I have learned about Ripple. Before, I pictured that it would be a p2p protocol. But as I learned, the Ripple trades must be atomic across the entire path. You can't have only 2 or 3 of them happen, based purely on trust
that the rest will. No... there must
be some clearing process where ALL trades in a given RipplePay are performed atomically... or not at all.
Clearly the easiest way to do that is with a server... but that's not decentralized and p2p, is it?
Actually, in the case of Ripple--IT IS. You see what Ripple decentralizes--what Ripple makes F2F--is the functionality of being able to exchange IN and OUT between fiat currencies and digital ones without having to go through an exchange.
Ripple is not P2P. Rather, it is F2F (Friend-2-Friend)
. It is through your friends that you can exchange money in-and-out of the system, instead of having to use an exchange such as MtGox.
And you can see that Ripple enables such activity whether or not it runs on a server. Thus, the "important part" of Ripple IS distributed even when it runs on a server. And the existence of Bitcoin is what makes it possible to run Ripple servers anonymously at a profit. And before you ask, "What if the server screws you over?" Answer: That is why someday OT must implement Ripple, so you have the protection of the Triple-Signed Receipts along with the Ripple protocol.