The unexpected flippening: XRP battles for the second spot on the crypto charts

Riding the wave.
Riding the wave.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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This isn’t the “flippening” we’ve been waiting for—the day when ether finally surpasses bitcoin’s market capitalization. Bitcoin remains at the top of the crypto charts, but for the first time since early January,  there’s a new No. 2 in town. Its name is XRP.

Yes, XRP and ether have swapped positions several times in the last few hours due to small price fluctuations. But over a 24-hour period into today (Sept. 21), XRP—the digital asset primarily owned and controlled by Ripple—jumped more than 50 percent, peaking at $0.77 per unit. The South Korean won accounts for more than one-fifth of XRP-linked global trading volume, which suggests that demand there might be behind part of the rise.

On social media, cryptocurrency enthusiasts chimed in on XRP’s resurgence.

Why is XRP rising?

It’s difficult to determine a specific reason for XRP’s ascent. On Sept. 17, Ripple exec Sagar Sarbhai told CNBC he was “very confident” that the company’s xRapid system could be part of a live product within the next month or so, which may have triggered some speculative trading (you know what they say, “buy the rumor, sell the news”). Then, on Sept. 19, Ripple announced that PNC Treasury Management had joined RippleNet, the company’s network of banks and payment providers.

What is XRP?

XRP is often described as a “bridge currency” on the xRapid platform. That means XRP would serve as an intermediate unit of account during conversions between currencies. Instead of converting dollars directly into euros, a user might first convert their dollars into XRP and then convert their XRP into euros. While Ripple claims that this digital asset would enable faster and more reliable international transactions, it’s not obvious how the company would avoid the volatility and liquidity challenges related to XRP itself.

Of course, XRP also remains at the heart of a class-action suit, as some buyers allege that Ripple’s sale of the digital asset constituted the sale of unregistered securities. Regardless, with Ripple’s Swell conference coming up next month, the company will welcome the attention of the XRP price spike, no matter its longevity. And, if XRP keeps up this performance, Ripple might want to consider rebranding its conference to “Tsunami.”