XRP is the native currency of the Ripple network. It only exists within the Ripple system. XRP are currently divisible to 6 decimal places. The smallest unit is called a drop with 1 million drops equaling 1 XRP. The founders of Ripple Labs created 100 billion XRP at Ripple's inception. No more can be created according to the rules of the Ripple protocol. Of the 100 billion created, 20 billion XRP were retained by the creators, seeders, venture capital companies and other founders. The remaining 80 billion were given to Ripple Labs. Ripple Labs intends to distribute and sell 55 of that 80 billion XRP to users and strategic partners. Ripple Labs also had a giveaway of under 200 million XRP (0.002% of all XRP) via World Community Grid that was later discontinued. Ripple Labs will retain the remaining 25 billion.
As of November 30, 2012, 7.2 billion XRP have been distributed. The amount of XRP distributed can be found on the Ripple website and their movement tracked through the Ripple Live Network.
XRP is the only currency in the Ripple network that does not entail counterparty risk. It is the only native digital asset. The other currencies in the Ripple network are debt instruments (i.e. liabilities), and exist in the form of balances. XRP is not dependent on any third party for redemption. The system was designed such that XRP is a scarce asset with decreasing supply.
Users of the Ripple network are not required to use XRP as a store of value or a medium of exchange. Each Ripple account is required, however, to have a small reserve of 20 XRP. The purpose for this requirement is discussed in the anti-spam section.
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