Ripple is a payment system, currency exchange and remittance network by Ripple Labs. It is built upon a distributed, open source Internet protocol, consensus ledger and native currency called ripples (XRP). The Ripple network purports to enable “secure, instant and nearly free global financial transactions of any size with no chargebacks”. It supports any fiat currency (dollars, yen, etc.), cryptocurrency (bitcoin, litecoin, etc.), commodity or other unit of value (frequent flier miles, mobile minutes, etc.).
Ripple and the Bitcoin Bridge
The bitcoin bridge is a link between the Ripple and Bitcoin ecosystems. The bridge makes it possible to pay any Bitcoin user straight from the Ripple client without ever needing to hold any of the digital currency. Additionally, any merchant accepting Bitcoins now has the potential to accept any currency in the world. For example, a Ripple user may prefer to keep money in USD and not own Bitcoin. A merchant, however, may desire payment in Bitcoin. The bitcoin bridge allows any Ripple user to send Bitcoins without having to use a central exchange such as BTC-e to acquire them.