XRPL Decentralisation, Features and Upgrades
Date: 19th June 2021
There appears to be a lot of misconceptions over the XRPL and if its actually decentralised. I think, broadly speaking this is down to the fact that XRP was pre-mind and Ripple Labs used to run the vast majority of the validators. Let's take some practical steps to see if the XRPL is indeed decentralised.
As of writing the most up to date XRPL build version is 1.7.2, however we have been running 1.7.0 for a few weeks. This was intentional for us to gather some initial metrics and confirm that our current setup is appropriate for our use case.
After reviewing our server performance from the 6th of June 2021 to the 16h of June 2021 (10 days) it was found that the performance is perfectly fine, with our average overall server score now moving in the 90% range while the lowest score we got over the period was 78.24% , and that was on the 7th of June 2021.
This 78.24% score can be explained due to DNS updates, installing the TOML file correctly, and transitioning from a proof of concept to live. Generally one would expect some downtime as we run tests and make sure everything it working as expected due to a phased implementation approach.
Upgrading to Build 1.7.2
Upgrading was relatively simple and the XRPL upgrade instructions are easy to follow. You can set the software to upgrade automatically, however I did not do this as I wanted a period of time to gather metrics under a static implementation.
Well, validators can vote on changes on the XRPL, however the most up to date server build version would typically be able to vote on all changes, whereas an older build version would only be able to vote on a subset of changes.
So the plan here is, upgrade to the latest version and then cast my votes.
In terms of the XRPL, it sure appears to me that is decentralised. I am in no way affiliated with Ripple Labs, and I could vote on changes also verification by domain doesn't prevent validators from voting i.e. I did not need Ripple Labs' permission.
I also think that it is reasonable to run a validator with the most up to date build versions in order for changes to be installed. This prevents compatibility problems.
I also looked at if there could be a financial exclusion for running an XRPL validator, as in is it expensive and therefore prohibitive for people to join the network. It sure does appear that the XRPL validator can indeed run in a home broadband environment.
In terms of the XRP coin distribution, with Ripple Labs having the vast majority of coins in their possession. This does not equate to the network being centralised. If we look at most of the projects in the crypto space, you get crypto whales, but concluding centralise from that is quite a leap in my view.
As the XRPL is not a proof of stake block chain, having a lot of XRP does not actually give the holder more rights over that block chain than any other holder. For example, I was able to vote on changes, and I do not need to hold XRP.
Another common criticism is that Ripple Labs could dump their holding. Two issues with this. The first being that XRP is an asset held by Ripple Labs, and dumping of any asset would then decrease its value which would again decrease Ripple Labs' value, I would think. The second problem with this is that us as validators could vote to burn Ripple Labs' holdings of XRP – and I would think we would.