An open source, peer-to-peer payment network has been launched in beta and gives a way for people to send money to anyone, anywhere, using their currency of choice, including Bitcoins.
OpenCoin's Ripple network supports cross-currency transactions and it's fledgling website makes a point of providing information to bitcoiners, pointing out that it lets them spend and receive Bitcoins as easily as any other currency,
It heads its list of advantages with the fact that currency exchange is built into the Ripple network stating:
Our goal is to integrate virtual currencies with all the payment systems of the world. By making it easy for consumers to use virtual currencies, we believe this will help grow the entire virtual currency marketplace.
It also points to the advantage of having a decentralized network which has the twin benefits of not having to wait for confirmations and there being no central point of failure, which should provide stability.
Ripple contains its own virtual currency, "ripples" or XRP which provide an important security feature: every Ripple transactions destroys a miniscule fraction of an XRP, and while this amount will be unnoticeable by even high-volume users, it prevents anyone from overloading the network with abusive transactions.
This video explains how Ripple works.
According to Tim Simonite, writing on MIT Technology review, OpenCoin has attracted investments from Andreessen Horowitz, from Lightspeed Ventures and from the early-stage wing of the Founder’s Fund, a venture firm owned by PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel.
“OpenCoin’s Ripple protocol, which enables free instant global payments in any currency, including Bitcoin, supports many of the advantages of a math-based currency like Bitcoin while also addressing some of the drawbacks,”
says Jeremy Liew, managing director of Lightspeed Venture Partners. If math-backed currencies are made useful, as OpenCoin is trying to do, they will last, he says.
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