Shiba inus are strange dogs. Though their compact, angular faces give them a cartoonish, welcoming appearance, those that I’ve known have been surprisingly aloof. And while their coats may seem puffy and squeezable, all that plush-looking fur tends to be bristly when you stroke it. I imagine that many adopt them on their online reputation alone, only to learn that what looks adorable at a distance is sometimes unpleasant up close.
There might be a lesson in this for adherents of Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency inspired by a meme that was itself inspired by the shiba inu breed. But if there is, it’s not clear that anyone is listening. Originally created in 2013 as a joke, the cryptocurrency recently surpassed $1 billion market capitalization, according to the site CoinMarketCap.
Not everyone is excited. As Coindesk reports, Jackson Palmer, Dogecoin’s creator, suggests that the currency’s increasing value represents a worrisome trend, partly because the currency—with which he is no longer involved—“hasn’t released a software update in over 2 years.” It’s certainly not the first time Palmer has sounded the alarm. In September 2017, Palmer told the New York Times that he worried the cryptocurrency market as a whole was headed toward a “reckoning.” At the time, Dogecoin had peaked at a market cap of about $400 million.
CNBC, meanwhile, quotes a digital commodities trader who suggests that the appeal of Dogecoin for some investors may be that the individual coins are themselves quite cheap: At the moment, there more than 112 trillion of them in circulation, with each unit costing about a penny. That presumably makes it easy for the curious to put their toes in the water. But it’s entirely possible that when their interest fades, so too will the currency.
Still, I’m reluctant to prophesize the death of Dogecoin, if only because so many others have before. In 2015, Motherboard reported on a scam that devastated the cryptocurrency’s amiable community. In 2017, the bot that allowed investors to tip others in Dogecoin died, leading Gizmodo to predict in May that the currency itself would soon lapse into obscurity. For all that, Dogecoin has far outlived the popularity of the meme that helped spawn it—no small feat on the mercurial modern internet.
In the scheme of things, though, Dogecoin is still small potatoes. As I’m writing this, CoinMarketCap lists the total market cap for the 1,384 cryptocurrencies that it tracks at around $763 billion. Nevertheless, the rise of Dogecoin is an important data point in the larger story of the unregulated and volatile marketplace. It’s one that speaks to appeal of enthusiastic, speculative investment, even when all signs should point to caution.