What is Ripple?
Ripple is a cryptocurrency that acts primarily as a digital payment network for financial transactions. It came to market in 2012 and by end of 2019, Ripple was the third-largest cryptocurrency by market cap after Bitcoin and Ethereum. It was released by co-founders Chris Larsen and Jed McCaleb of the US-based Ripple Labs Inc.
This relatively new-to-market cryptocurrency company operates in more than 40 countries and provides a digital asset that is primarily used for global payments. In short, Ripple (XRP) offers financial institution partners the fastest means at the lowest cost to make cross-border payments.
The token coin for Ripple is XRP. The company does not ‘own’ XRP and is merely a majority shareholder in the entity. XRP token holders are not dependent on Ripple because XRP is an independent open-source technology.
Third-largest cryptocurrency in the world
Towards the end of 2019, Ripple (XRP) was ranked the third-largest cryptocurrency by market cap of USD13.37 billion. The first and second-largest are Bitcoin (BTC) at USD20 billion and Ethereum (ETH) at USD 24.18 billion.
How does Ripple work?
Ripple uses a common shared ledger which is a distributed database that stores information about all Ripple accounts. RippleNet (the Ripple network) is managed by a network of independent servers that validate transactions on a consensus basis. Payments are irreversible and there are no chargebacks.
A significant benefit of how Ripple works is the network validates accounts and balances instantaneously through the consensus network which requires far less effort and energy (actual utility power). You could say Ripple is the environmentally-friendly alternative to Bitcoin.
Ripple is an open-source and peer-to-peer decentralised platform that facilitates immediate and seamless transactions of both fiat (US$, Euro and Yen etc.) and digital funds (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin etc.). Open source software (OSS) is an example of open collaboration that allows users of an application such as Ripple access to the digital platform and permission to improve the design and original code.
More than just a cryptocurrency, Ripple has proven itself as a trusted digital payment protocol. Typically known as E-Cash, a digital payment system is designed to transact over open networks such as the Internet.
To confirm transactions, Ripple uses a consensus mechanism through a group of services rather than blockchain mining. The benefits of the consensus mechanism is it uses less energy than Bitcoin and transactions are confirmed instantaneously.
Ripple uses a protocol known as Gateway that acts as the link in the chain between two transacting parties. Gateway acts as a financial intermediary which is really a middleman between two parties. In traditional banking, this would be a retail, commercial and investment bank or asset management, mutual and pension funds.
A financial or credit intermediary such as Gateway ensures parties can trust the digital payment protocol because it offers security, liquidity and economies of scale on the same basis as traditional banking protocols. Trust is an essential component of any digital payment protocol.
Gateway acts as a go-between two parties so digital currency can be sent and received securely and instantaneously to a public address across the Ripple network. It’s similar to the SWIFT system used by banks and financial institutions for international and security transactions but transactions happen in seconds rather than days.
What is XRP?
XRP is the digital currency of Ripple. The market use the terms XRP and Ripple interchangeably but for clarity purposes, Ripple is the name of the company and network behind the cryptocurrency and XRP is the cryptocurrency itself.
RippleNet was conceived and developed by its founders and thereafter, adopted XRP as its digital currency. Ripple does not ‘own’ XRP; instead it is invested in it. It’s important to note that Ripple has a massive stake in XRP which was gifted to the company by the open-source developers who created it. RippleNet and XRP are independent of each other.
In short, Ripple uses XRP to facilitate cross-border transactions for its network of financial institutions. It’s the digital alternative to SWIFT that banks can use to send money around the world.
What makes Ripple different to Bitcoin?
The main difference between Ripple and Bitcoin is it’s digital payment protocol. The Ripple network is not reliant on the proof-of-work system like Bitcoin or the proof-of-stake system like Nxt. Instead, Ripple uses a consensus protocol to validate account balances and transactions on the system.
Proof-of-work (POW) is a key component of blockchain technology and core to Bitcoin. It describes a working protocol that involves an excessive amount of effort, utility power and cost to prevent and eliminate criminal elements from attacking or tampering with the system. Proof-of-stake (POS) was created as an alternative to POW and structures compensation in a way that makes the system less risky to attack.
The consensus protocol used by Ripple helps to improve the integrity of the system by preventing double-spending. Individual distributed nodes decide by consensus which transaction was made first. It does this by taking a poll to determine the majority vote.
Confirmations made through the consensus approach are instant (about 5 seconds). The protocol is decentralised, meaning there is not central authority that decides who can set up a node and confirm transactions.
Another key difference between Ripple and Bitcoin is IOU credits and transactions that occur between Ripple wallets are publicly accessible on the Ripple consensus ledger. With Bitcoin, financial transaction history is publicly recorded and made available on the blockchain but the data is not linked to a specific ID or account for an individual or business.
Banks and financial institutions are increasingly partnering with Ripple for global digital transactions. The consensus protocol improves speediness where transactions are settled within seconds on the Ripple network despite the fact that the digital payment platform handles millions of transactions at the same time.
The offshoot of this is the cost Ripple transactions are significantly lower than those of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin who use blockchain technology and the more burdensome POW or POS protocol. It’s also cheaper and quicker than using the SWIFT (wire transfer) protocol employed by banks and financial institutions that take days and even weeks to complete, and incur higher fees.
Is Ripple safe to use?
Cryptocurrencies are in their infancy and traditional banks and central banks continue to warn the world in general against the inherent risks associated with transacting in digital currencies. However, cryptocurrencies appear to be here to stay and Ripple with its XRP technology is gaining traction as a trusted digital payment network.
Bitcoin is leading the virtual currency world as the favoured digital currency for individuals and organisation whereas Ripple is more popular with banks who seemingly value it as the most trusted and cost-effective digital payment system. The company is taking the lead ahead of its competitors within the financial services industry.
Ripple rose to fame in late 2017 when the value of XRP skyrocketed at much the same time as other virtual coins such as Bitcoin. XRP has since pulled back to more realistic levels but has managed to sustain its momentum where other cryptocurrencies have experienced a slow-down their growth.
Ripple sources a significant portion of its income from selling its investment holdings in XRP. A secondary source of income comes from partnership deals with banks and financial institutions that use XRP for money transfers.
At the end of 2019, Ripple operated in over 40 countries and had over 300 financial service customers globally. The company has also signed partnership deals with industry giants such as American Express, MoneyGram and Santander. The Santander Group is a group of retail and commercial banks with over 102 million customers and over 14 000 branches. It’s one of the top five financial brands in the world.
How to trade Ripple?
There are two main ways to trade Ripple:
- buy Ripple on an exchange; hold onto it and sell it for a profit when the time is right
- use leverage trading to speculate on Ripple price movements
The benefit of a leverage trade is you don’t have to put down the full value of your position upfront. This means you can get greater exposure without committing extra capital. The profit and loss made on a Ripple leverage trade is based on the full size of your position.
A contract of difference (CFD) allows you to open leveraged trading positions on any of the major cryptocurrencies, including Ripple, Bitcoin, Ether and Litecoin. With a Ripple CFD, you agree to exchange the difference in price of XRP from the time you open your position to when you close it. You can buy a Ripple CFD to go long or you can sell them to go short.
How to buy Ripple to Rand (XRP) in South Africa?
You need a Ripple wallet to buy and sell Ripple (XRP) in South Africa. A digital wallet also allows you to store XRP and convert fiat money for XRP. You can also buy and sell XRP for Rands at any bank in South Africa that partners with Ripple.
To get a free Ripple wallet:
- Select a reputable exchange, open an account and request a free Ripple wallet. Ripple is required to verify your account before you can begin to transact. For an account to be verified, you need to submit your ID.
Users that have not submitted their ID for verification purposes, may only buy XRP up to the value of R3 000. Users who have submitted their ID may immediately buy XRP up to the value of R15 000.
- Deposit Rands (or any other fiat currency) into your Ripple wallet via an electronic transfer.
Once your account has been verified, you have a Ripple wallet and have transferred funds to it; you can immediately start trading in XRP.
As an alternative, you can buy Ripple using a bank credit card. This allows you to buy Ripple without the waiting period for your funds to be transferred and reflected in your account.
How to send XRP to a Ripple wallet?
You send Ripple (XRP) to another wallet using the Send feature. All you need to do is insert the XRP address and destination tag.
Likewise, you can send yourself XRP from another wallet using the Receive feature in your Ripple wallet. Insert your wallet address and destination tag.
To sell XRP, use the Sell feature in your Ripple wallet. Either type in the amount of XRP in Rands that you want to sell or type the amount of XRP you want to sell and get a quote of how much Rands is required for that amount.
To transfer XRP from your Ripple account to your bank account, add the relevant account number. You do this by selecting the Profile feature.
How to earn free XRP in South Africa?
You can earn free XRP through the Ripple Earn Programme which is set up to offer rewards to people who refer potential users. When a person you have referred Ripple to goes ahead and obtains a wallet and makes his or her first transaction; you automatically receive free XRP. Each promotion is different but you can earn up to 5 XRP for each successful referral.
Is Ripple (XRP) legal in South Africa?
It is legal to trade Ripple and other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum in South Africa. The government has been a bit slow in addressing the legalities of the virtual currency market and for the time being transacting in cryptocurrencies in South Africa is unregulated.
Business Report published an article in November 2018 which highlighted the fact that cryptocurrency trading in South Africa is unregulated and noted the National Treasury had published the draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill for public comment in July 2018.
South Africa is still waiting for the proposed regulations to be put in place but in short, it’s anticipated the likely amendments to the Bill of Treasury may significantly deter the use of cryptocurrency in South Africa as both trading and investment vehicles.
The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has issued a statement noting that cryptocurrency is not regarded as legal tender (real currency) in South Africa and stipulated South African taxpayers are merely required to declare any gains and losses made through cryptocurrency transactions.