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I was surprised by XRP as well. Apparently they introduced it as an anti-DOS mechanism, meaning that you have to destroy some XRP to do a ripple transaction[1]. To me it would have made more sense if each of the accounts involved in a ripple transaction could simply charge a transaction fee nominated in the currency being transacted.

edit: it seems that such transaction fees are possible[2]. Not sure why XRP is needed then.

[1] https://ripple.com/wiki/Ripple_credits

[2] http://bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/7590/does-ripple-...

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