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February 2, 2014
Jed-i: The secret origins of Ripple (XRP)
There is a mythology that surrounds the origins of bitcoin. An inventor named Satoshi Nakamoto supposedly toiled away in solitude and anger in the wake of the financial collapse in 2008 and created a workable decentralized currency that’s shaken the global financial system and governments around the world.
Bitcoin believers have latched onto that mythology, and they’re almost as rabid as Beliebers – notorious Justin Bieber fans who make cakes for the celebrity on his birthday even though they’ve never met him. That blind allegiance to bitcoin has, in my mind, prevented many bitcoin believers from seeing the potential of the ripple protocol.
It’s time for us to canonize our own origin story around Ripple. Let us not forget, after all, it was one of bitcoin’s own, a poster who goes by “Jed” on BitcoinTalk, who came up with the basic idea for ripple in 2011. Jed’s full name is Jed McCaleb, a 32-year-old surfer/college dropout who has one of the most impressive resumes in the tech world. In 2000, he created the terribly-named peer-to-peer filesharing network eDonkey, which replaced Napster as the world’s most popular file-sharing network. In 2010, he founded the world’s largest bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox. A year later, he made his now famous post on BitcoinTalk, wherein he laid out a rough draft for ripple:
“So I’ve been thinking,” he starts off innocently, “bitcoin mining seems like such an unfortunate side effect of the system since it is so wasteful. It will be a bit obscene how much will be spent mining if the network ever gets large. It would be cool to come up with a bitcoin that doesn’t need miners.”
He goes on to sketch out a mining-free bitcoin (here’s the full post) that works with a central ledger and a consensus model.
McCaleb was so taken with the idea that he hired some developers, founded Ripple Labs and started work turning his idea into a reality. Ripple Labs has since changed its name to OpenCoin, hired a high-wattage CEO in Chris Larsen (check out our post Top 20 quotes from Chris Larsen), and raised a boatload of cash from prominent VCs in Silicon Valley.
One of Jed’s driving beliefs is freedom from authority and government control. That’s clear not just from his resume, but his words as well. “I do have a distrust of authority,” he told Wired recently. “Or maybe not a distrust of authority, but I really appreciate freedom. I think it’s one of the fundamental things that people need.”
Jed still holds mountains of Ripple’s native currency, XRP, and is likely involved in some capacity, but he’s also looking into new ventures, Wired says, including man-made surf parks and artificial intelligence. It’ll be interesting to see where Ripple goes in 2014. Where 2013 was bitcoin’s year to shine, I think 2014 belongs to ripple.