"Keep calm, and hodl."
Simple advice, but it's difficult to follow on a consistent basis through all of the market gyrations. For those that hold XRP, there is no need to fear; we base our investment decisions not on sloganism and appeals to base instincts, but on measurable performance, adoption progress, and scalability.
And increasingly, with undeniable evidence, XRP is exemplifying what we knew would come to pass, one way or another.
While regulatory uncertainty hampered banking adoption in 2018, the next year is looking much brighter, as Brad Garlinghouse recently hinted. Digital asset advocates the world over have taken up the cause, and are supporting the push for adoption at all levels of government, especially in the global thought centers that set the trends for the entire world. The G20 has turned its attention to digital assets. The IMF is pushing central banks to play a more active role in the research and actual use of crypto-assets, from a standpoint of both central-bank-digital-currencies (CBDCs) and as a means of inter-bank value transfer.
Representatives from various nations have reminded their legislators and leaders that it's past time for a globally-scoped, clear taxonomy and treatment of crypto-assets. Clear rules-of-the-road are now under consideration by most of the major economic superpowers.
When that clarity is obtained, there is one crypto-asset primed for immediate use.
Since mid-summer of 2018, XRP's market share has grown by over 50%, we've taken the second spot from Ethereum, and now we've set our sights with steely determination on the number one spot in crypto. 1 2 The fan base for XRP keeps growing, with Uphold and other exchanges indicating that the vast majority of their trades are XRP-related, and that investors are clamoring for the cryptocurrency which has now been adopted by remittance processors and other companies. 3
Ripple has indicated that Xpring initiatives - those investments designed to supercharge the short-term liquidity for XRP - are just getting started. And other massive use cases, projects, and exchanges are waiting in the wings for their debut into the XRP ecosystem, including Coil, ILP projects, and SBI active trading. The biggest use case, represented most powerfully by Ripple's xRapid product, is well underway, and now with US regulatory clarity imminent, it's all about 'when' not 'if' XRP will be used by major Western banks.
We have now swelled to the fastest-growing, largest crypto community on social media, no matter how much the proof-of-work public relations machine wishes it were not so. They've taken notice, and are clearly frustrated by their inability to fool the average investor with the same negative misinformation that seemed to provide traction for them previously.
Instead, we've successfully countered those negative messages, and now XRP is sounding the clarion call to the entire cryptomarket, signaling that the way forward is to respect true technological innovation rather than stay locked in the past.
For new investors in the cryptomarket, the choice is clear, and it is increasingly XRP.
General Crypto News
In the United States, it's always notable when the two major parties set aside their differences to draft meaningful legislation whose goal it is to advance the interests of the entire American people, rather than cater to one specific constituency.
Such was the case with the press release on December 6th, 2018, when Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL-09) along with Ted Budd (R-NC-13), introduced two pieces of legislation regarding what they're terming 'virtual currencies.' 4 The legislation introduced to the House of Representatives is said to have two main focal points: 5
"The Virtual Currency Consumer Protection Act, directs the CFTC to describe aspects of how price manipulation could happen in virtual markets and then to make recommendations for regulatory changes that can improve the CFTC’s monitoring procedures in preventing price manipulation.
The U.S. Virtual Currency Market and Regulatory Competitiveness Act of 2018 directs the CFTC to conduct a comparative study of the regulation of virtual currency in other countries and then make recommendations for regulatory changes to promote competitiveness in the U.S. in the industry by providing regulatory clarity and examining alternatives for current burdensome regulations that may inhibit innovation. For examples, it asks the CFTC to clarify the virtual currencies that qualify as commodities and examine the costs and benefits of a new, optional regulatory structure that could replace the current state money transmission system."
This last part is a nod to many crypto-assets that have been thirsty for some type of assurance from US regulators about the status of specific crypto networks and their associated assets; for XRP, this designation and clarity could be the strongest case for a route to a clear taxonomy in the U.S. With regulatory clarity incoming, and banks impatiently waiting for that step, it's good to see some legislators taking the reins to provide leadership.
The bill seems to hint at a taxonomy scheme that can be driven by pronouncements by the CFTC directly; my guess is that it may fall to this department, instead of the SEC, to determine the current legal status of a specific cryptocurrency.
CNBC went a step further in their analysis, and indicated that the new legislation seemed to indicate that a pivotal consideration in the new taxonomy would be when: 6
"... they become a fully functioning network."
This reference is, of course, pointed squarely at the trend set by coin offerings on Ethereum, where a new cryptocurrency may be purchased and sold even prior to its 'main-net' coming online.
It's a concept those dabbling in ICOs are long familiar with.
In addition to the clarification of the taxonomy, the bill(s) also seek to clarify taxation of transactions. The same CNBC article claimed that the new legislation would accomplish the following from a tax perspective:
"Thursday's bill also directs the IRS to adjust taxation of virtual currencies, create a tax exemption for exchanges of one virtual currency for another and to create a de minimis exemption from taxation for gains realized from the sale or exchange of virtual currency."
This last part, of course, is a welcome relief to those traders in the United States that try to 'play the waves' by exchanging one cryptocurrency for another, but then are hit with capital gains tax. If the CNBC interpretation of this new legislation is correct, then it means that crypto trading could receive a significant boost in future years as some trades become more profitable.
It also clears the way for banks and financial institutions to know for certain how the regulatory treatment will work in the United States.
I'm guessing that most XRP owners will be very supportive of this new legislation.
Ripple held its last AMA of 2018 on Tuesday, December 18th, with Monica Long interviewing Brad Garlinghouse in Ripple's San Francisco headquarters:
It proceeded in conformance to the precedents set in prior AMA sessions, with commentary inspired by the questions submitted in response to Ripple's announcement tweet. Brad Garlinghouse commented about ICOs, Bitcoin ETFs, predictions for 2019, and specifically made a prediction that banks would 'hold' crypto-assets by the end of 2019.
At about the 4:30 mark, Monica Long asked Brad the question:
Question (Monica Long): "Second big topic on your mind, as 2018 winds down, is regulation. Big in the news are regulatory topics; what's on your mind?"
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "Well, I think we definitely saw increased regulatory uncertainty here in the United States, but increased regulatory clarity in other markets around the world. Ripple's a very global company, and the XRP ecosystem is very global inherently. So, you're seeing markets like Abu Dhabi and the UK, Singapore, and Thailand, and the central banks, and the regulatory markets in those countries provide clarity around regulatory frameworks to engage. Japan would be another country that I'd highlight.
The US hasn't had as much regulatory clarity early in the year. I think it was May or June that the SEC came out and said "Bitcoin is not a security." And shortly thereafter said "Ether is not a security." But then (they) kind of remained silent. I think they looked at those two because, at the time, they were the top two market cap - at least according to Coinmarketcap (coinmarketcap.com) - and then they've gone after people at the other end of the spectrum that are bad actors.
But I think that has created some uncertainty in the United States; and having been here in Silicon Valley at the early days of the Internet, the clarity and constructive engagement from the US government is one of the reasons you saw a lot of development and investment in the earliest days of the Internet.
I think if we want to see that in the blockchain ecosystem, we're going to need to get more clarity from the SEC. I think they've said that they intend to make more statements about that in the new year, which we're looking forward to."
This statement hinted at how lack of regulatory clarity about XRP and many other crypto-assets has hurt the willingness of mainstream businesses, banks, and remittance processors to purchase XRP on a wholesale basis, which Brad Garlinghouse confirmed in another part of the AMA.
He also provided an update on the growth of RippleNet. Here are some bullet-point statistics that he communicated in the AMA:
- Ripple is now at 300 employees
- Ripple is signing up, on average, two production contracts per week
- 2018 will probably top out at roughly 100 new contracts total
- 40 countries served / 6 continents worldwide
Monica Long then asked an insightful question about how the company scales its team growth, which spoke to how important that topic is viewed for quickly-expanding technology companies.
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "There's people that got ahead of themselves. You're seeing projects shut down; you're seeing layoffs; it has been important to me that we have taken a measured approach to our growth.
I did live through the dotcom and the winter that followed. It was a really difficult time. It informed how I thought about how we grow Ripple. And I think we've done that at a pace of growth which is commensurate with our growth of customers; with our growth of volume.
So it's put us in a really strong position as we wrap 2018, in terms of the size of the network, and the value of the network is ... Metcalf's Law; the square of the nodes on the network. So we will finish the year in a really strong financial position; in a really strong product position; and I'm pretty psyched."
The main topic that most people were interested in was the progress of adoption of xRapid, Ripple's liquidity sourcing solution that is marketed towards financial institutions and banks. xRapid uses XRP for settlement, so it's one of the specific Ripple solutions that XRP holders listen closely for in these types of presentations.
To address the topic, both Monica Long and Brad Garlinghouse gave a shout out to me, personally, which was an awesome and gracious move, despite the fact that my question was one of (dozens?) on that topic. Here is what Brad Garlinghouse had to say about xRapid adoption, and how those XRP holders that are curious could track the volume:
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "... in October, we announced three production contracts. Customers using xRapid - including Catalyst. Catalyst is an aggregation of 1,400 banks - credit unions, more precisely - credit unions ... that can use xRapid to source liquidity into Mexico; the Mexican Peso.
Part of the question was also about where ... how could people look at signals ... that there's something happening there?
I think that we've publicly shared that we're working with four different digital asset exchanges with xRapid, and I can name them all: Bitso, Coins.ph, Bittrex, and a fourth one that I can't remember right this very second..."
Monica Long: "Bitstamp."
Answer (Brad Garlinghouse): "Bitstamp! That's right, yes. Sorry Bistamp: We like those guys."
It was the logical, rational answer that I expected: Ripple cannot divulge any proprietary details about transactions or where to look for them, and that's probably for the best; in addition, he reminded viewers that xRapid use is still in its early days, and that it would be a marathon, also noting that "We are so far ahead of the competition," which is also quite evident when you look at other sponsoring organizations that are attempting to obtain mainstream financial use of other crypto-assets.
The other points of information that he hinted at included the fact that Ripple would be partnering with other digital asset exchanges, and that those announcements would be made when their partners and customers are comfortable with divulging those details.
Brad Garlinghouse also talked about the financial products that are being 'built on Ripple' and mentioned a few in particular, including MoneyTap (SBI), SpeedSend (CIMB), and OnePay FX (Santander). He also mentioned that using Ripple tech will allow these services to reduce fees, and he's looking forward to when the competition among these providers leads to that outcome.
When asked about 'other use cases,' he talked about Xpring a bit, highlighting how these externally-sourced projects funded by Ripple might naturally grow the XRP ecosystem, and hinted that there would be more of those Xpring projects forthcoming in 2019.
To wrap up the AMA, he also touched on decentralization, and how Ripple has set a standard for transparency of its dealings with the cryptomarket and XRP ... and that Brad Garlinghouse prefers a bagel and coffee to start his day!
New Ripple Video
In the two days after Brad Garlinghouse's AMA session, Ripple released two copies of the same video in quick succession on YouTube. The video ended with the theme "Bring on the new year!" which was a nod to the Holiday season, as well as Ripple's optimistic outlook for 2019:
From my standpoint, this video methodically re-articulated the high points from Brad Garlinghouse's AMA session, focusing on many of the themes and information in bullet-point fashion throughout the soundless video. It was a good summation of the AMA and focused on the progress Ripple had made in different markets and with different partners. In the YouTube description, Ripple wrote:
"Despite some challenges for the industry, this year has brought with it progress on a number of fronts - a convergence of factors - that Ripple believes will set the stage for broad adoption of blockchain and digital assets in 2019."
I think the video is a valuable resource that accurately depicts the progress that the company is making along all fronts, and serves as a companion piece to their AMA content.
New Submission to Federal Reserve
Most XRP researchers are familiar with the 2017 Federal Reserve Faster Payments Task Force and its summary opinion on the submissions that took place from a large number of corporate and banking organizations; Ripple was one of those, and its submission received high marks specifically on its strength of cross-border settlement, arguably the most complex part of the settlement process.
This year, approximately two months ago, the Federal Reserve requested another submission. The request stated: 7
"... the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board) is seeking input on potential actions that the Federal Reserve could take to promote ubiquitous, safe, and efficient faster payments in the United States by facilitating real-time interbank settlement of faster payments.
While the Board is not committing to any specific actions, potential actions include the Federal Reserve Banks developing a service for 24x7x365 real-time interbank settlement of faster payments; and a liquidity management tool that would enable transfers between Federal Reserve accounts on a 24x7x365 basis to support services for real-time interbank settlement of faster payments, whether those services are provided by the private sector or the Federal Reserve Banks.
The Board is seeking input on whether these actions, separately or in combination, or alternative approaches, would help achieve ubiquitous, nationwide access to safe and efficient faster payments."
Ripple submitted their own response as well on December 13th. The format of the response was a basic question-and-answer type of submission. For each question, Ripple provided its perspective, and I was struck by how thoughtful and careful Ripple's responses appeared when compared to what I'm used to seeing in professional services proposals. 10
Here is a sampling:
Question: "Will there be sufficient demand for faster payments to support the development of this service?"
Answer (Ripple): "Yes, we see sufficient and growing demand for faster payment solutions both in the domestic and cross-border setting."
Question: "What adjustments would the industry and its customers need to make to operate in a 24X7X365 environment?"
Answer (Ripple): "The single biggest impact would be on the financial institutions that currently operate batch transaction processing of core ledger systems only on business days. A real-time 24X7X365 'stand-in' capability or migration to a real-time core ledger would be options to consider.
The industry should continue to advance fraud detection and mitigation capabilities, that operate in real-time, to maintain the integrity and confidence in our payment systems while minimizing risks and losses.
SME and corporate accounting systems, that operate via batching of transactions today, would need to feed in single transactions and respond similarly to get significant benefits from such a service. Retail customers, already used to apps on mobile phones for a variety of online activities, would likely adapt the fastest to the new real-time and always available service."
Question: "How critical is interoperability between RTGS services for faster payments to achieving ubiquity?"
Answer (Ripple): "Interoperability is critical to ubiquity, adoption and the ultimate success of new payment infrastructures. Enabling interoperability with the delivery of 'atomic transactions,' i.e., a debit to the sender's account is accompanied by a credit to the beneficiary's account, even via intermediaries, is essential. While interoperability across domestic RTGS systems is easier to imagine, customers will demand such Faster Payments to be offered even across borders. So 'atomic transactions' across RTGS systems in different countries will offer significant value, to both retail and corporate customers. Such interoperability is possible today, as already demonstrated in cross-border settlements using the open-source Interledger Protocol (see www.interledger.org)."
The remaining parts of Ripple's submission had to do with responding to specific questions about the "Potential Liquidity Management Tool," which is how the Federal Reserve is describing the new software to be used as a solution. The document then referred reviewers to Dilip Rao, Ryan Zagone, or Pat Thelen for further information.
It's apparent that the Federal Reserve is now moving inexorably towards a new replacement for batch processing, and it's doing it in a careful way where the best technology can be selected. Its first foray into the topic of faster payments in 2017 resulted in a final decision to 'let the market decide,' almost indicating a preference to wait and see which existing payments system ended up gaining the most traction in private industry before considering one for use in its own infrastructure.
In this instance, I get the feeling that the Federal Reserve is desiring to 'future proof' its solution before selecting one, making sure that whatever is chosen for Federal Reserve interbank transfers can keep up with the demands of real-time settlement.
I can think of no better technology that's proven its mettle than those innovations involved in RippleNet, which is in the process of methodically taking over where SWIFT left off.
Cory Johnson, the Chief Market Strategist for Ripple, recently attended a conference known as "Slush." Slush sponsors multiple conferences throughout the year, and this one happened to be headquartered in Singapore, in September. Yes, it's a bit dated, but Cory Johnson's presentation is still worth watching.
The title of his presentation was "Leveraging Blockchain to Transform Global Payments," and he did a fantastic job of covering all of Ripple's software offerings in the time span for his speech, methodically moving from one topic to another in logical succession, building on the foundation concepts first:
He was in rare form, and moved from topic to topic, emphasizing the important points of each one with ease, tying them to intuitive examples that audience members could easily comprehend.
Not only was it a great presentation for those attendees of Slush Singapore, but the video excerpt published by @BankXRP (Twitter avatar) on December 19th is now available to share with others that may need a fifteen-minute elevator pitch for friends or relatives looking to learn more about XRP.
If you're an XRP holder, and want to create an escrow to be released at some point in the future - much like how Ripple has placed the majority of all XRP in existence into escrow - you can now do that!
While anybody that has knowledge of how to submit a transaction via official XRP API calls have been able to do that since the escrow was made a native feature of the XRP Ledger, it's nice to have a smooth graphical user interface. There are several options for those wishing to have a nice user interface, and it includes the XRP Tip Bot, which now allows users to withdraw using an escrow function, where they specify a date and a wallet.
In addition to the XRP Tip Bot, users now have another choice for creating an escrow for free: The XRP Toolkit, a popular online wallet service for XRP holders, has added support for escrow creation:
He included a quick video with the tweet that demonstrates how to use the XRP Toolkit to create the escrow; a user indicates a date and time, a wallet address, and then hits 'Create Escrow,' receiving a confirmation message as the final step. RareData indicated that the function is still considered 'in beta.' 11
It's an easy way to cryptographically lock a specific amount of XRP for the future, and the XRP Toolkit is free to use for the public. It can be found here: XRP Toolkit
Coinfield is a large Canadian exchange that added XRP support in September of this year. It was notable for its direct fiat pairing to the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is an important addition to XRP's international reach.
On December 18th, the exchange publicly announced that they'd be adding multiple pairings to XRP, effectively making it yet another exchange that is treating XRP as one of its 'base' currencies:
This decision and move makes strategic sense for most exchanges, given the level of XRP's rising global popularity; the speed of XRP is another consideration by exchanges as well. XRP allows users to move value into and out of the exchange faster than any other decentralized cryptocurrency, settling in roughly three seconds.
I applaud Coinfield for their decision, and hope that the move adds material levels of volume to both CoinField and XRP, and creates additional value for the larger cryptomarket.
XRP Will Prevail
The world is changing.
We're now seeing the entire globe pause in its rotation and study the innovations that have made decentralized, no-counter-party digital assets possible. This in itself is something that we all knew would come to pass, and if you own cryptocurrency at this very moment, you are an 'early adopter' to the space, and had the foresight to recognize this fast-moving trend.
Global business is rightfully skeptical of some of the original blockchain technology represented by Bitcoin and other proof-of-work tokens, but is now being educated that 'cryptocurrency' is not represented by the Model T of cryptos.
When it comes to which crypto-asset boasts the best metrics: Speed, scalability, security, and decentralization, there is one stand-out that is inescapable, and even though it's currently second to the first mover, Bitcoin, the world is now waking up to the notion that the 'first try' at this technology was definitely not the best. They've shown a willingness to recognize that the environment-killing proof-of-work tokens like Bitcoin are not the future, and simply cannot scale to meet the needs of global commerce.
As we head into the holidays here in the West, surrounded by family and friends, it's best to put the constant din of crypto discussions to the background and focus on the most important things in life.
But when your batteries are re-charged, just know that the battle for XRP adoption goes on, and will require you to continue to play an active role, and to make your voice heard; whether it's on social media, on YouTube, on a blogging site, or via whatever creative talent you possess, be courageous enough to say what you think.
I'm not worried about what you have to say, because from what I've seen, the most thoughtful investors in crypto are clearly gravitating in one direction.
Sources and Credits:
Cover Art: Thank you to Nghia Le