Ripple is the catchall name for the cryptocurrency platform, the transactional protocol for which is actually XRP, in the same fashion as Ethereum is the name for the platform that facilitates trades in Ether. Like other cryptocurrencies, Ripple is built atop the idea of a distributed ledger network which requires various parties to participate in validating transactions, rather than any singular centralized authority. That facilitates transactions all over the world, and transfer fees are far cheaper than the likes of bitcoin. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, XRP transfers are effectively immediate, requiring no typical confirmation time. Ripple was originally founded by a single company, Ripple Labs, and continues to be backed by it, rather than the larger network of developers that continue bitcoin’s development. It also doesn’t have a fluctuating amount of its currency in existence. Where bitcoin has a continually growing pool with an eventual maximum, and Ethereum theoretically has no limit, Ripple was created with all of its 100 billion XRP tokens right out of the gate. That number is maintained with no mining and most of the tokens are owned and held by Ripple Labs itself — around 60 billion at the latest count. Even at the recently reduced value of around half a dollar per XRP, that means Ripple Labs is currently sitting on around $20 billion worth of the cryptocurrency (note: Ripple’s price crashed hard recently, and may be worth far less than $60 billion by time you read this). It holds 55 billion XRP in an escrow account, which allows it to sell up to a billion per month if it so chooses in order to fund new projects and acquisitions. Selling such an amount would likely have a drastic effect on the cryptocurrency’s value, and isn’t something Ripple Labs plans to do anytime soon. In actuality, Ripple Labs is looking to leverage the technology behind XRP to allow for faster banking transactions around the world. While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are built on the idea of separating financial transactions from the financial organizations of traditional currencies, Ripple is almost the opposite in every sense. XRP by Ripple price can be found on this page alongside the market capitalization and additional stats.
Counterparty is a platform for user-created assets on Bitcoin. It’s a protocol, set of specifications, and an API. Taken together, it allows users to create and trade assets on top of Bitcoin’s blockchain. In this way, Counterparty is similar to platforms like Waves or Ethereum. Of course, the difference is Counterparty integrates directly with Bitcoin. Therefore, it comes will all the security and reliability (and issues) that are part of the Bitcoin blockchain. This is a fairly old project. In fact, it pre-dates Ethereum with its launch in 2014. It was the original asset creation mechanism. As you’re probably aware, Counterparty has faded from prominence over the years. This is largely due to the rise of the ERC-20 token standard on Ethereum. While we’ve become used to calling blockchain assets, tokens, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. An asset can represent anything that has value or is rare. As a result, Counterparty steers clear of the word “token” in their marketing and documentation. They’re much more interested in digital assets of all kinds, not just currencies, securities, and utility tokens. Digital assets can be a digital marker of a physical object, an easy way to manage shares in your company, or reputation karma for a website. These are all types of assets you could create on Counterparty (or Ethereum or Waves, for that matter). Counterparty creates the set of rules, requirements, integrations, etc that are necessary for assets on the Bitcoin blockchain. It’s the infrastructure behind user-created assets in much the same way that the ERC-20 protocol sets up guidelines and standards for asset creation on Ethereum. One useful function of digital assets is as a marker of ownership or voting rights. Imagine a scenario where you issued a digital asset to each of your company’s board members in proportion to the amount of voting power held. Or if you gave your stockholders a digital asset as a marker of the amount of stock they owned. If you issued your stock asset, you could then use Counterparty’s distribution function to pay out dividends in BTC based on the amount of digital stock asset each person owned. Counterparty addresses many of the same issues as Ethereum or Waves, but on the Bitcoin blockchain. While that does come with some advantages, ultimately it is not as strong a platform for development as its competitors. It’s best suited for applications that need to interface with Bitcoin or assets that have a specific connection to the Bitcoin ecosystem.