2018 is still in diapers and yet the cryptocurrency top 10 is already looking very different to last year. Gone are the likes of dash, replaced by coins that have never reached these heady heights before: tron and stellar. The latter peaked at number six this week after tripling in value in seven days from a low of 32 cents. Stellar now boasts a $13 billion market cap. After lying low for the first three years of its existence, stellar is riding high and attracting widespread media attention.
From a Ripple to a Rocket
Stellar is described is an open-source project with a “distributed, hybrid blockchain”. It “exists to facilitate cross-asset transfers of value, including payments. The Stellar Network forms “an open, global financial network where all actors – be they people, payment networks, or banks – have equal access”. If that sounds a lot like Ripple, that’s because it is: Stellar is Ripple’s sibling, having been created by Ripple cofounder Jed McCaleb after he left the company. McCaleb is also famous for having sold Mt Gox to Mark Karpeles in 2011. Stellar was initially a fork of the Ripple protocol, before later being extensively rewritten.
Lumens (XLM) are the currency that power the Stellar Network, which boasts transaction times of under five seconds. The network has a fixed inflation rate of 1% per year. Like Ripple, Stellar’s targets are financial institutions and corporations, and the company has already inked deals with IBM and Deloitte; the latter is classified as a partner. Stellar’s goal, like that of many cryptocurrencies, is to become the web’s go-to payment solution. Low fees and fast transaction times are its two biggest claims, although the same can be said of many altcoins.
Billions of Lumens Shining Bright
In 2017, 29 cryptocurrencies exceeded bitcoin’s 1,600% gains, and stellar was one of them. Its value has grown an astonishing 28,000% in the space of a year. In the past 24 hours, $800 million lumens were traded on exchanges. The token reached an all-time high of 90 cents this week and is currently trading for around 75 cents.
Some commenters see Ripple and Stellar as locked in a battle for supremacy, enacting their own version of Bitcoin Core vs Bitcoin Cash. Given the similarities between Ripple and Stellar, including their shared codebase, people, and target audience, these comparisons are inevitable. In terms of developing relationships with banks and other financial institutions, Ripple is streets ahead, but Stellar has the upper hand in other areas.
For one thing, it’s not hoarding 60% of the total supply to itself. Ripple, on the other hand, still holds 55 billion XRP. The total number of coins in existence on each network is very similar though, standing at 100 billion ripple and 103 billion stellar. 17.8 billion stellar are in circulation right now, two billion of which were awarded to Stripe in 2014 in exchange for a $3 million loan. If Stripe still has them, those lumens are now worth billions.
Despite Stellar’s interstellar ascent, not everyone is convinced by the cryptocurrency.
How Centralized is Stellar?
Like Ripple, Stellar uses a network of trusted validator nodes. While anyone can host one, the Stellar Network relies on approved nodes which have close ties to Stellar. As a consequence, stellar is not a true decentralized currency. Generally speaking, the closer a cryptocurrency is aligned with institutional investors, the more centralized it is by design. For what it is worth, Stellar is at least less centralized than Ripple.
It is debatable whether Stellar is worth its $13 billion market cap, but then the same could be said of many cryptocurrencies lurking in the top 10, including Ripple, Tron, and Cardano. In an irrational market, assets are worth whatever the next buyer’s willing to pay for them, and right now that figure is higher than the one before. If Ripple can become a $3 coin, there’s no reason why Stellar can’t continue on its rocket ride to infinity and beyond. After months of bitcoin dominance, altcoin season has returned, and it’s the penny stocks of the crypto world that are shining the brightest.