The Ripple network is quite different from a standard distributed ledger such as Bitcoin. The Ripple ledger can store and transfer balances of any currency or asset (which can be thought of as an IOU from an "issuer" of that currency). XRP is the native currency of the network but the ledger can also contain entries for USD or BTC for example. An institution can accept USD outside the network and then issue that balance to a Ripple address. The owner of that address can now send the USD balance to any address that has specified they accept USD from that issuer. Ripple can send money between two accounts that don't share a trusted issuer if another account exists that has a line of trust with an issuer that both the sender and reciever trust.
Built into the network is a currency market that allows users to make and accept offers in different currencies. This platform is analagous to cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance or Bittrex but is all processed on the distributed ledger. Ripple can use this exchange automatically while finding a path of trust between two accounts by converting "IOUs" from the sender's issuer to one the reciever trusts.
Users are able to configure their account to only trust certain issuers so they will only ever receive "IOUs" from trusted sources that they know they will be able to redeem off network. The Ripple network will perform whatever necessary trades required to get from one issuer's "IOU" to one that the receiver trusts. If a line of trust cannot be established or the fees to perform the transaction are higher than the user has allowed for, then the transaction will fail.
The other trait of Ripple that separates it from the majority of cryptocurrencies is that it does not feature any mining. All possible Ripple already exists and there is no method to create any more. Nodes on the network do not earn fees or rewards for processing transactions like Bitcoin for example. Ripple intends for nodes to make money by other means, such as fees on currency exchanges within the network and for acting as a gateway/issuer for off-network assets.
XRP Quick Specifications
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