Let’s Start by Comparing Leadership among the "Top Three"
Unfortunately for its fans, everything about Bitcoin is decentralized. There is no central authority that indicates where the influence of its impact should be invested. Instead of one coherent strategy for legislative and regulatory change, there is a hodge-podge of individuals, businesses, miner organizations, and other groups that each run in different directions to affect adoption of the currency.
The way that the “open-source” paradigm works for code doesn't translate well into the type of global change necessary for adoption of a new decentralized currency. The Bitcoin fan base mocks cooperation with centralized authority and clings tightly to an idealistic manifesto that specifically thumbs its nose at any governmental interference. For those that haven’t seen it yet, here is an excerpt:
"Accordingly, we believe that every human has the following financial rights which should not be impeded by governments, regulators, financial institutions, or other humans... " 1Now, I'm sure that this manifesto appeals to the college freshman in all of us, but it has resulted in an approach that is disdainful of using traditional political influence or working with financial institutions. As a result, even though nearly ten years has passed since its creation, very little progress has been made to advance Bitcoin as a serious competitor for fiat money.
While crypto-currency is slowly gaining popularity, it has done this in spite of the Bitcoin Foundation's leadership, not because of it.
Vitalik Buterin's creation originally started as a for-profit enterprise run by a company, but it is now a non-profit foundation in the tradition of Bitcoin. 2 While taking cues from Bitcoin to appeal to the idealistic nature of young developers, Ethereum's business world adherents that seek to capitalize on its functionality wasted no time in forming their own organization. 3
Unfortunately, when you have a lot of members who are also direct competitors, asking them to agree to work together towards the same goals can be... problematic.
"If a chain or end use application offers a massive competitive advantage then certain groups may seek to hive off their own separate 'chains' to which they will control access, which is another destabilizing factor." 4The Ethereum Foundation is a step up from the Bitcoin foundation; it has a stack of the core network currency for its own treasury, almost in a nod to the “Ripple model,”, although it’s not on the comparative scale of a large Silicon Valley company. Other than handling the funds related to the Ethereum naming service, there is no year-over-year plan for a revenue stream, unlike a private company. 5
Ripple is the undisputed champion among crypto companies in the category of leadership.
The founders of Ripple knew that there are massive barriers that obstruct technological innovation in banking;
- Existing Legacy Systems
- Governmental Regulations in Different Countries
- Banking Inertia
It's not enough to have the best idea - and Ripple clearly does! A credit-based network with a bridge currency token, combined with a blazingly-fast distributed consensus algorithm. 6 It should sell itself as the best new alternative to the slow-as-molasses transfer of international money.
After all, it's 2017, and it's cheaper and often faster to transport money physically on a plane rather than trying to send it electronically to another country!
Some SWIFT banks, I learned, actually make money on this antiquated approach that can take days. The more those banks can charge fees or increase the float on their ledgers, the more money that they make. This is a direct conflict of interest to upgrading to a better solution.
Pressure on Banks from the BottomBanks will not change their ways unless their customers start demanding more; and they have! New technology companies are starting to perform services that have been traditionally only handled by banks, and banks are now starting to look seriously at the new fintech offerings that can help them retain their existing market share, or even grow it.
Pressure on Banks from the TopGovernments around the world are looking seriously at distributed ledger technology as a means making complex financial transactions more transparent. In addition, they recognize the potential for enhancing the speed of international commerce and payment settlement; the point has been reached where they are demanding that banks make improvements in their technology architecture.
To convince the industry that its technology can reduce costs and dramatically improve settlement speed, without the inherent risks in using unproven technology, Ripple knows it needs to alter the entire banking landscape. It must help governmental and regulatory organizations understand the complex technology and inner workings of distributed systems.
And that's exactly what Ripple is doing ... step by step!
- It's working to help craft meaningful legislation with the U.S. Congress. 7
- It's working with the International Monetary Fund. 8
- It's working with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to create and implement the international standard for inter-ledger communication. 9
- It's working to help draft Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards related to ILP. 10
- It hired two senior SWIFT executives to work for Ripple. 11, 12
It's doing this by listening to the needs of international banking and responding with massively cost-saving technology. In short, Ripple is operating its business with leadership, a trait that is painfully lacking in its crypto-currency competitors.