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The story behind Dogecoin- How joke currency became Real


Feb 26, 2018 Posted /  3600 Views


The story behind Dogecoin- How joke currency became Real

Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency, a form of digital money that, much like bitcoin, enables peer-to-peer transactions across a decentralized network. One significant difference: bitcoin is the original blockchain proof-of-concept and is ground-breaking. Dogecoin is a digital coin with a picture of a dog on it.

"It is a puzzle to me why Dogecoin is so highly valued," says Adrian Lee, a senior finance lecturer at the University of Technology in Sydney.

"Dogecoin is an easily replicable coin," Lee explains. "I don't know how it distinguishes itself from Bitcoin. I really think it has to do with being established early."

"And also the dog." He immediately adds.

If you've spent any time on the internet during the last decade, you've probably heard of the Doge meme. The iconic Shibe, his inner monologue expressed in comic sans. At the peak of the meme's popularity close to the end of 2013, Palmer, an Australian marketer for one of the world's largest tech companies, made a joke combining two of the internet's most talked-about subjects: cryptocurrency and Doge.

"Investing in Dogecoin," Palmer tweeted, "pretty sure it's the next big thing."

Surprisingly, the tweet got a lot of attention. For laughs, Palmer decided to keep the joke going. He bought the Dogecoin.com domain and uploaded a photoshopped Shibe on a coin. He left a note on the site: If you want to make Dogecoin a reality, get in touch.

And, it happened...

On the other side of the world, Billy Markus, a video game-obsessed software engineer at IBM, saw Palmer's note. He'd just finished "Bells", a project he was working on in his spare time.

Bells was a cryptocurrency named after money used in the Nintendo game Animal Crossing. It was 2013, the original crypto gold rush. Markus saw that bitcoin's code was open-source. He decided to take a weekend and do something weird. He tried to create his own cryptocurrency for "sillies," as he put it. And that's because Bells wasn't meant to be serious, it was a digital currency based on a video game about animals who live in a village and go fishing together. The cryptocurrency community didn't really get the joke.

"People were just trashing it," laughs Markus, who quickly discovered there was a very little crossover between crypto-obsessives and gamers.

"I was like alright, I retire," says Markus. "I don't need to do this anymore."

But then Markus read Palmer's message on Dogecoin.com. That was the moment Billy Markus decided to come out of crypto retirement. When Palmer didn't immediately respond to Markus' offer to help build Dogecoin, he started working on it anyway.

"Dogecoin," says Markus, "from 'that seems like it's funny' to actually doing it, took about three hours. It's almost trivial to create a new cryptocurrency."

It was a find-and-replace job. Ctrl+F 'Bitcoin,' replace with 'Dogecoin.' Markus freely admits to finding large chunks of bitcoin's source code completely incomprehensible but knew enough to change a few core elements for Dogecoin. For example, Markus created 100 billion dogecoins (as opposed to bitcoin's 21 million) and made them easier to mine. Dogecoin is already close to being mined out, while bitcoin's final coin will be mined in 2140.

He changed the font (to comic sans of course) and changed every mention of the word 'mine' to 'dig' (because dogs don't mine, they dig...). And then, during his lunch break, Markus set Dogecoin live.

Incredible popularity

Markus and Palmer didn't premine any Dogecoin. Because they weren't serious about launching a cryptocurrency.

"We thought it was this big joke that would die off," laughs Palmer.

Markus had a relatively powerful gaming PC, with two graphics cards, so he was officially the first person to mine Dogecoin. But given the nature of mining (which gets increasingly difficult as the currency is mined) Billy's computer was no longer powerful enough to mine Dogecoin after about five minutes. Markus split what he'd mined 50-50 with Palmer and that was that. Both got about $5,000 of Dogecoin.

However, in online crypto circles, Dogecoin became popular very quickly. Forum threads moved rapidly. The name Dogecoin echoed throughout dark corners of the internet. But Reddit was almost certainly the main driver in Dogecoin's rapid rise to crypto stardom. The Dogecoin subreddit exploded almost immediately, and with that explosion came the infrastructure any cryptocurrency needs if it is to become successful: mining pools, services.

"It was moving at light speed," explains Markus. "Within minutes we were like, 'Wow, this is way out of our control."

But it was the Reddit "tipping bot" that drove Dogecoin into the stratosphere.

If a user posted something to the effect of, "hey 'dogebot' tip this person five dogecoins," that Reddit user would automatically receive five Dogecoin. People were sending Dogecoin back and forth in a feel-good exercise that cost very little money in real-world terms.

"I liked it," says Markus. "At the time, Dogecoin wasn't worth anything, but getting five Dogecoin felt better than getting two cents."

"I have no way of knowing how transient this all may be," Markus wrote of Dogecoin, two months after creating it.

He wrote about how proud he was of the Dogecoin community and of the money they'd raised for various good causes. He thanked everyone for the incredible amount of work they'd put in.

"I would like everyone to remember this moment," he said. "My hope is that Dogecoin will always be remembered fondly."


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