We have been writing about crypto ramps and on-ramps for quite some time, but recently found out that the term itself does not really 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 millenium. Since Bitcoin's famous hike in price, thousands of other digital currencies emerged, Some are simply a novelty, others are used by enterprises and as investment platforms. The possibilities and use cases are endless, but from the very get-go crypto had an underlying issue.
The barrier of entry was quite high. Explaining how wallets, exchanges, tokens and various different solutions work to any beginner 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 easy, secure and fast ways to exchange fiats to crypto, and crypto to fiats. Even shorter: ramps are what makes you buy & sell crypto for "everyday", 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 actually an abbreviation for fiduciary money - an item that depends for its value on confidence that it is an accepted medium of exchange. It originated as a paper certificate that was a promise 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 economy 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 are able to 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
By crypto ramp, we usually understand the whole process: 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 fill flexibility and control.
By giving users the power to go back and forth, a truly seamless experience is made and the barrier of entry for crypto finally is being lowered.
Ramp can also be understood as a tool (like ours, simply 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 in order to be a true ramp and provide full value. And that's exactly what we do best.
In contrast to crypto exchanges, ramp solutions usually are not chosen directly by the user, but rather by the developer/provider of a wallet or app. Instead of creating an account and using a 3rd party just 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 own 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 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 2 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 in the near future.