What is Ripple, and how does the system compare to Bitcoin?
This is answered in the official wiki:
- ripple is a distributed peer-to-peer payment network
- ripple transactions are irreversible, sent over the Internet, and counterfeit proof
- ripple uses the same underlying cryptography as Bitcoin
- ripple has multi-signature support
- ripple has low to no transaction fees
- ripple servers can be run by anyone
- ripple can send any currency
- ripple can automatically exchange currencies
- ripple transactions are fully confirmed in seconds
- ripple allows nicknames and gravatar icons for accounts
- ripple's reference client is a Firefox and Chrome add on
- ripple has no block chain download, clients are ready in seconds
- ripple has no mining or direct monetary reward for running a ripple server
- ripple has no currency risk as people can hold whatever fiat they want
- ripple solves the double spending problem with consensus instead of proof-of-work
Ripple is trying to replace SWIFT, the protocol for inter-bank transfers. To me it makes sense because, those systems are (according to my understanding) quite antiquated. So blockchain hype has provided the impetus for banks to consider trying something new such as Ripple. It was started by the guy who created MtGox.
Bitcoin is a mechanism for exchanging value online between any two (or more) persons who have accounts and something to trade.
There's nothing in common, essentially. Ripple is a simulacrum of Bitcoin repeating some of its external features, adding naive stuff like gravatars and missing the basics: immutability, independence from human factor, and any appeal to general public which is needed for any social-engineering tool to take off.