Ripple’s radical, super-fast, super-secure new algorithm Cobalt draws closer

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  • Highly anticipated new algorithm set for release
  • Update aims to increase speed and security
  • One-second process time for cross-border payments

Digital currency international money transfers startup Ripple is to radically improve the reliability and speed of its XRP crypto transactions with an innovative “atomic broadcast algorithm” – Cobalt.

Ripple watchers have generally been sated by prodigious announcements from the startup signalling new initiatives. However, recently, there’s been a period of radio silence. Speculation among crypto enthusiasts has filled the void with, as yet unanswered, questions as to whether Western Union will integrate XRP to facilitate faster cross-border payments, or whether MoneyGram is about to adopt the digital coin or whether Santander is poised to launch an XRP-based exchange.

It seems as though Ripple’s uncharacteristic silence of late has been due to its intensified work on the pending algorithmic update. The algorithm’s capabilities were described back in February in a white paper by computer scientist Ethan MacBrough, who worked for Ripple as a research engineer before moving on to become Lead Scientist at Coil in May this year.

The new Cobalt algorithm promises to deliver a major improvement to the speed and reliability of the Ripple platform, permitting remittance transactions to zip through within one second while the current time window is four seconds. The enhanced speed is sure to appeal most to Ripple users, but the Cobalt update goes further. It makes transactions appreciably more reliable, consistent and stringent than the offerings currently available from competitor cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Bitcoin and others. XRP tokens will simply flow faster through the transaction process, with minimal risk of backing up.

In his white paper Cobalt: BFT Governance in Open Networks, MacBrough introduces the algorithm like this: “We present Cobalt, a novel atomic broadcast algorithm that works in networks with non-uniform trust and no global agreement on participants and is probabilistically guaranteed to make forward progress even in the presence of maximal faults and arbitrary asynchrony.”

That might sound like so much technobabble to many, but it essentially means that Cobalt can deliver accurate, safe and rapid transactions even in the path of contingent glitches and faults such as untrusted nodes, clients in the blockchain, behaving maliciously.

Ripple seems to have worked out that its best chance of improving on the cross-border payments systems on offer from the banks is to enhance its own platform. Hence the Cobalt update, which will, the company hopes, assuage broader user suspicion about cryptos and build more trust. It’ll also provide more opportunity and trust to the banks, who may be more inclined than previously to start integrating XRP.

Consumers benefit from Cobalt in that it’s not only lightning-fast but the days of having a transaction arbitrarily stopped will come to an end. The worst that’s likely to happen is a little slowing down of the payment, but it will still go through, unlike when a credit card firm decides to decline a transaction at a restaurant.

The question is: when will Cobalt become operational? There isn’t a definitive answer just yet because Ripple still seems a little tight-lipped about it. It is a reasonably safe bet that it won’t be long. When it does come, there’ll be little to stop XRP from being adopted in virtually all parts of the financial industry, assuming that the banks embrace it.

If you’d like to read more about Ripple, read our company review here.


Daniel Webber
Daniel Webber
Founder & CEO
Daniel is Founder and CEO at FXcompared and has numerous years of experience in the international finance world, especially within the media, technology and property sectors. Daniel is passionate… Read more

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