started out with an XRP giveaway to help promote the site. 9 The team indicated to me over direct message that they currently only support UK customers, but are aiming to expand into Europe in 2019.
And, while their site contains pictures of a mobile application, they haven't yet rolled it out, and are working on solidifying their online platform before creating a mobile version of their P2P exchange; however, that is their goal.
In a follow-up with them over Twitter, I asked XCH4NGE what they feel are important distinguishing characteristics of their service in comparison to earlier P2P crypto platforms. They provided a number of points, including the following:
"At XCH4NGE, we try to provide as much value as possible for our users. We do this through a number of ways, but these are some of the main advantages for using XCH4NGE as your fiat ramp. The first thing you have to consider is the value of eliminating your KYC responsibilities.
If an investigation were to be opened into your transactions because you did business with a money launderer, saying that you looked at a selfie with their passport will not hold water.
We eliminate this risk for our users by verifying individuals to the same standards as a banking institution, employing a dedicated, experienced compliance team to ensure your trading safety. Not only does this save you time (and therefore money), it means that you have zero liability for potential bad actors."
As the market matures, trading platforms are evolving to reflect compliance with widely-accepted regulatory requirements.
I think it's exciting to have another option for P2P exchanging of crypto, and P2P exchanges serve as a reminder of the possibility of disintermediation of specific slices of retail services in the years ahead. While I don't think mobile banking will be replaced completely by direct P2P services, I can see a material percentage of market share being claimed by these types of applications in the future.
Graphics by Stedas
You may have noticed his graphics on Twitter occasionally, and, piecemeal-wise, they are very impressive. Every once in a while, I'd stop and really delve into these creations by @stedas (Twitter avatar) and then decide to retweet them with enthusiasm. Over time, I've lost track of how many of these I've seen, retweeted, or regrettably, missed altogether.
Well, if you're in the same boat, and you'd like to see all of his graphics in one place, organized in a way that allows you to quickly pick out some great visual summaries to share with others, he has you covered: On November 21st, he announced on XRP Chat that he's curated all of his graphics in one location:
Stedas has generously given permission for anybody in the XRP Community to share the graphics with others; I really appreciate the incredible amount of work that went into his creations, and how effectively his 'pictures' can be worth a thousand words. Thank you @stedas!
Liquidity Statistics for the XRP Ledger
The term 'liquidity' often confuses new market analysts and amateur crypto traders: For those looking for a quick and easy way to define it, liquidity refers to: 10
"... the degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought or sold in the market without affecting the asset's price."
It also refers to the speed with which an asset can be converted into value measured in another denomination - i.e., 'sold for cash.' And in the cryptomarket, it refers to the number of entry and exit points into the market itself, often related to the number of worldwide exchanges that support trading of a particular currency pairing. Liquidity is also directly and positively impacted by trading volume of a particular cryptocurrency.
Baseline liquidity is difficult to measure for a cryptocurrency, because volume is affected on a daily basis by sudden rallies and crashes.
This challenge - how to measure and arrive at baseline liquidity - is important for the XRP Community, because we have a limited number of tools with which to track adoption of XRP. XRP's ultimate value lies in its use as a bridge asset, not in its popularity as a speculative investment. But on its journey to being used as a global bridge currency, speculative demand will necessarily play a role that results in steadily-rising baseline liquidity.
An XRP Community member, @tenitoshi (Twitter avatar), believes that he's identified a method for deducing baseline liquidity, and identifying short-and-long-term trends:
@tenitoshi believes that XRP's baseline liquidity has been steadily increasing of late, which anecdotal evidence seems to support, in addition to the observations of other amateur analysts and XRP Community members.
When judging the efficacy of mathematical models, it's important to work through the approach yourself, and determine if you understand the assumptions and variables involved, especially before basing any investment decisions on that model. From my read-through of his approach, his analysis seems logical and insightful; I recommend that readers take a look and determine for themselves if they agree with his conclusions.
Utility versus Speculation
The crypto market, like all new markets, is changing. Until now, its evolution away from speculation-fueled trading has lagged behind the creation of modern consensus validation crypto-assets, but it is catching up quickly at the end of 2018.
I predict that, going forward, the utility of an underlying crypto-asset is going to be the deciding factor in its market valuation, instead of the fading ability of a small minority of large investors to obstruct accurate information about blockchain technology.
XRP is not a cryptocurrency that is complacent to rest on its current speculative demand: its value rests on its myriad use cases, including the primary one it was created for - that of bridge asset.
In addition to that trillion-dollar utility, XRP has also been chosen to be a default settlement currency for Codius, the XRP ecosystem's smart contract hosting solution. Its native ability to handle payment channels sets it apart from older networks like Bitcoin that must layer separate software on top of flawed original code.
Micropayments is an untapped new market, where some early entrants are finding purchase with content creators that have consistently been playing on an uneven field with large Silicon Valley behemoths such as Amazon. Coil, another company 'building on XRP,' hopes to change all that with its Web Monetization ... which uses XRP for payment.
'Sharing economy' applications that wish to quickly scale to global levels and avoid having to build out a new payments infrastructure may find that allowing customers to cash out in XRP will bring in new participants: Omni, one of those aforementioned companies, is doing just that.
And the XRP Community is not waiting until some future date to deploy new applications that use XRP, either; I've lost count of how many new sites have sprung up that are offering wallets, ledger business functions, or viral applications that serve to rally social media excitement around XRP.
The team headed up by WietseWind comprises three of the most knowledgeable and talented developers that XRP has ever seen; and thus far, their applications have shown a strange and almost spooky ability to 'go viral,' including a profitable automatic trading engine called XRParrot. And of course the XRP Tip Bot is now a 'household' name, as long as that household knows anything about cryptocurrency.
When it comes to real utility, real traction, a real user base, and a real community supporting its adoption, XRP is signaling that it needs to lead the crypto market to its new future; one in which a sustainable, fast, and scalable digital asset shows how crypto-assets can change the world for good.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Ethan Weil