Blockchain collective snags big fish: Ripple

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Fourteen companies, including Ripple, have joined an organization that provides a platform for blockchain developers to bring open-source projects to completion.

Hyperledger, which is hosted by the open-source Linux Foundation, now has a total of 231 members. Ripple's participation is surprising considering how quickly the company has grown on its own. It offers international payments software to banks, and runs a real-time gross settlement system, currency exchange and remittance network that is a challenger to Swift.

Ripple also has issued its own token, XRP, that has become a sensation among day traders and made co-founder Chris Larsen, the richest person in cryptocurrency, according to Forbes. (The other new Hyperledger members are Beijing Truth Technology, Blockchain Technology Partners, CULedger, Greenstream Technology, KompiTech, MATRIX Foundation, REMME, Shenzhen Rongxun Technology, Spin Systems, Versia and Xiilab Co.)

Ripple did not make anyone available for an interview. Despite the company's growth, joining Hyperledger is consistent with an ideal the company has talked about for years: allowing different blockchains or distributed ledgers to communicate so that many parties (such as banks) could work together.

Ripple's Interledger Protocol was written to route payments across different digital asset ledgers while isolating senders and receivers from the risk of intermediary failures. Yet this requires collaborative development, which is Hyperledger's focus.

“There have been a lot of people interested in this question of how these ledgers will be interoperable, what’s the right level of interoperability and standardization for blockchain technology — should we standardize on one token protocol, or are there higher levels of standardization to think about?” said Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Hyperledger.

“How do you coordinate payments across ledgers so that two parties can do business?" Behlendorf said. "I’ve got a bunch of Ripple, you’ve got a bunch of bitcoin, you want to buy my Ripple with your bitcoin, how do we make sure we get this transaction across ledgers and not have an awkward scenario where I get your bitcoin and you don’t get my Ripple."

Until now, Hyperledger has not had a strong payments focus, but the organization has had an umbrella strategy of embracing varied technology efforts around distributed ledgers and smart contracts.

“We want to be seen as a home, even if these efforts are competitive with or solve a different problem than the ones we have today,” Behlendorf said.

Before it became a member, Ripple had suggested collaborating on an open-source project for the Hyperledger community, which resulted in the Quilt project, a Java implementation of the company's Interledger Protocol. That collaboration led to discussions around Ripple actually joining the group.

Hyperledger already has several financial blockchain projects under its roof. One is the identity blockchain Royal Bank of Canada is building with SecureKey, TD, Scotiabank and BMO. That project is based on IBM’s blockchain technology and is expected to be completed in 2018. In another example, Northern Trust launched a blockchain for private equity deals in February 2017.

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