Ripple’s recent run is remarkable in part because it has eclipsed Ethereum, which was long the number two digital currency, and considered to be the only real rival to bitcoin.
Here is a screenshot from Coinmarketcap that shows the new pecking order as of early Wednesday afternoon ET:
Ripple’s emergence is also notable because, unlike other digital currencies on the list, it is not created by a decentralized mining process. Instead, Ripple’s currency supply—technically known as XRP—was created in one swoop, and a large portion is held by the company itself as a sort of treasury stock.
As CEO Brad Garlinghouse explained to Fortune this summer, Ripple is able to use its XRP supply as a strategic asset while it builds out its business of supplying banks with a blockchain-based source of liquidity.
Others note, however, that if Garlinghouse achieves Ripple’s goal of disrupting the existing global financial infrastructure, the consequences would be profound
The question on whether Ripple will ultimately be a world-changer, or simply an also-ran novelty, hinges in large part on whether banks adopt XRP as a so-called bridge currency to move money around.
Skeptics say this is unlikely because it is centralized and cannot provide enough liquidity compared to bitcoin. Garlinghouse, however, has argued that Ripple offers a faster and cheaper ledger system, and comes with less risk for banks than bitcoin.
Meanwhile, one obvious beneficiary of Ripple’s surge is co-founder Chris Larsen, who is now one of the richest men in the world (the $37 billion cited below is based on XRP trading at $2.39 so Larsen’s wealth is now even higher):
In response to Ripple’s price surge, a company spokesperson provided the following statement:
For those interested in purchasing Ripple—to be clear, Fortune does not endorse buying XRP or any other digital currency—here is a guide for how to do so.