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The XRP Ledger uses public keys to verify cryptographic signatures in several places:

  • To authorize transactions, a public key is attached to the transaction. The public key must be mathematically associated with the sending XRP Ledger address or the sender's regular key address.
  • To secure peer-to-peer communications between rippled servers. This uses a "node public key" that the server generates randomly when it starts with an empty database.
  • To sign validation votes as part of the consensus process. This uses a "validator public key" that the server operator defines in the config file.

Validator public keys and node public keys use the exact same format.

Public keys can be represented in hexadecimal or in base-58. In hexadecimal, all three types of public keys are 33 bytes (66 characters) long.

In base-58 format, validator public keys and node public keys always start with the character n, commonly followed by the character 9. A validator public key in base-58 format can be up to 53 characters long. Example node public key: n9Mxf6qD4J55XeLSCEpqaePW4GjoCR5U1ZeGZGJUCNe3bQa4yQbG.

XRP Ledger addresses are mathematically associated with a public key. This public key is rarely encoded in base-58, but when it is, it starts with the character a.