Ripple Labs, Inc. is currently heavily involved in decentralization. Stung by criticism that XRP is a centralized currency and the very real risk that an ongoing lawsuit could cause it to rule a security, Ripple has gone on the offensive. In his recent efforts to disambiguate the company and rip the coin, Chief Technology Officer David Schwartz wrote a memoir on “The Inherently Decentralized Nature of XRP Ledger.” It makes some bold claims.
Also Read: Ripple Would Like People To Stop Calling Its Coin “Ripple”
Ripple: more decentralized than Bitcoin and Ethereum?
Decentralization has become a kind of stick for cryptocurrency purists to use to poke each other on. Since the SEC declared that Ethereum is not a security because it is now “sufficiently decentralized,” other altcoin projects have found a way out. Achieving the Holy Grail of full decentralization, the theory goes, should allow one to avoid criticism from regulators. Ripple has been studied particularly closely in this regard, as the majority of all Ripple coins are owned by the company. While it has made efforts to pay these off through business partnerships and charitable initiatives, it could be decades before Ripple owns a minority stake in its coin.
Ripple believes that BTC and ETH will be increasingly centralized
It is believed that the billions of XRP in Ripple’s vaults and the possibility that this could view the cryptocurrency as collateral is a key factor in Coinbase’s refusal to list the token. Paired with the current one Class action that should decide whether or not Ripple is a security, and the company has every reason to push the decentralization narrative forward. “The inherently decentralized nature of the XRP ledger” is a provocatively named piece by Ripple’s CTO, who established the separation of Coin and Company. In it he claims:
As Bitcoin and Ethereum become more and more central over time, the XRP ledger is becoming more decentralized.
The quest for decentralization by Ripple
Many of the arguments surrounding Ripple’s decentralization or lack of it come from well-intentioned Jackson Palmer’s Are we decentralized yet? Website. It tracks metrics like the percentage of money held by the top 100 accounts (19% for BTC versus 81% for XRP) and the number of public nodes. However, as Jackson Palmer would admit, his site is not intended to serve as a rubric for the definition of decentralization; Rather, it is a tool to highlight the distribution of power and control in cryptocurrency projects.
According to Ripple, this evidence proves that XRP is more decentralized
“The XRP ledger is and was by nature decentralized because users are always free to change their UNLs and the corresponding validators they trust,” argues Schwartz. He also claims that “Ripple’s validators do not have significant power over the XRP ledger”. That works against it independent research conducted by Bitmex Research which found:
With the keys all downloaded from the Ripple.com server, Ripple has essentially complete control over how the ledger evolves, so it could be said that the system is centralized.
Ripple has many characteristics, but decentralization probably isn’t
Even Ripple’s harshest critics would credit the company and its coin of the same name with many positive qualities. Ripple is fast to ship, has extremely low fees, and the company has been recognized for its meticulous transparency reports that shed light on its performance over the previous quarter. There is also Ripple’s Xrapid settlement solution which can provide useful applications for international money transfer, especially when switching between foreign currencies.
Laura Shin believes that if Ripple were really decentralized, the issuer wouldn’t have to argue the case
At the beginning of January, David Schwartz specified that Ripple’s increasing decentralization is his “number one priority for 2018”. It is a laudable destination for many reasons. However, his claim that Ripple is more decentralized than Bitcoin or Ethereum met with disbelief. Schwartz’s argument that PoW coins are being centralized due to the increasing power of mining pools is disingenuous as there are many other factors that make bitcoins decentralized. Having a CEO or CTO who can be brought to justice at any time if an investor loses his shirt is part of it.
“I understand very well that XRP is not a security,” said Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, on an AMA livestream last night. With class action gaining traction, we shouldn’t have to wait long to find out.
Do you think Ripple is more decentralized than Bitcoin? Let us know in the comment section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Ripple, and Twitter.
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