We have been writing about crypto ramps and on-ramps for quite some time but recently discovered that the term itself does not have a clear definition elsewhere. To avoid confusion, make things easy & propagate good terminology in the industry, we have decided to make things transparent.
What is a crypto ramp?
We believe crypto and blockchains are some of the most promising technologies to emerge in the current millennium. Since Bitcoin's famous hike in price, thousands of other digital currencies have emerged. Some are simply a novelty; others are used by enterprises and as investment platforms. The possibilities and use cases are endless, but crypto had an underlying issue from the very get-go.
The barrier of entry was relatively high. Explaining how wallets, exchanges, tokens, and various solutions work to beginners would make their heads spin. For the last few years making crypto accessible and easy to use was the most critical task of any project from this space.
Crypto ramps are solutions designed to be a bridge: a way to connect our physical world with the digital one, including their currencies. This is achieved by offering accessible, secure and fast ways to exchange fiats to crypto and crypto to fiats. Even shorter: ramps are what makes you buy & sell crypto for "every day", tangible money.
What is fiat?
Despite sounding astonishingly similar to a car brand, fiats in crypto represent the traditional, old money - good ol' USD, EUR, GBP, and so on. The term itself is an abbreviation for fiduciary money - an item that depends on its value on confidence that it is an accepted medium of exchange. It originated as a paper certificate that promised to pay a certain amount of gold or silver to the bearer.
As some of you may know, due to how public debts and the current economic models work, we are no longer at the stage where fiats represent actual value in gold. The only value paper money holds in this day and age is the promise that you will be able to pay for stuff with it, not much different from leading crypto (such as Bitcoin).
On-ramp vs ramp
One thing you might be wondering about is, of course, what's the difference between ramps and on-ramps? This is a bit harder to nail down: many people use them interchangeably. There doesn't seem to be a single, coherent definition, but we have prepared one for you.
On-ramp is, linguistically speaking, a direct opposite of off-ramps (more on this one below). On-ramp means that you can buy crypto for your fiat money (again: USD, EUR, GBP, and so on). As such, it's only the initial part of the ramping process: a way to start and get into crypto.
In contrast, crypto off-ramps are ways to transform your crypto into fiat money. These allow you to exit the crypto market with your funds, for instance, after a successful investment. It's still only a part of the whole process, though.
Crypto ramp definition
We usually understand the whole process by a crypto ramp: a way to both get crypto & get rid of it for fiat money. This creates a complete ramp that you can put stuff on and off, giving you total flexibility and control.
By giving users the power to go back and forth, we make a truly seamless experience and lower the entry barrier for crypto.
Ramp can also be understood as a tool (like ours, called Ramp - it does, however, need to be both-sided as well. Any tool that offers ramp capabilities for crypto technology makers (such as wallet providers) should have a way to both buy & sell crypto for fiat to be a true ramp and provide full value. And that's exactly what we do best.
In contrast to crypto exchanges, ramp solutions are usually not chosen directly by the user but by the developer/provider of a wallet or app. Instead of creating an account and using a 3rd party to buy or sell crypto on a separate platform, users can stay in their environment (a game, crypto trading or investment app) and see a nice-looking screen that will guide them through the process. That's because the developers implemented a ramp SDK or API, integrating a ramp solution directly into their mechanisms. This is, in short, what makes crypto ramps different from Coinbase and other similar platforms.
On-ramp vs onboarding
Sometimes we hear people saying that onboarding sounds quite similar to the on-ramp. To a certain extent, this is true: by implementing a crypto ramp, the application does not need to make its users visit external, 3rd-party apps and websites. Verification and purchase process are much easier, and since users can quickly get a hold of some crypto, it's trivial to make them use it in a game, trading platform, ICO or any other end goal.
These two terms should not be used interchangeably, though. Ramp is simply a way to make new user onboarding better - but it's not the only one, and it covers only part of the user's journey. In this context, think of crypto ramp-like of a sword in an RPG game: it is a great tool to slay pesky UX monsters, but you need to swing it and bring some other items, too.
We hope this article cleared things up a little bit. Stay tuned for more soon.