Opinion: For long, the naysayers of the XRP Ledger have stated that the blockchain is centralized around Ripple, a company focused on solving for cross-border payments. Recently, however, the coin has achieved another level of decentralization, with only 27% of the validator nodes being controlled by Ripple on the default Unique Node List [UNL].
This translates into a higher degree of trusted third-party use of the XRP Ledger, thus spreading away control from Ripple, who used to control a majority of the validator nodes on the network. Another reason that many give to say that the network is centralized is that Ripple controls a majority of the supply of XRP, around 53 billion of it. However, this is locked up in an escrow smart contract, which means that Ripple cannot withdraw it as and when they please. The contracts expire every month, upon which Ripple can utilize the 1 billion XRP that had previously been locked up.
Even if a situation arose wherein Ripple wanted to take the XRP out of the escrow, the transaction taking the coins out would have to be validated and approved by 78% of the remaining nodes. Now, with the decreasing number of Ripple validator nodes on the XRP UNL, it would become simply impossible for Ripple to forcibly remove XRP from escrow, thus taking away control of the “centralized” supply of the coin.
With that being said, some of the new validators running on the UNL include Alloy.ee, an application hosting service specializing in hosting productivity applications, Bitso, a digital asset exchange and xRapid partner, a global Information and Communications Technology Services Provider called NTT Communications and Coil, a company based around utilizing the InterLedger Protocol and XRP to deliver micropayments to content creators on the Internet.
Other validators are run by BREX, a company providing real-time access to structured and official commercial register data, Bahnhof, a Swedish Internet Service Provider [ISP], and Business Register Exchange, a company that delivers a powerful API to give its customers instant access to global commercial register data. Companies such as Worldlink, a global technology firm providing talent, consulting and management solutions, and AT TOKYO, a leading company in the data center industry also run a validator on the recommended UNL.
Other validators can be identified as those being run by XRP Community members, as seen by Bithomp, a website maintaining a blockchain explorer for the XRP Ledger, Rabbit Kick Club, a website dedicated to running a node, and one validator each for XRP Community-based projects such as XRPChat and XRP Tip Bot.
There are also validators run by various universities around the world and are a part of Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative [UBRI]. These include the University of Nicosia in Cyprus, the Korea University Blockchain Security Research Center, and the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center at the University of Kansas.
All in all, this provides an important move forward for Ripple and the XRP Ledger, with regulators seeing the divide in between the two. Moreover, it makes XRP more secure, as the nodes are now geographically and jurisdictionally separate.