Ripple is centralized — at least for supply. The debate continues about whether Ripple is centralized or decentralized. In regard to supply, there is no debate. Ripple Labs created the entire Ripple supply and can flood the market with XRP, however unlikely that might be in the short term. Ripple supporters say such concerns shouldn’t worry investors. Validation of Ripple transactions, on the other hand, promises to be more decentralized than some other cryptocurrencies as time goes on due to the consolidation of the hashing power that validates blockchain transactions for Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others placing more control over those currencies in fewer hands.
Ethereum is decentralized. For now, it’s fair to call Ethereum a decentralized currency. No single authority controls the supply or transaction verifications. The system, however, falls short of a true democracy because as the difficulty of mining increases, it requires more resources and specialized hardware and hashing power is increasingly represented by fewer mining pools.
**Ethereum can be mined. This makes Ethereum an expanding supply, currently based on “Proof of Work” (PoW), which requires miners to solve encrypted codes to add transactions to the blockchain. Ethereum is transitioning to a “Proof of Stake” (PoS) system that requires miners to own a qualifying amount of Ethereum to mine more Ethereum. With the change from PoW to PoS, mining difficulty will change as well, opening opportunities for mining to more people and wresting control away from the larger mining pools.
Ripple is a fixed supply — but Ripple Labs holds uncirculated Ripple in escrow.** A small amount of Ripple is destroyed with each transaction, making Ripple a shrinking supply — albeit by minuscule amounts relative to the overall supply, which includes the Ripple still held in escrow. One hundred billion Ripple coins exist, with about 38 billion of those in circulation.
Ethereum on Coinbase. Building a position in Ethereum is easy. Ethereum can be purchased with a credit or debit card as one of a handful of coins available on Coinbase and GDAX, Coinbase’s trading platform. Ripple is available through some smaller exchanges, some of which require Bitcoin or Ethereum to purchase Ripple. Purchasing Ripple isn’t quite as straightforward as purchasing Ethereum, but active cryptocurrency investors shouldn’t find any difficulty in navigating transactions.