The cool thing about creating open tools and platforms is that you’re never quite sure how people might use them—like ripli.ca, a marketplace for “secrets” built by Luke Cyca.
The site allows users to buy and sell secrets—like an iTunes gift card code, the secret URL to an e-book, or maybe just a really good joke—in exchange for payment on Ripple. Items can be priced in any currency and payments are transferred peer-to-peer. Once the site verifies the transaction on the Ripple ledger, the secret is automatically revealed. Cyca says the entire process takes about ten seconds.
“It’s a deliberately open-ended concept,” Cyca told me. “I’m hoping people get creative.”
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have a degree in computer science and I’ve worked as a software engineer for about over fifteen years now. Mostly, I’ve worked on various web applications, specifically for the biotech sector. Recently, I’ve had quite an interest in economics.
I think the whole cryptocurrency movement has made economics accessible to software engineers at least in a superficial way, so it’s been very interesting to become apart of that. Aside from all of that, I’ve been a professional musician for a number of years. I’m a drummer. I just left two bands I was performing with the last three years.
How did you find yourself in the cryptocurrency space?
I’ve been reading about it and following it for years now. I really didn’t get too involved at first, watching from the sidelines. It was maybe a year ago that I decided to try it out. I tried to mine some bitcoins and found that it wasn’t possible given my computer resources so I mined some litecoins instead—mainly as an academic exercise.
I wanted to try it out and see what it was about. I mined a few of those and forgot about them for quite a while. It wasn’t until about October, when prices were going up and there was a bit of a bubble, that I got into it again and did some trading back and force, all very small amounts. My philosophy is that I’m here to learn about it, not to get rich. And if I do as a side effect, that’s wonderful. I appreciate the fascinating opportunities that are available.
What are your thoughts on Ripple?
I describe Ripple as the BitTorrent for Paypal to laypeople who aren’t very technical. It’s a way to disrupt a very common part of our modern economy. So I think as it matures and as we build this new economy, there are plenty of opportunities to reevaluate how its all put together, to make new decisions—some for better and some for worse as well. Everything’s out on the table and everything can sort of be adjusted now.
How did you come up with your idea for ripli.ca?
When I came and learned about Ripple, I realized there weren’t a lot of ways to buy and sell things on the network. There were a lot of ways to move money around but there weren’t a lot of ways to actually buy things. I saw a lot of people on the forums that would post one item for sale and it would take days for them to negotiate with someone.
So I decided to build a very simple website application on top of the Ripple protocol that allows a user to sell a secret to a buyer. The secret can be a code from a retail gift card or a the download code for music. I’ve listed my band’s music on there. I suggested that someone could buy treasure somewhere and sell the coordinates.
I hope that people can think of cool ways to use it. I believe in emergent design. You should design a system in such a way that it can morph into other use cases to serve other needs. That’s what informed the design of ripli.ca. I didn’t make a site you can sell gift cards on, I made a site where you can sell secrets. That’s probably what attracted me to Ripple as well—the platform fosters emergent design and it’s all been very practical.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen sold?
It’s been kind of disappointing so far. It’s been mostly online game credits and prepaid gift cards. The hope is that people will eventually start to think outside of the box.
What were the biggest challenges during development?
The software engineering part of it was quite easy. Ripple is fairly easy to get started with and fairly easy to build software on top of. The difficult piece of it was literally refining the concept so that it was simple as it could be. There are a lot of ways you could achieve what ripli.ca is doing, but I wanted to do it with the fewest clicks possible. So when I describe it to someone in one sentence, they would get it.
Is there a business model?
I charge quite a small fee—25 XRP for a listing. I’m doing that because I want a small barrier of entry for a seller but big enough to keep out spam and ensure that sellers are serious enough that they have something worthwhile to post.
I don’t take a percentage of the sale. One of the excellent features of Ripple that I’m taking advantage of with ripli.ca is that I don’t have to be involved in the transaction. I don’t hold anyone’s money at any point during the process. There’s no risk of my site being compromised and people’s money disappearing. That’s just not how it’s setup, which was important to me because I don’t want to take that kind of risk.
Any cool features planned for the future?
We rolled out a new one the other week—a feature for someone who is selling multiples of something. So if someone is selling an e-book, they don’t have to create multiple listings. We also just implemented seller ratings like on Ebay.
I’m open to feedback. We encourage people to try it out. If they love it, I’d like to hear about it. If they hate it, I’d like to hear about it, too.