Ripple names are a unique namespace that work in conjunction with the Ripple address system. Using Ripple Trade, you can reserve a Ripple name, which is unique and public, much like the current Ripple address.
Ripple names benefit users by making transactions easier and increasing confidence that funds are being delivered to the right Ripple public address. Since it is easier to send funds to “~johnsmith” than to a 34-character Ripple Wallet public address, Ripple names were created to improve the user experience.
A Ripple name is preceded by a ‘~’. For example, if your Ripple name is ~WorldGateway, other users can send you funds by using ~WorldGateway in the send field. They will also be able to see that funds were sent to them from ~WorldGateway. Ripple names are case insensitive, so ~worldgateway works, too.
Ripple names are separate from the Ripple public address and secret key, a.k.a. the Ripple public & private key pair. In practice, they act to link a username to a Ripple public address, and a username and password to a Ripple public address and secret key. Of the two, the Ripple public address and secret key are more fundamental, as they are an intrinsic part of the protocol. A valid Ripple account may exist without a Ripple name, with a Ripple public address and secret key; however, no Ripple account can exist without a Ripple public address and secret key. This is also why the secret key is so important: if a Ripple name’s password is lost, the secret key can act as an account recovery mechanism.
Ripple names are not immutable, and can be changed by users once an account is funded. Click here to learn more about how to change a Ripple name.