Luke Cyca’s got something very secretive going on over at Ripli.ca. There users can buy and sell secrets online (i.e. gift cards, joke punchlines, etc.) in multiple currencies on top of the ripple protocol. It’s the brainchild of a 30-year-old coder from Vancouver, BC, Canada. Luke graciously took the time to answer some questions on his service and the future of Ripple.
Luke Cyca: Bitcoin has been a great source of fascination for me. Like many of us, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and thinking about how it works and what it means. I’ve never “invested” in any virtual currency though, and in fact I believe that speculation is about the least interesting thing that can be done in this space. It’s a young and undeveloped economy with interesting opportunities for those of us who are willing to roll up our sleeves. As it matures, we can re-imagine, reconsider, and re-implement the components of our modern economy.
Luke Cyca: I tried to mine some bitcoins once about a year ago, but found that it was already beyond the reach of my computer resources. I mined a few litecoins instead, and promptly forgot about them and moved on to other things. Last October I found that they’d become worth quite a bit, so I used them to start doing some arbitrage. I wrote a bot to monitor a few BTC/LTC markets. When the markets were crossing, it would buy on one while selling on another, generally capturing anywhere between 1% and 10%. It was very conservative, but between the beginning of December and the end of January, I doubled those handful of litecoins. Unfortunately, my gains were offset by them losing half their value during that time. That’s about the extent of my cryptocoin nest egg.
Luke Cyca: I describe Ripple to laypeople as either “PayPal meets BitTorrent”, or else “Bitcoin without the libertarian agenda.”
Like Bitcoin, Ripple is an impressive piece of technology that can radically change the way we transact. Both are poised to shake up the financial industry and make it more accessible, transparent, and efficient. Bitcoin has a pretty revolutionary attitude though, and is decidedly incompatible with many existing financial systems and norms. It is undergoing an awkward transition to become more practical, compromising its ideals somewhat in the process. For example, we see an increased dependence on centralized payment processors to take the pressure off the blockchain and speed up transaction time for consumers.
Ripple solves these types of problems by being a payment network first, and a currency only incidentally. I also love how effortless it is to extend credit to friends, or how community-based LETS economies are facilitated. It has really captured my imagination.
Luke Cyca: When I arrived in the Ripple community, I found lots of excitement about moving money around in various ways, but precious little about using it to purchase goods and services. All cryptocurrency communities seem to be this way, at least at first. Developing a rich economy requires buying and selling things in the real world, too, and I saw that as a gap that needed filling.
Ripli.ca is a site for buying and selling secrets. Typically, that might be a code from a retail gift card or a secret download URL for an eBook, but it could be just about anything. I’m hoping people get creative with this.
Ripli.ca showcases some of Ripple’s best features. A buyer can purchase an item listed in a currency they don’t have, so long as there is a path of intermediate market-makers on the network. And Ripli.ca never holds funds on behalf of users, so we can avoid all of the risks associated with that. It simply monitors the ledgers to verify payment for a purchase. I’m charging a small amount for each listing, so it filters out the spammers and makes sure we’ve got only serious sellers.
It’s been running for a month now. The concept is minimalist because I wanted it to be something that people would immediately understand. Ripple is already fairly complicated, so the last thing I want to do is create a convoluted service atop it. I spent at least a month refining the concept to the bare minimum. As users try it out and give me feedback, I’ll be listening. If I missed a killer feature, they’ll let me know.
Luke Cyca: They’ve been quite practical. Pre-paid credit cards, gift cards, game credits… that sort of thing. I’d be really excited to see someone come up with a use for Ripli.ca that I haven’t thought of. Selling GPS coordinates to some sort of secret location would be really neat. I think I ought to hold a contest for the most ingenious item listed.
Luke Cyca: Based on the feedback from the community, I’ve rolled out some new features recently. Purchasers can rate their seller, and the rating comes up for everyone browsing that seller’s other items. I also added the ability to sell multiples of an item, which is ideal for those selling digital goods such as eBooks, music, or apps.
My ongoing goal is to make the whole process simpler and easier to use. A lot of that comes down to making Ripple easier to use. There are people buying and selling gift cards on Reddit for Dogecoin, for example. And others doing the same with Litecoin. And even more doing the same for USD on Craigslist. If we can get all of those people using Ripple, they will love it.
Luke Cyca: I’ve been a primary developer of Sovereign which has become quite popular. It’s a set of automated deployment scripts and configuration for setting up your own private cloud replacement. You can use it to replace your Gmail, GitHub, and Dropbox accounts, and it includes things like an RSS reader, VPN, IRC bouncer, … the list goes on. It incorporates a lot of security best-practices, and I’ve borrowed heavily from it to deploy Ripli.ca.
My primary career has always been as a software engineer, but my interests are diverse. I’ve done art installations and electrical engineering, and I played music professionally for several years. I once built a meat curing chamber from a mini-fridge. Now I like to think of myself as a bit of an armchair economist.
Luke Cyca: Bitcoin, Ripple, and all the other coins, protocols, and networks in this space have a bright future. Those that don’t take off directly will still have an influence on those that do. Right now my energy is behind Ripple.
I don’t have much interest in XRP as a speculative currency. I think of it as merely useful for activating new wallets and as an intermediate currency in a trade. The biggest challenge with XRP is how to distribute it evenly so that everyone can have a wallet, but nobody can afford to spam the Ripple network.
Luke Cyca: Ripli.ca is one of the only ways to actually spend balances within Ripple right now, so I encourage everyone to get involved. If there’s a particular gateway or currency that you use, list some items priced in that currency and help spur its adoption.
But more than anything, I encourage everyone to tell me what they want Ripli.ca to be. Leave a comment on this article, send me an email, tweet at me @lukecyca, whatever. I’d love to hear from you.