With the third largest market cap of all cryptocurrencies, Ripples’ XRP has struck a chord with investors. But as appealing as it is to some, it is equally distasteful to others.
Denounced as a ‘bankers coin’ by crypto purists, but lauded by its supporters as a practical solution to the problems faced by bitcoin, XRP has divided the crypto community. This hasn’t, however, stopped its prolific rise to success—forming partnerships with banks, and beating other cryptocurrencies to become the best performer of 2017.
But despite this, XRP has been given the cold shoulder by registered U.S. exchanges. Two of the biggest fiat-crypto gateways, Coinbase and Circle, have declined to list the token—enraging the Ripple community and casting the cryptocurrency’s legitimacy into doubt.
Amongst the devout advocates of decentralization, distaste for XRP has become commonplace. This community see the cryptocurrency as an impostor—representing all the problems of centralisation and the current financial system, but packaged as an altcoin.
This is because the technical structure of XRP runs counter to the ethos of decentralisation—incorporating central governance, a large pre-mine, and a significant allocation of tokens to its founders.
Along with infuriating the diehards, some aspects of this structure have prevented the cryptocurrency from infiltrating the top exchanges, even with an incentive. Ripple reportedly offered Coinbase a loan of over $100 million in XRP in exchange for a listing, but this wasn’t enough to sway them.
Although Coinbase and Circle haven’t issued explicit statements explaining the exclusion of XRP, they have published ‘digital asset frameworks’ setting out the requirements cryptocurrencies must meet in order to be listed:
One of the key principles cited by Coinbase is decentralization—that the network should be “public, decentralized and enable trustless consensus.”
Despite Ripple’s adamant claims that XRP is fully decentralised, this is widely contested within the community, as the company arguably exercise singular control over the XRP ledger.
This centralization could be one of the key problems preventing XRP from getting listed, a thesis supported by the fact that Coinbase recently announced it is considering listing Stellar (XLM), which was initially based on Ripple’s codebase, but is now far more decentralized.
The supposed centralization of XRP has also caused other problems, and Ripple are currently embroiled in a series of lawsuits over whether or not XRP constitutes a security.
Should XRP be classified as such, it would likely become very unattractive to cryptocurrency exchanges at present—as both securities and the exchanges that offer them are subject to significantly stricter regulations.
Although Coinbase and other exchanges are working towards regulated "blockchain securities" broker-dealer status, they are unlikely to take on an asset with shaky legal status. This is clearly ruled out in the Digital Asset Framework, which states that assets must not be classified as a security by Coinbase’s own Securities Law Framework.
On the Unchained Podcast in July, the Circle founders echoed this sentiment, saying that “questions around legal status” have prevented XRP from being listed on Circle Invest. However, the token still remains on the Poloniex exchange which they acquired earlier this year. When quizzed on whether it would remain there, the founders provided no closure, citing only the difficult procedure that must be undertaken to delist tokens.
It's a global market
While big U.S. exchanges have proved problematic, elsewhere in the world XRP is facing no such setbacks, and unregulated exchanges the world over list the token. Included amongst them is Japanese exchange DMM Group, which has listed XRP since inception and has twice the number of subscribers as Coinbase—27 million, compared to Coinbase’s 13 million.
Coinbase and Circle however, still remain the key Western gateways for fiat currency entering the space, and XRP’s exclusion has not escaped the notice of Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse, who voiced his desire for Coinbase to take an active role in XRPs development at the Future of Fintech conference in New York in June:
“As we solve problems at scale for institutions, I think it’s in Coinbase’s interest to participate in that,” said Garlinghouse, adding that XRP is clearly not a security.