The goal of Ripple servers, and of the Ripple Project overall, is to enable many types of applications to communicate with each other in order to establish credit and make and route payments in a decentralized, non-hierarchical, and distributed way.
Here is a list of Ripple implementations. At some, such as Ripplepay, the functions of the Ripple client and the Ripple server are not differentiated. A standalone Ripple server has been proposed (and a funding pool started). After the standalone Ripple server is finished, Ripplepay will probably be switched to a client/server configuration, rather than manage payment routing through an internal database.
For the Ripple Project to succeed in its present vision, Ripplepay will be only the first of many Ripple clients. The vision is that a wide array of existing software will be enhanced to become Ripple-enabled, and at the same time that completely new software will be written expressly to target the Ripple payment systems. As the Ripple Project gains traction, we hope to see:
In sum, along with creating the Ripple protocol and server, it is vital to Ripple adoption that Ripple clients be created which are useful in a real world setting. These Ripple clients could be enhancements to existing accounting systems, or new accounting applications written from scratch.
Important questions for Ripple stakeholders (users, developers, evangelists, etc.) include:
A rough typology of communities that could benefit from Ripple:
The first three (open, money, liberty) have the strongest reasons to use Ripple -- it can help solve their problems.
An important factor in finding profitable uses of Ripple is that it should be easy to get customers to start using it. Convincing customers to switch to Ripple is not easy -- it requires time and effort for the customer to understand the benefits, and time and effort for us to describe the benefits. Instead, by Ripplizing value that's already been signified by the user, we only have to solve the technical problems by working with a small number of value-organizers, not convince a lot of value-sharers. Examples of already-signified value include automatically generated and tracked value such as computational resources (e.g. CPU/RAM spent calculating a BOINC result, measured in BOINC points), as well as manually generated and tracked value such as community participation that's already tracked (e.g. volunteer time spent commenting on blogs, measured by user karma points).
Ripple can be profitable for its users. When presenting Ripple integration to service providers, a good suggestion would be for them to code the credit allocation to send a small percentage of each transaction to the allocator itself, and to advertise this as a selling point (e.g. "Use our product and it will help support us!"). For instance, an open source project like BitTorrent could code their software to send say 1% of each user's transfer credit back to the project team, or a blog plugin could let the admin set a percentage of karma transactions to send to the site owner.
By allowing Ripple integrators to profit from integration, it's easier to convince them to switch to Ripple, and they may even pay for the opportunity to use it (whether percentage or acquisition).