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Ripple Unveils Strategy to ‘Become More Decentralized than Bitcoin’

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:56 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:56 PM

Prominent FinTech payments firm Ripple has announced a strategy that it believes will ultimately make its blockchain more decentralized than Bitcoin.

Ripple’s technology chief Stefan Thomas has revealed a three-point strategy toward making Ripple’s blockchain, the Ripple Consensus Ledger (RCL), more secure, efficient and decentralized than Bitcoin.

In a blog  published today, Thomas stated:

A key benchmark that we aim to achieve is to become more decentralized than Bitcoin, which at the time of writing is 51% controlled by just five mining pools. This means the largest five pools working together could achieve a 51% attack and reverse transactions (double spend) at will. For Ethereum, this number is even lower: only three pools are needed for a takeover.

Created in 2012, the RCL was developed as an enterprise-ready public blockchain – in contrast to bitcoin – geared for banks and payment providers to process cross-border payments. The RCL also serves as the root ledger for XRP, Ripple’s native digital asset.

Ripple has fielded criticism from the crypto community since its release, with the most common accusation  of being a centralized network.

For its part, the decentralization of the Ripple blockchain was a process that began ‘right at its inception’, according to Thomas. “We intentionally haven’t rushed the process and have been making continuous progress all along.”

The path toward decentralization is now a priority, as Ripple ropes in more customers in banks and payment providers around the world, underlining the need to diversify the validator nodes to form a more robust and resilient blockchain.

The strategy involves three fundamental steps.

First, is Ripple’s foray to diversify the validator nodes on the blockchain. “Today, RCL has 25 validator nodes running, but continuing to grow and diversify this list of recommended validator operators is a priority for us,” wrote Thomas. The ultimate aim is to further avoid the risk of a single point of failure, with diversification of nodes across several geographical locations and software platforms.

Secondly, Ripple will recruit attested validators to the network. It will monitor new validators joining the current set of 25 nodes, checking their performance on “consensus agreement rate, uptime, verification of identity and public attestation.”

Finally, Ripple will add attested validators to its Unique Node Lists (UNLs). A UNL is a list of transaction validator nodes that are seen as ‘trusted’ validating nodes operated by Ripple. The company’s plan is to phase out the nodes it controls, replacing them with attested third-party validators until no single operator controls a majority of trusted nodes on the blockchain.

“Over the course of the next 18 months, for every two attested third-party validating nodes that meet the objective criteria mentioned above, we will remove one validating node operated by Ripple, until no entity operates a majority of trusted nodes on the RCL,” Thomas revealed.

He further stated:

To match Bitcoin, RCL would need just 16 trusted validators. Add more, and the number of tolerable faults increases accordingly. In other words, RCL will not just meet, but exceed the decentralization level of other public blockchains.

The Ripple executive also contends that Ripple has the upper hand on Bitcoin due to the way the blockchains reach consensus. Thomas claimed that Ripple validators are less likely to be malicious or attacked successfully since they are chosen on ‘merit’. Unlike Bitcoin validators, chosen based on their proof-of-work (PoW) mining.

“Bitcoin chooses validators solely based on their mining power, which actually deincentivizes security,” Thomas wrote. “Security measures cost money, but don’t improve on the speed of mining.”

Earlier this year, Ripple laid claim to match the transaction output of Visa, the world’s largest payments network with 70k transactions at an average time of 3.7 seconds.

Featured image from Shutterstock.