Welcome to our community!
Stellar is a decentralized protocol that enables you to send money to anyone in the world, for free, instantly and in any currency.
If you are new to Stellar you can be easily overwhelmed with information while trying to understand how everything fits together. This guide tries to break down and explain the Stellar ecosystem. And give you pointers where to look if you need additional information about some topics.
History and future
The first blog post announcing Stellar was written in July 2014 by Joyce Kim, one of the co-founders of the Stellar Development Foundation.
The Stellar Development Foundation (Stellar.org) incorporated itself as a not-for-profit organization with the main goal to expand financial access and literacy worldwide. More information about the mission of Stellar.org can be found in the mandate. Another great resource to learn more about Stellar.org is Joyce's 5min video presentation.
Stellar is also the name of the technology and network developed by the Stellar Development Foundation. At its core the Stellar platform is a distributed ledger, which is maintained by a consensus algorithm rather than mining. You can read more about the Stellar Consensus Protocol here. A short comparison with other consensus algorithms:
The Stellar ledger is not limited to one currency/asset. It allows anyone to create their own. Lumens (XLM) are the currency that is native to the network and not created by anyone, similar to bitcoin. Stellar.org will give away 95% of all Lumens.
The first codebase of Stellar was based on Ripple. It was too complex and didn't scale well. At one point this caused the Stellar network to fail. Because of this Stellar.org decided to write a new implementation from scratch with security and scalability in mind.
Name change for native currency from Stellars to Lumens
In the beginning the name of the currency created by Stellar.org was also Stellars. To avoid confusion and distinguish it from the Stellar platform and the foundation it was renamed to Lumens during the upgrade. Some exchanges and sites (I'm looking at you Poloniex) still use the old name for Lumens. And also the old currency code STR instead of XLM. Please use the name Lumens (XLM) in the future to avoid confusion.
The Stellar network has many additional features. It's also a completely distributed exchange:
"This means users can, for example, send a transaction from their Yen balance and have it arrive in Euros, Yen, or even bitcoin. We’re expecting to support the usual categories of transactions: payments to a merchant, remittances back home, or rent splits with a roommate." - Joyce Kim
It supports thousands of transactions per second with a confirmation time that is less than 5 seconds.
A nice read is also Patrick's story Harry Potter And The Cryptocurrency of Stars, where he tries to explain the Stellar network set inside the Harry Potter universe.
What does the future bring?
Initially Stellar.org got an $3M investment from the Silicon Valley giant Stripe in exchange for 2B Lumens. Other financial institutions like Barclays and Deloitte are already starting to use Stellar's network to reduce costs.
In May 2016 Joyce stepped down as Executive Director of the Stellar Development Foundation and passed her role on Jed McCaleb.
Jed wrote a blog post in May 2016 explaining Stellar.org's roadmap:
He puts a lot of weight into Nigeria's financial ecosystem, while continuously improving the technology.
I the meantime stellar announced many other partnerships across the globe, including ICICI Bank in India, Bloom Solutions in the Philippines and Cellulant in Afrika.
On the 11th of May 2017 Stellar.org announced Lightyear.io, a for-profit company that will focus on providing services and support for new and existing partners, developing tools that make integration easier and providing functions above the low level Stellar protocol.
The future looks bright for Stellar!
Technology behind Stellar
Stellar.org's website has many great resources to better understand the Stellar platform.
On the Stellar Basics page you can find links to almost everything you need to know about Stellar.
To get a higher level overview read the major stellar concepts part.
See what existing companies are doing with Stellar here.
If you are a developer and wish to integrate your product with the Stellar platform the developer site is full of great resources.
The official Stellar Github account can be a good starting point for developers too.
How can I get some Lumens and join the Stellar revolution?
First you will need a wallet to hold your Lumens, you can read more about wallets in our wallet overview post.
As mentioned earlier Stellar.org will give away 95% of all Lumens. Follow the official blog for more updates on giveaways.
If you wish to acquire more Lumens you can also buy them on cryptocurrency exchanges, like kraken, poloniex or btc38. Just note that some exchanges still use the name Stellar(STR) instead of Lumens(XLM).