In July, a United States judge ruled that Ripple Labs’ XRP (XRP) token was not a security when sold to the public on secondary markets. While the Securities and Exchange Commission will contest the decision, the broader cryptocurrency community has embraced it, as crypto trades on exchanges might sidestep the securities transaction label.
Despite the ruling, the crypto market continues to suffer from broader uncertainty. Ripple has long been entrenched in this battle, but this legal victory might serve as a partial emancipation, allowing the company to relight its former flame. This case presents an opportune moment for the company to chart a new course, turning the page from an old chapter to ignite a new era.
Ripple was designed to replace the traditional SWIFT system of cross-border payments. And there were valid reasons to do so, as anyone who has experienced the frustration of paying $45 for an international wire transfer that took four days to reach its intended recipient can attest. Offering an accelerated process, untethered by weekend or holiday delays and free of the exorbitant and unpredictable fees associated with SWIFT transfers, Ripple aimed to build a crypto product closely mirroring the legacy financial ecosystem — a system primed for everyday transactions.
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This aim defined its product, leading it to undertake the formidable task of constructing an entire technology stack from scratch. However, this proved to be a herculean task. Beyond the technological challenges, there were various processes and unexpected areas of friction, particularly in operating across numerous jurisdictions. The endeavor likely surpassed Ripple’s initial estimations, forcing it to make adjustments and sacrifices in order to reach its goals.
One of the main compromises Ripple took was to create a more centralized structure, which was fundamentally different from other crypto projects. This decision proved to be a double-edged sword. While this configuration initially facilitated swift and economical transactions, it inadvertently repelled a broader Web3 developer community from participation. This strategic choice curtailed individual engagement, fostering an environment that felt less than inviting.
— James K. Filan (@FilanLaw) August 23, 2023
The centralized structure also naturally led to the creation of a closed system, which inherently prevented Ripple from building an indispensable, application-layer foundation. While a closed solution allows Ripple to capture all of its generated value for itself, an open platform creates a system where, as Bill Gates famously said, “the economic value of everybody that uses it exceeds the value of the company that creates it.”
Creating a true ecosystem, which is the alternative, more preferred way that leads to layer-1 blockchain networks, allows a community to flourish, with both individuals and entities deeply vested in the triumph of the protocol. Community members and followers act as a beacon, continually drawing in more participants, ultimately creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for a protocol mission and growth. And while Ripple may now share the generated value of its ecosystem with its community members, it stands to gain greater economic value by obtaining a portion of a substantially larger pie.
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Predicting whether such a community would significantly alter the course or dynamics of Ripple’s legal battle remains uncertain. Nevertheless, it’s evident that there are clear advantages on both the business and product fronts when it comes to operating a layer-1 blockchain, a fact substantiated by numerous successful projects.
And it’s not too late in the game to redirect the course, as far as Ripple is concerned. Numerous projects within the Web3 domain embarked on their journeys with greater centralization, gradually morphing into decentralized autonomous organizations that relinquished control to their communities. Notably, Cosmos pioneered an innovative framework, provisioning developers with the groundwork for an interconnected blockchain network that still interfaces with other Cosmos-based platforms. Ethereum today thrives with a burgeoning layer-2 ecosystem — an unforeseen augmentation facilitating swift fund transfers, experimentation, novel app development and rigorous testing.
When startups seek alignment with convention or conservative institutions, regulatory ambiguity proves a deterrent. Presently, Ripple enjoys a modicum of certainty, which is an asset when approaching partnerships with those traditional entities.
With any luck, Ripple’s fire will burn once more, as it provided one of the first approaches to tackling real-world financial problems. What’s more, the movement toward further decentralization has been relatively universal across the entire crypto ecosystem. In any case, the outcome for Ripple will come down to its technology and the ecosystem, which it now has considerably more control over.
Eric Chen is the co-founder and CEO of Injective Labs. Prior to Injective, he was a researcher at Innovating Capital, working on trading strategies and protocol research. Before that, he was a part of the Blockchain Lab at NYU. Eric has worked within the crypto industry since 2017. Eric dropped out of NYU.
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.