My Account If you’re like me, you maybe half understand how blockchain technology works, suspect it’s way overhyped, and associate its main application with buying drugs online. And I’m guessing you’re a lot like me!  Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, are the people who have become absurdly wealthy amid the cryptocurrency frenzy, or are enthusiasts of the technology behind it and are eager to advance blockchain to more widespread and exciting applications.

  Among the true believers are the founders of Ripple, a blockchain technology firm founded in 2012 and lately near the forefront of a lot action. The company is flush enough, and forward thinking enough, that it just committed $50 million to expand academic research on the subject.

In the process, it’s looking to move the technology and its potential financial applications out of the very early stages, and maybe out of the dicey reputation I mention above.  That translates into a nice chunk of cash for 17 universities to study any aspect of the technology they choose. It’s also a shrewd business move for the company.  Ripple is one of the breakout firms working in this space, using blockchain technology—decentralized electronic databases used to record online transactions—to help financial institutions make global payments.

Ripple is also associated with, although technically independent from, one of the largest cryptocurrencies, XRP. Out of the hundreds of cryptocurrencies, the virtual money made possible by blockchain, the most popular is Bitcoin.

(There are so many two-minute explainers, but here is one.) Interest in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency is surging right now, although much of the hype has been around the small number of eccentric characters (a lot of libertarian dudes) making money, and the anonymity that has made crypto useful for illegal transactions. And of course, there are many skeptics (see Vox, “Why Bitcoin is bullshit”). Read more from…

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