It all started when…
What is The World Exchange?
A free, open exchange* where anyone can trade, issue, and send anything anywhere in real time.
Imagine being able to send money, credit, assets - any form of ownership or value - to anyone anywhere in the world in mere seconds. Then imagine being able to trade or bid on those same items online with anyone else without having to rely on any services in between. And finally imagine being able to actually issue your own symbols as well to represent anything you can think of - new currencies, companies, debt, even countries or people - anything - with just a few mouse clicks. Just like that, your new symbol is tradable 24/7 by anyone with its value determined completely by the free market. That's what The World Exchange is, and it does this by using Ripple, a blockchain technology that is not only a currency but literally a full-fledged, decentralized exchange. The World Exchange is an exchange in name only. It is simply a user interface to access and use the existing Ripple network.
Say goodbye to ACH, bank wires, SWIFT, T+2 settlement, and other slow 20th century financial technologies. Money and virtually any other asset can now be sent instantly anywhere in the world, and unlike Bitcoin or other blockchain-based technologies, you never have to deal with any currency other than the one you're already using. If you offer something for USD, others can automatically buy it with EUR, BTC, XRP, and any other denomination as well. They can even buy it directly with assets that aren't money to begin with. Shares can be exchanged directly for other shares, commodities for loans, private equity for bonds, etc. All the liquidity and conversion is done behind the scenes, so all markets are on one global, interconnected orderbook. You can now send and trade pure value in real-time.
Instantaneous transactions are amazing, but you can do so much more than just send or trade quickly. You can also create your own symbols to represent anything you want. The common phrase for this now is issuing your own token, and unlike other blockchain platforms, everything here is just point and click. There is no coding or smart contracts and no need to run any infrastructure or servers. By just hitting the Issue button, you can create tokens to:
- Represent your company, its equity/shares, or debt - aka IPO / ICO or bond offering.
- Represent yourself - aka crowdsourcing your credit rating, peer-to-peer lending.
- Fundraise for an idea, project, or cause - aka crowdfunding or sponsorship.
- Offer rewards, gift cards, game currencies - anything redeemable in real world.
- Store information permanently - audit trails, notary, archives, the chat on this very site.
And pretty much anything else you can think of. The token is then openly tradable by anyone with its price determined entirely by the free market, just like with any stock, bond, currency, etc. And thanks to the automatic conversion behind the scenes, you only need to offer it once to automatically offer across every symbol there is, instantly accepting any form of exchange without additional effort. You can see this yourself with a live example TTT, which is offered only once for XRP here but automatically also available across USD, EUR, and BTC. In addition, issuers can attach profiles, legal disclaimers, or other information and even require agreement by users before allowing access to the token; a demo of this is available here for XYZ.
At some point, you would either buy back the token you issued or offer some other form of exchange/reward/redemption to give it value. The trust that you do that is why people would buy or accept your token in the real world. It is your job to enforce and communicate that promise. It is no different than a credit card issued by a bank, a gift card issued by a store, someone buying a stock on the trust that the company makes money for its shareholders, or a loan being offered on the trust that the borrower pays it back with interest. Those that break that trust would find it difficult to do business in the future, just like with anything else in the real world.
The best part of all this is everything can be done in the same place, the same "exchange." In actuality, The World Exchange is not really a place or even an exchange. It is only an interface to a global, decentralized network that already exists, distributed across the world the same way the internet is. That network is the Ripple consensus ledger, one of many competing blockchain-based technologies, and like the internet, it is everywhere and controlled by no one person. The World Exchange is but a mere internet service provider connecting you to it. Nothing is stored or run through The World Exchange site itself. Everything runs off of the blockchain directly with no middlemen or intermediaries. As long as you save your account address and secret key, your account is safe even if this site goes down. You don't actually even need this site to trade and keep using your account. In fact, you can save this page to your computer, have your firewall block theworldexchange.net, and still access your account with full functionality. You can even disconnect your computer from the internet completely and just create an address to deposit funds into (aka a cold wallet). The site literally doesn't do anything other than offer you the webpage for download. This is an exchange in name only that allows anyone can trade or transact with other users directly with no one else in between, and like the internet, this "exchange" is forever online as long as there are other users just like yourself.
This is the way a truly decentralized exchange should be. Unfortunately, a lot of exchanges out there that advertise or even use blockchain are not actually decentralized at all. They control your accounts, store your passwords/keys, are a central point of failure that loses everyone's funds if they get hacked, etc. Such exchanges are literally just traditional exchanges which happen to trade cryptocurrencies and are not actually leveraging the technology behind blockchain at all. The horror stories with Mt. Gox, Bitfinex - where users have lost money to hacks, crashes of the exchange, etc - all occur on these kinds of traditional, centralized exchanges. It's like someone trying to sell you a self-driving car but insisting you still pay them to be your driver. They do this so they can charge you the same fees as the older technology, while keeping all the cost savings of new technology to themselves. Imagine if you paid a driver who just pushed the on button for the self-driving car. A truly decentralized exchange would make the traditional exchange obsolete. Such is the case with The World Exchange, which really is not an exchange at all but just an interface to an already existing decentralized exchange network (aka blockchain); the one we use here is called Ripple and is one of many competing technologies against the original Bitcoin-based blockchain. More tech-savvy users will understand this to be a fully client-side wallet, where your account credentials remain in your control at all times and are never sent anywhere. It is the most secure way to store and access funds, quite literally because you never give your information to anyone else to begin with. This is the way a truly decentralized exchange should be, and the purpose of this site is to demonstrate that it is very much possible and already here with today's technology.
The quickest way to get started is to create an account on the Login page or use an existing Ripple address if you have one. Those who have created addresses or wallets at other Ripple-based sites, such as RippleTrade or Gatehub, will be able to use the exact same account and secret keys here because it's the same Ripple network behind the scenes. More step-by-step video tutorials on account creation, funding, and other actions are also available on YouTube.
Min XRP and Transaction Fee: After creating an account, the account requires a minimum amount of XRP to be activated. XRP is the native currency on the Ripple network with no issuer or backer. The starting minimum is 20 XRP, with each additional type of token you want to hold and each open order requiring an additional 5 XRP minimum. For example, if you want to trade both USD and EUR, you would need a minimum 30 XRP (20 base + 5 per symbol). If you then place an order, that increases by another 5 until the order is filled or cancelled. This is all done to prevent spam and other issues. In addition, while the technology is free, a small fraction of XRP is burned each time a transaction happens, so bad actors cannot flood the network with fake or meaningless orders. It is not an amount paid out to someone and is part of the Ripple protocol itself (see Ripple transaction fees).
Funding an Account: The easiest way to fund your account is to use a Ripple activation service like Bithomp, which allows you to buy XRP with traditional payment methods like PayPal to fund your newly created account. Beyond that, you would go to the issuers themselves like Bitstamp or Gatehub, who as described more below will exchange and redeem any token they back on the Ripple network for real-world currencies (including USD and EUR). Specifically, you would be looking for exchanges or firms that allow withdrawal or deposit via Ripple (which The World Exchange runs on); you'll know when you see a Ripple address for deposit or withdrawal of currencies and other tickers. Lastly, you can go to cryptocurrency exchanges like Poloniex or Kraken to buy XRP before sending it to your new account, but note they can only send and receive XRP from the Ripple Network because they don't issue or back any tokens (they are just traditional exchanges). Once you have something in your Ripple account though, you can trade it for any other token on the Ripple network using a site like this one. A list of other sites and how to use them can be found on Ripple's How to Buy XRP page. A video walk-through is also available on YouTube.
Tokens and Issuers: All tokens except XRP are issued by someone or some company. Their value is dependent on people's trust that whoever created the token will redeem or do other things to maintain the value; for example, if some bank issues the token XYZ to represent actual USD, they should be willing to redeem you in real cash if you send the token back to them. It's like credit cards from a bank or gift cards from a store, which otherwise have no value unless the issuing group maintains it. In the meantime, you can then use the XYZ token with others that accept it as a substitute for what it represents (the cash). The person that offers the promise to redeem is called the issuer or Gateway (in Ripple's official terms). You can find existing known issuers for any token by typing the token symbol into The World Exchange and clicking on the "Backed by ..." link to browse the list (or input an issuer address manually). If you look up any particular issuer's name, you should be able to find details on how to redeem from them or use their site to go back and forth between real-world currencies/assets and the symbols on the Ripple network.
Sending and Receiving: Buying and selling should be pretty self-explanatory (watch the video tutorial here if you're really not sure), but sending and receiving is a little trickier. You must explicitly allow each type of token you want to receive before anyone can send you anything. If you are expecting someone to send you something, make sure you added the token and its issuer to your "Receivable Tokens" settings first. Similarly, before sending to others, make sure they've also added it first to their list. All of this is done so that you do not accidentally receive tokens backed by people/companies you do not trust or know - for example, a fake USD token issued by a scammer. You do not need to do this for tokens you buy, sell, or issue, only for what others send you. The special case is if an issuer requires token holders be authorized or approved; then you'll get a message that both you and the issuer need to add each other before you can buy or sell it. The one token that does not require any of this is Ripple's native currency XRP, which no one can issue and therefore can't be faked. Note that Ripple's Gateway documentation refers to these lists as trustlines. A video walk-through is also available on YouTube for further clarity.
Advanced Settings: More advanced users or institutions with regulatory requirements may want to implement authorization of token holders and other compliance features, which are available under the Advanced Settings window. A demo of a token that is only tradable amongst approved, whitelisted users is available here, which you'll notice can be viewed publicly but not purchased or sold unless your account has been authorized by the issuer (useful for satisfying KYC/AML requirements). Note these settings can lead to loss of funds if misconfigured and are not needed for most users.
Laws, Regulations, and Taxes: The last thing to keep in mind is this site is only a tool; you are responsible for how you use it and to be aware of what the law allows or doesn't allow in relation to blockchain-based technologies. The information on this site is by no means legal or investment advice, and you are solely responsible and liable for complying with such laws and regulations in your jurisdiction. For buyers of tokens, make sure to confirm with local and federal laws that it is actually legal in your jurisdiction to hold or trade blockchain-based tokens. Additionally, consult an accountant for properly filing taxes on any tokens you buy or sell; for most countries, trading of blockchain-based tokens is indeed taxable. For those wanting to issue their own tokens, while we provide many tools and materials to get you issuing your own tokens more quickly, it is highly advised that you still seek legal counsel to ensure that your usage and deployment of such tokens complies with all laws and regulations. Again, this site only takes care of the technology side of using blockchain and not the legal.
How Does It Work / What's the Catch?
* and disclaimers, technicalities/legalities, etc...
The underlying technology behind the scenes is the Ripple consensus ledger designed to allow two parties to transmit between each other with no intermediary. It is similar to Bitcoin's blockchain technology except that it not only facilitates quick transactions with no middlemen, it also allows anyone to issue new tokens to represent value. Whereas other cryptocurrencies are just that, currencies to be traded, Ripple is actually a full-on exchange through which anything can be issued and traded. You can even trade other cryptocurrencies through Ripple itself. Like Bitcoin, it is decentralized and distributed worldwide, meaning that there is no one who can interfere with your use and no one else is responsible for anything that happens except you.
The Ripple network is actually a mature and well-established technology in the industry that's been online since 2014. Ripple Labs, the company which created the technology, has already implemented the technology in many major banks. Their technology has a settlement time of under 4 seconds and can scale to handle as much throughput as Visa, making it technologically superior to many alternative blockchain technologies that currently exist. The Ripple network itself is just sitting there on the internet, free with no barrier to entry or cost for anyone to connect to and use. Yet, the technology has been little known publicly and virtually no one else has created a similarly free, fully featured interface to the network. This is for a number of reasons:
- Ripple Labs has pivoted to applying their technology just to speeding up bank transactions. That is but a sliver of what their technology is capable of, but as a company with many investors and private interests, they had to focus their use case. As a result of their financial industry focus, they had to retreat from being too public with their work. This combined with the stigma of the company having "sold out to banks" is why Ripple is less known today than it was in 2014 when it first started. One could say that The World Exchange is effectively a replacement and spiritual successor to their former official wallet, RippleTrade, which as a result of their pivot has been shut down and abandoned; in fact, RippleTrade accounts are directly usable with the same keys here at The World Exchange because it's the same Ripple network behind the scenes.
- The few other Ripple wallets or services that exist only store and exchange XRP as a currency, completely ignoring its decentralized exchange and numerous other features. Again, that is but a sliver of what Ripple's technology is capable of, but of the few other Ripple-supporting products that exist, virtually none of them showcase the fact that Ripple can do far more than just send money quickly. Part of it is tied to Ripple Labs' pivot to bank transactions, which led to the developer community and ecosystem becoming largely neglected. The other part is pure economics. As described previously, many cryptocurrency exchanges that do exist "re-invent the wheel" by becoming a traditional exchange themselves that just happens to list cryptocurrencies. They do this so they can charge a fee for their services and insert themselves as the middleman that blockchain technology was designed to eliminate. If they were to simply provide access to the free, decentralized exchange that already exists within Ripple itself, they would make themselves obsolete and have little chance to make a profit. Which leads us to the final point...
- There is no business case for making something that is completely free. The World Exchange is a pure, vanilla, client-side tool for the Ripple network and charges nothing to use. There is no extra process in between you and the network and no way for the creators of the website to profit. No VC would ever fund a free-to-use platform with no way to make money. This site was created purely out of interest with no business intent except to showcase the capabilities of blockchain technologies like Ripple and encourage more activity in the space.
Things that are free and open are very rare, and it is a natural human response to be skeptical. The nice part is because this is free and open, you don't need to speculate. Just go ahead and create an account to try things out with. Do something with it or do nothing. It is up to you. The technology, however, is here and open to all.
- The True Potential of Ripple and XRP - The original vision and inspiration for the site by its creator.
- The World Exchange Github Project - Although you can just right-click and view source, here is the webpage open-sourced on Github as well. Others are welcome to also contribute or build on top.
- XRPChat, Ripple Official Forums - Community sites for help and support.
- The Ripple Protocol - History and details of the Ripple technology itself.