XRP is cryptocurrency that runs on the XRP Ledger, a blockchain engineered by Jed McCaleb, Arthur Britto and David Schwartz. McCaleb and Britto would go on to found Ripple and use XRP to facilitate transactions on the network. You can buy XRP as an investment, as a coin to exchange for other cryptocurrencies or as a way to finance transactions on the Ripple network.
Notably, XRP’s blockchain operates a little differently than most other cryptos’. Other cryptocurrencies open their transaction ledgers and verification processes to anyone who can solve complex equations quickly, but transactions are secure as the majority of ledger holders must agree with the verification for them to be added.
Instead, the XRP’s Ripple network somewhat centralizes things: While anyone can download its validation software, it maintains what it calls unique node lists that users can select to verify their transactions based on which participants they think are least likely to defraud them. Its default list currently contains 35 trusted validators. Ripple decides which validators to approve for this list and also makes up six of these validation nodes. However, users can opt out of this default list and hypothetically remove Ripple-backed validators from their transactions entirely, instead constructing their own lists of trusted validators. This would allow the network to continue to approve transactions even without Ripple the company remaining involved or even continuing to exist.
As new transactions come in, the validators update their ledgers every three to five seconds and make sure they match the other ledgers. If there’s a mismatch, they stop to figure out what went wrong. This allows Ripple to securely and efficiently validate transactions, which gives it an edge over other cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin.
“Bitcoin transaction confirmations may take many minutes or hours and are typically associated with high transaction costs,” says Lee. “XRP transactions are confirmed around four to five seconds at much lower cost.”