Art by: Jing Jin
ShapeShift has added Ripple support and allows for the nearly instantaneous transfer between cryptocurrencies. Ripple is currently the second largest cryptocurrency if you consider pure market cap numbers.
ShapeShift works by allowing users to send any supported cryptocurrency to a ShapeShift address and have a converted amount of any other supported currency to any address the user chooses.
The advantages of using ShapeShift.io over a traditional exchange are that you don't have to make an account and any supported cryptocurrency can be converted and sent to a merchant that accepts bitcoin (or any other supported cryptocurrency).
Ripple is a big addition, because it is fairly popular despite having a completely different base than Bitcoin. Unlike most cryptocurrencies (but not all, NXT is another example) Ripple was built from the ground up and doesn't use the Bitcoin source code. This gives it certain advantages over Bitcoin, but also has its drawbacks. One notable drawback is that it is less compatible with systems already designed for Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies. While integrating a coin that is based on Bitcoin into a Bitcoin API will often only require a few minor changes to the code, Ripple API and integration generally has to be built from the ground up.
Of course, Ripple is designed to do different things and those things weren't possible on the Bitcoin network when Ripple was launched (or re-launched). So it is a trade off in that way. There are other concerns and advantages of Ripple, but they have been debated ad nauseam and there is no reason to rehash that here.
The point is, Ripple isn't the easiest to work with, and thanks to Shapeshift, its base currency, XRP, just got a lot easier to use.
Ripple adoption was officially launched on Friday, January 16, but as it turns out, it wasn't quite ready for public use. My first attempts at sending Bitcoin through Shapeshift with the intention of getting Ripple in return, went through without a hitch. It was when I tried to send Ripple to Shapeshift that I ran into problems: it didn't work at all. A few emails with Shapeshift's tech support and I received my Ripple back and was told that they were ironing out a few kinks. Come Tuesday, everything seemed to be working perfectly and Ripple to NXT and Ripple to BTC conversions went through extremely quick.
One currency isn't working with Ripple at this point: NuBits. NuBits is a cryptocurrency pegged to the dollar that has done a commendable job of keeping its value around that. We have been told the compatability issue is because the exchange ShapeShift uses for its Ripple transactions doesn't accept NuBits yet and the exchange(s) they use for NuBits don't accept Ripple. We are told that they are working on a back-end solution to this.
ShapeShift is a sponsor of Cointelegraph, but other than answering our questions, had no influence on the direction of this article. Anyone who has had trouble with Ripple conversion is suggested to email [email protected] with their Ripple TX ID and a return address.