While bitcoin remains the clear leader among cryptocurrencies in terms of market capitalization and overall adoption rates, other contenders continue to surge ahead thanks to growing adaptability and varied applications. XRP ranks third on the list of top virtual currencies by market cap, behind bitcoin and ethereum. XRP is often referred to as "Ripple," although technically Ripple is the name of the company and network behind the cryptocurrency, and XRP is the cryptocurrency.
Below, we'll take a closer look at what distinguishes XRP from bitcoin and other top digital tokens.
- Ripple is the company that is behind XRP, the cryptocurrency itself.
- Bitcoin transaction confirmations may take many minutes with high transaction costs, while XRP transactions are confirmed in seconds with little cost.
- XRP is a technology that is mainly known for its digital payment network and protocol.
- Many major banks use the XRP payment system.
Bitcoin vs. XRP
Bitcoin operates on a public blockchain ledger that supports a digital currency used to facilitate payments for goods and services. Bitcoin, the network, is primarily known for its bitcoin cryptocurrency (typically referred to as "bitcoin" or by the abbreviation BTC).
The bitcoin network is based on the blockchain concept, a public ledger of verified transactions and record-keeping. Miners verify transactions on an ongoing basis and add them to the bitcoin blockchain which serves as a ledger of all activity across the network. In exchange for their time and the computing power necessary to validate the ledger in this way, miners are rewarded with BTC upon successfully validating certain quantities of transactions.
XRP, on the other hand, is a technology that is mainly known for its digital payment network and protocol. Aside from the cryptocurrency XRP, Ripple is perhaps even better known as a payment settlement, asset exchange, and remittance system that works more like SWIFT, a service for international money and security transfers that is used by a network of banks and financial intermediaries.
Instead of using the blockchain mining concept, the Ripple network uses a unique distributed consensus mechanism through a network of servers to validate transactions. By conducting a poll, the servers or nodes on the network decide by consensus about the validity and authenticity of the transaction. This enables almost instant confirmations without any central authority, which helps to keep XRP decentralized and yet faster and more reliable than many of its competitors.
While the bitcoin network is accused of being energy-hungry due to its mining system, the Ripple system consumes negligible power owing to its mining-free mechanism.
Processing Times and Costs
While bitcoin transaction confirmations may take many minutes and may be associated with high transaction costs, XRP transactions are confirmed within seconds at very low costs. BTC has a total supply of 21 million cryptocoins, and XRP has a total of 100 billion pre-mined cryptocoins.
Mining and Circulation
Bitcoin uses a proof-of-work system and mining for releasing new BTC tokens, forming an essential part of the validation process, while all of the XRP tokens are pre-mined. For this reason, XRP mining does not exist in the same way that bitcoin mining does.
The cryptocoin release mechanism is different for both BTC and XRP. While bitcoins are released and added to the network as, and when, the miners find them, a smart contract controls the release of XRP.
Ripple planned to release a maximum of 1 billion XRP tokens each month as governed by an in-built smart contract; the current circulation is over 43 billion. Any unused portion of the XRP in a particular month will be shifted back to an escrow account. This mechanism ensures that there will be no possibility of misuse due to an oversupply of XRP cryptocoins, and it will take many years before all the cryptocoins will be available.
Similar to the bitcoin transaction processing fee, XRP transactions are charged. Each time a transaction is performed on the Ripple network, a small amount of XRP is charged to the user (individual or organization). The primary use for XRP is to facilitate the transfer of other assets, though a growing number of merchants also accept it for payments in a way similar to accepting bitcoins.
While bitcoin is seeing increasing use by individuals and organizations as a virtual currency, the Ripple payment system is more popular among banks. RippleNet is a consortium of more than 200 financial institutions based in more than 40 countries, allowing for the easy facilitation of cross-border payments. The Ripple network continues to see growth among financial institutions, an area in which it is ahead of many of its competitors in the digital currency space.
Overall, XRP is better for lower processing times and lower transaction charges than bitcoin.
Bitcoin vs. Ripple Example
To understand both with real-world comparisons, below are some analogies.
Peter, living in America, visits Walmart and pays for his purchases in US dollars. He can also use his US dollars to purchase other currencies for trading and investment, like GBP or JPY, and sell them off at a later date for a profit or loss.
Bitcoin is an equivalent digital currency—an alternative to real-world US dollars. Peter can make a purchase and pay for it in bitcoins, or he can purchase bitcoins for trading and investments and sell them off at a later date for profit or loss, just like trading any other fiat currency like the GBP or JPY.
If Peter in America wants to send $100 to Paul in Italy, he can do so by instructing his American bank to execute the transaction. After taking necessary charges, Peter’s American bank will issue instructions using the present-day SWIFT system that will credit Paul’s Italian bank account with the equivalent euros (or USD). This process may involve high charges at both ends and takes a certain number of days for processing.
Enter Ripple, the payment and settlement system that also has a currency, the XRP.
Ripple’s payment system uses XRP tokens for the transfer of assets on the Ripple network. The same $100 can be converted instantly by Peter to equivalent XRP tokens, which can be instantly transferred to Paul’s account over the Ripple network.
Upon suitable verification and authentication of the transaction by the decentralized Ripple network, Paul will receive the XRP tokens. He will have the option to convert it back to USD's or any other currency of his choice, or even retain it as XRP tokens. The verification process is faster than those of bitcoin and traditional money transfer systems.
The Bottom Line
While Ripple works in a bit more complicated way, the above example explains its basic workings. The Ripple system scores better than the bitcoin network for its lower processing times and lower transaction charges. On the other hand, BTC is generally more widespread and better known than XRP, giving it the advantage in other ways.
Bitcoin remains a truly public system that is not owned by any single individual, authority, or government. The Ripple network, although decentralized, is owned and operated by a private company with the same name. Despite both having their unique cryptocurrency tokens, the two popular virtual systems cater to different uses.