XRP is one of the most contentious projects in the digital asset industry. It is one of the oldest projects and largest in terms of network value, trailing only Bitcoin and Ethereum. This contentiousness is a result of differing philosophical beliefs about decentralization and the value of censorship-resistance. The debate can be summed up by the fact that the XRP digital asset was created and continues to be largely maintained by a central organization, Ripple Labs. This structure is in direct opposition to the open source ethos espoused by the cryptocurrency community at large. So, while XRP is technically a cryptocurrency, it is not decentralized like most. We think it is helpful to think of Ripple Labs as an enterprise software company that has developed interfaces and APIs for financial institutions that in some, but not all cases, use the XRP digital asset. Its current product offerings include xCurrent, a financial institution messaging system like SWIFT, xRapid, a real-time payment platform that uses the XRP digital asset, and xVia, an upcoming payments interface that targets emerging markets. Financial institutions that use these assets make up RippleNet, the interconnected network of market participants.
Ripple is a payments protocol and digital token developed by Ripple Labs beginning in 2012. Ripple’s XRP token is powered by a real-time gross settlement system (RTGS) that allows near-instant transaction clearing and settlement. The purpose of the protocol is to provide "secure, instant and nearly free global financial transactions of any size with no chargebacks.” In contrast to purely decentralized networks that rely on miners, the Ripple network is maintained by independent validating servers that reach consensus on the order of transactions being recorded. This protocol design enables consistent confirmation times and transaction throughput, but the project has received criticism for not being fully decentralized. Nevertheless, XRP’s market capitalization has grown exponentially since its inception and the token has consistently ranked in the top ten in terms of both market capitalization and transaction volume. Ripple was tailored for cross-border value transfers between financial institutions and has secured partnerships and investments from noteworthy entities, including CME Group, Google Ventures, Accenture, and Andreessen Horowitz.