Multi-Signing in Ripple: A Q&A with David Schwartz

By building a network of networks using distributed financial technology, Ripple plays a central role in enabling development of the Internet of Value. Ripple’s digital asset, known as XRP, acts as a useful trading instrument to reduce spreads and expedite market thickness.

XRP’s value as a bridge currency has driven significant buyer interest, and helping both institutions and individuals secure their investments is a top priority. To this end, multi-signing is now available on the Ripple Consensus Ledger: https://ripple.com/dev-blog/multi-signing-now-available/

To delve deeper into how this new capability benefits XRP investors, we asked David Schwartz, Chief Cryptographer and a member of the Board of Directors of Ripple, to comment on a few key questions.

What is multi-signing?

By definition, multi-signing means requiring more than one signature, also known as a key, in order for a transaction to be executed. The purpose is to add an additional layer of security when either transacting in fiat or cryptocurrencies.

Multi-sign allows you to have more than one key, so you can give those keys to different people, such as a counterparty, and create quorums, like four out of six [required], four out of nine, or whatever works for you. Because the counterparty only has one key, they can’t transact without your permission.

If you have a personal account, two out of three might be a good solution. Corporations, liquidity providers or other institutions holding a large amount of funds may arrange for other signers, such as their attorneys or a board of directors.

You can also assign a weight to each key, so if you have a key that’s extremely secure, you can give it a higher weight.

How does Ripple’s multi-signing capability compare to those of other cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin’s?

An important aspect of our implementation of multi-sign compared to what Bitcoin has is that individual signers can manage their own keys. This design is useful if a company has a change in employees or as a best practice wants to change the keys periodically. With Bitcoin’s multi-sign implementation, if one of the signers needs to change its key, then everyone has to get together and establish a new signer set. You don’t have to do that with Ripple’s implementation, because it’s all on the ledger.

We have seen cases where people have reason to believe that their keys might have been compromised, but they weren’t completely sure, so they didn’t necessarily want to go to the trouble to tell all the other signers and generate new credentials, creating undue risk for all.

Ripple’s multi-sign capability makes the process as easy as possible, increasing the probability that people and companies will manage their keys and minimizing overall risk.

What can we expect from Ripple in the near future?

Ripple is gaining major traction: we’ve added seven new banks to our global network (link: https://ripple.com/insights/seven-leading-banks-join-ripples-global-network/), initiated new pilots with Santander U.K. and Mizuho Financial Group, and demonstrated the first public bank-to-bank transfer of funds that was executed in just eight seconds: https://ripple.com/insights/news/watch-real-money-cross-borders-real-time/.

As for what’s upcoming, we’re making significant innovations on the Ripple Consensus Ledger (RCL) as the core ledger for XRP, which is really best positioned of all the digital assets to lower banks’ liquidity costs in cross-border payments. A big thing on our roadmap is better integration with the Interledger Protocol (ILP): https://interledger.org/. We already support suspended pay, as a form of an on-ledger hold, which is great for large payments. We’re adding cryptocondition support as well. ILP can work on its own [using fiat currencies], but to position XRP as a bridge currency, it needs to work with ILP extremely well.