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Summary:

The Google-backed distributed currency exchange, which is part of a new wave of international financial technology outfits, is trying to make it easier for people to pay others in the crypto-currency Bitcoin.

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Remember OpenCoin’s Ripple, the distributed currency exchange that’s trying to court the Bitcoin crowd? Well, the Google-backed venture is stepping up that mission with a new feature called Bitcoin Bridge, which makes it easier to pay people using the crypto-currency.

Bitcoin Bridge, announced on Tuesday at Bitcoin London, makes it possible to pay any Bitcoin user straight from the Ripple client, with money going in as traditional currency and coming out as Bitcoin. According to Chris Larsen, CEO of OpenCoin, it serves as a “powerful demonstration” of what Ripple can do:

“Now, anyone can send Bitcoins without having to use a central exchange. At the same time, any merchant accepting Bitcoins now has the potential to accept any currency in the world.”

It’s quite simple to use: enter a Bitcoin address and choose how much you want to send and in which currency. The conversion takes place fee-free, and OpenCoin is positioning it as ideal for merchant payments, money transfers and remittances.

While this may prove to be a useful step in giving Bitcoin some much-needed respectability, in a sense Bitcoin isn’t actually the most interesting element here. Pull away, and you can see Ripple as part of a new wave of international money transfer companies that take traditional banks out of the equation, saving money for users.

That said, Ripple’s adoption will most likely come first from the Bitcoin scene, where OpenCoin’s system stands as a rival to the likes of Bitpay and the decidedly creaky-looking Mt. Gox.

  1. Ripple is going to appeal to the masses. I have been using the ripple network even though its currently in beta. Compare to bitcoin its easier and more functional. Now ripple has added a bitcoin bridge its going to open the door for more wide spread adoption.

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  2. Ripple is NOT in any way similar to Bitcoin. This is just another proprietary centralized pseudo-money system 100% controlled by for-profit Opencoin with the sole goal to enrich its founders and investors. It is just pretending to be “like Bitcoin” in order to parasitize and suck value from organic Bitcoin ecosystem. If you care to educate yourself, you’ll understand that Ripple is just perverting and undermining everything Bitcoin stands for: http://ripplescam.org

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  3. In a sense, Ripple is a rival to Mt.Gox, but only until Mt.Gox adopts Ripple as a way to represent the funds it holds. At that point, Mt.Gox users benefit from having funds it holds being useful for not only trading on its own platform, but from being useful for paying and trading with other Ripple users on Ripple’s distributed platform. Ripple users benefit from being able to pay and trade with Mt.Gox users. So in a larger sense, Ripple is a federation technology for connecting different stores of value, including Mt.Gox.

    Bitstamp, the second largest Bitcoin exchange, is currently the largest Ripple gateway, and gains an advantage over Mt.Gox for it: Mt.Gox recently had to close down US withdrawals because of its strained banking relationships. If it was on Ripple, Mt.Gox users would be able to withdraw funds through any Ripple gateway, including Bitstamp, or SnapSwap, which has just opened up in the US. The day Mt.Gox customers no longer have to worry about its ineptitude in managing its banking relationships, and can automatically access any Ripple gateway for deposits and withdrawals, will be a great day for them, and Bitcoin as a whole.

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