It’s been a tough month for Ripple. While crypto markets seem to be recovering, the rising tide has not lifted all boats equally, and the XRP token is still taking on water. To make matters worse, the referees are breathing down Ripple’s neck, while Stellar’s boat has been enjoying plain sailing.
If Jed McCaleb is doing a good job as Stellar’s coxswain, it’s because he’s had lots of practice. Stellar is his third try at the blockchain rodeo, after a long stint as Ripple’s technology chief. He was also the brains behind a little outfit called Mt. Gox.
That’s not a perfect record, but it’s enough experience to help McCaleb learn from his mistakes.
McCaleb’s bad breakup with Ripple Labs appears to have formed part of the rivalry between the two blockchain solutions. Although we don’t know the minutiae of their disagreements, the dispute was strong enough to bring Jed McCaleb to leave Ripple Labs in 2013.
“When I left Ripple, I agreed to (and Ripple’s lawyer sent an email confirming) sale limitations applied to XRP held by me or in the name of my children,” McCaleb wrote in a blog post. “But then Ripple — in direct contradiction of its prior confirmation — claimed sales by other people violated my agreement, and caused Bitstamp to freeze $1 MM that belonged to Stellar. ”
But there are two sides to every story, and Ripple wasn’t shy about sharing theirs. “Jed had a long string of bad ideas that Ripple’s Board of Directors refused to implement,” said David Schwartz, who succeeded McCaleb as Ripple’s Chief Technology Officer. “So Jed started Stellar based on those ideas.”
Writing on Quora, Schwartz continued:
“Jed tried to dump his XRP quickly and Ripple acted to stop him through a series of lawsuits. Thanks to Ripple’s refusal, Jed’s XRP will probably be worth more than $1 billion. He will probably be the only person to become a self-made billionaire despite his best efforts.”
That’s a tough argument to beat, but it somewhat undermined Ripple’s claim to being a decentralized ledger. Whether legally justified or not, freezing the tokens of a departing founder handed a lot of ammunition to Ripple’s biggest critics.
By most measures, XRP has the clear advantage in terms of adoption. Not only does it have triple the market capitalization of the Lumens token, Crypto Briefing has already reported on Ripple’s extensive web of partnerships with banks and financial institutions, allowing the company to corner more than 50% of India’s crypto market.
Ripple has a significant head start…. but although Stellar may be a latecomer, its partnerships are nothing to sneeze at: besides IBM, the Stellar protocol is making deep inroads as the faster, cheaper alternative to Ethereum.
At the time of writing, the Ripple Ledger had reported a 24 hour payment volume of $55 million, a number dwarfed by the $173 million traded on exchanges. In the same period, according to StellarExpert, Stellar ledgers processed nearly double Ripple’s payment volume: about $91 million in tokens.
It’s not immediately clear why Stellar’s trading volume should be so high, but part of the explanation seems to be higher trading velocity: while XRP tokens have a higher price tag, Lumens tokens are used more often. The Ripple Protocol is explicitly targeted at a banking and financial world that is still somewhat indifferent; many of the partnerships that Ripple has announced are for test purposes only a this early stage.
Stellar may have a smaller niche, but it has been warmly embraced by tech-savvy companies and initial coin offerings.
It’s still not clear which of the X’s will end up on top, and if 2017 taught only one lesson, it’s that first movers get a really big advantage.
That metric appears to favor the XRP token, unless Stellar lumens can pull off a few more upsets.
If not, perhaps McCaleb could find more luck starting yet another blockchain. Not that he needs the XTRA cash…
The author has investments in both Stellar lumens and XRP
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