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Stellar is a platform that connects banks, payments systems and people, helping them to move money across borders at almost no cost. It acts as a bridge facilitating the low-cost trading of fiat currencies, particularly in cases where there might not be a large direct market.
The native asset of the Stellar network is the Lumen (XLM). Lumens are used to pay transaction fees on the platform and act as a security measure that mitigates DoS attacks that attempt to generate large numbers of transactions or consume large amounts of space in the ledger. The asset also plays an anti-spam role, as all user accounts must hold a minimum of 0.5 Lumen, discouraging abandoned accounts and ensuring that they all have economic utility.
In 2014, when the network launched, the native asset was also called ‘Stellar’ but was renamed ‘Lumen’ in 2015 to prevent confusion. The supply of Lumens is governed by strict protocol-level rules. At launch 100 billion were created and every year new Lumens are added to the network at an inflation rate of 1%.
The platform and development of the network are run by the Stellar Development Foundation, a non-profit and non-stock fund. The founders of the fund can neither benefit from its operation or from the sale of its shares.
After launch, the foundation announced its intentions to distribute 50% of the total number of Lumens to each unique individual who signed up through an invitation. Partners such as businesses, governments, institutions, or nonprofit organizations that contribute to the growth and adoption of the Stellar ecosystem were allocated 25%. A further 20% was given away to Bitcoin and XRP holders over two distribution rounds in 2017, and 5% is reserved for operational expenses. As of January 2018, 8 billion Lumens had been given away.
Stellar is an open-source, distributed payments infrastructure, meaning that anyone can build an app or financial product on top of it. It was developed to provide the opportunity for new organizations to extend financial access to unserved communities by ensuring participants record transactions correctly. IBM’s blockchain division, for example, partnered with Stellar in 2017 and use Lumens as a unit of account for their banking payments infrastructure.
Like all blockchain platforms, Stellar consists of a number of servers (or nodes) around the world which keep a record of every account and transaction in the network and store the records in a ledger. The properties of the ledger can only be changed when all servers reach a consensus that the change meets the protocol criteria.
The company was founded by Jed McCaleb and Joyce Kim. Jed is an American programmer and entrepreneur who founded and served as the CTO of Ripple until 2013 and is known for creating the Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox. In January 2018, McCaleb's Ripple token ownership was reported to be worth $20 billion, putting him in 40th place in Forbes' list of world's richest people.
After beginning her career as an attorney, Joyce was a venture capitalist at Freestyle Capital. She co-founded SimpleHoney, a mobile commerce startup, and was CEO of Soompi, an English language website providing coverage of Korean pop culture. She resigned as Executive Director of Stellar in 2016.
Stellar was based on the initial Ripple protocol and model. After systemic problems with Ripple’s existing consensus algorithm were discovered, Stellar created an updated version of the protocol with a new consensus algorithm. Both platforms have many common traits, however Stellar is known to be more opensource and decentralized.