The startup that oversees the development of the world’s third most valuable cryptocurrency, XRP, is upgrading the underlying technology on which it operates.
Announced Wednesday, the San Francisco-based startup, Ripple publishes two new peer-review white papers – one describing the XRP consensus algorithm in a more formal and unambiguous way. Other describing a way to improve the diversity of connections, software users run to relay and verify transactions on the network.
Taken together, the moves show that Ripple, whose investors include banks like Santander and SBI, is ready and willing to invest in basic infrastructure supporting its cryptocurrency, which, despite falling into disagreement with the company, worth more than 40 billion dollars.
Yet while XRP has become one of the most in demand cryptographic assets, its development has lagged behind other more established offerings like bitcoin and ether.
Indeed, Ripple’s technical director, Stefan Thomas, sought to present the newspapers as a step towards the development of a closer relationship between the research branch of the company and the academic community . In short, the startup wants it to be easier for researchers to follow Ripple’s technology, so it’s easier for them to contribute.
In an interview, Thomas sought to highlight how newspapers open up the possibility of developing a network effect around technology – an element that could be the key now that marketers buy.
Thomas told CoinDesk:
“It’s the first time we’ve published peer-reviewed academic papers, which of course opens the door to future research, after which I think you’ll hear a lot more about our interaction. with the academic world. ”
More generally, documents can be considered as the first attempt at refreshing and improving the documentation around the open source platform. (The work is the first since 2014 to detail the Ledger XRP, then called Ledger Consensus Ripple.)
As such, the articles are also a statement on the continuing evolution of Ripple, which after launching the goal of turning cryptocurrency into a secure payment network, seeks to replace centralized messaging and liquidity services through decentralized alternatives.
Playing the defense
For Thomas, however, both versions have a central theme: security.
“What we are trying to do here is to add defenses against unlikely attack scenarios, because that means you can not completely manipulate the entire network,” he said. he explained.
The key word here is “improbable”. Thomas argues that these attack vectors are not viable unless the attacker is a state actor, according to the US government, with enough money and technological resources to disrupt the network. And although he’s not particularly worried about it, Thomas said the startup was trying to protect against these use cases.
“We are extremely cautious, we want the best security,” he added.
The first article, entitled “XRP Ledger consensus protocol analysis,” builds on the company’s 2014 paper, providing a formal mathematical proof that what is supposed to happen on the network will really happen. It comes down to two things: “security”, that the network will not divide into two competing networks, and “liveliness”, that the network will not be stuck and will continue to process transactions.
The second article, “Cobalt: BFT governance in open networks”, aims to improve previous XRP plans with an algorithm that supports a larger number of validators.
You can think of XRP as a voting system, where each node storing Ripple’s transaction history gets a vote on what happens next. To help accomplish this, each node in Ripple carries something called UNL (Unique Node List), a list of nodes on the Ripple network that the node considers legitimate.
So, if each node connects to a better variety of nodes, the argument is good, it’s good for the long-term resilience and decentralization of the network.
The two articles rely heavily on distributed systems, a set of computer research describing the operation of large connected networks. And because they are more theoretical, Thomas pointed out that these articles will likely have an impact in the longer term.
“This is not going to affect the way users are using XRP right now, they will not experience any downtime or anything,” he said.
One step back
It remains to be seen whether Ripple’s developments, including these articles, are sufficient to appease Ripple’s criticisms and his probably hot and cold relationship with XRP. It is worth noting that some have been skeptical since the beginning, and that these critics have only grown as XRP has received more attention.
Critics are often supporters of other blockchains, such as bitcoin or ethereum, who seek to use decentralization in a different way. (Some even say that technology is “useless” as an alternative to today’s global financial technology.)
Thomas, however, does not mind these negative evaluations.
In his statements, he sought to make critics believe that he was disconnected from reality, while pointing out that the nature of the technology is that it can improve and respond to the needs of the market.
“Critics are still a step back,” Thomas told CoinDesk. “When I started at Ripple, all kinds of things did not happen: it was not open-source, we did not have validators, but over time, it grew.” and we were able to accomplish all these things.
In this way, Thomas sees newspapers as another way for Ripple to respond to the needs of the market, ensuring that it offers an alternative to SWIFT or that its cryptocurrency is secure.
As Thomas sees it, the centralization of validation is what they work on next, even going so far as to claim that Ripple will be “much more decentralized” than Bitcoin in the future.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which owns an interest in Ripple.
Ripple image corner via Shutterstock