At the peak of the meme’s popularity near the tail 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 topics: cryptocurrency and Doge. It was a joke taking aim at the bizarre world of crypto and bitcoin’s multiple derivatives.
“Investing in Dogecoin,” Palmer tweeted, “pretty sure it’s the next big thing.”
The situation got worse. An ex-girlfriend of Green got in contact with Palmer and other members of the Dogecoin community. She revealed that Green was actually Ryan Kennedy, who was notorious in the UK anime community for running companies terrifyingly similar to Moolah.
Moolah received over 0,000 from the Dogecoin community, across three separate rounds of investment.
At one point Dogecoin was worth billion. It’s difficult to make sense of that.
“But when someone puts ,000 in? That makes me really, really uncomfortable.”
Below him: a tremendous crowd. The overwhelming blare of engines. Hurtling round at tremendous speeds: the #98 Moonrocket, a high-performance racing car. No different from the other cars on the track, except for one crucial detail.
“Ryan Kennedy convinced his victims they had no choice but to do as they were told,” said senior prosecutor Ben Samples. “He was emotionally, sexually and physically abusive, putting his needs above all else.”
The next big thing
“I was like, ‘Quick we need to get back to our computers,'” laughs Palmer.
And then it all came crashing down.
If a user posted something to the effect of, “hey ‘dogebot’ tip this person five dogecoin,” 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. The cryptocurrency community didn’t really get the joke.
“I hope people see Dogecoin and say, I’m not going to put all my money into this. Because right now there’s a dog on a coin and it’s worth half a billion dollars.””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.” The Dogecar, in all its glory.
Markus decided to bail on Dogecoin.
Markus, watching from afar, wasn’t a fan.
If you mined Bells, there was no telling whether the reward would be one Bell or 500 Bells.
“People were just trashing it,” laughs Markus, who quickly discovered there was very little crossover between crypto-obsessives and gamers.
Ctrl+F ‘Bitcoin,’ replace with ‘Dogecoin.’
Reddit users were sharing Dogecoin back and forth constantly, which expanded the user base of Dogecoin and, as a result, increased its value as a cryptocurrency.
But it was the Reddit “tipping bot” that drove Dogecoin into the stratosphere.
The bell tolls
Suddenly the UK police were involved. After a three-year investigation, Kennedy faces multiple charges of fraud and money laundering. At a preliminary hearing in Bristol Crown Court on September 2017 he denied all charges. A request for comment was sent to Kennedy’s Defence Lawyer, but we’ve yet to receive a response.
When Palmer didn’t immediately respond to Markus’ offer to help build Dogecoin, he started working on it anyway.
On the bonnet of the car: a dog. A Shiba Inu, more commonly known as a “Shibe,” the dog made famous in the Doge meme that was popular in 2013.
It reminded Palmer how insane the world could be.
Many key figures in the Dogecoin community shared Markus’ suspicions, particularly Palmer, who was wary of Moolah from the beginning. But when concerns were raised they were mostly shouted down by a community that enjoyed the free currency being sent their way.
“Alex Green started building his business on top of Dogecoin,” says Palmer.
He surveys the scene.
Ryan Kennedy is currently serving an 11-year sentence in a UK prison.
Palmer describes it as “PayPal for cryptocurrency.” From the very beginning, Palmer was cynical.
Run by a British man calling himself Alex Green, Moolah was a cryptocurrency exchange designed to help people buy and sell Dogecoin. They infiltrated the Dogecoin community with startling efficiency.
So Palmer and friends stumbled home from the pub, picked up a six-pack of beer for good measure and set about figuring out how to send 26 million Dogecoins to the Jamaican bobsled team.
“I just passed the glass to someone else.”
“I was really uncomfortable,” remembers Markus. “I said, ‘whatever’s going on here I just don’t want any part of it.'”
And that terrified Markus.
Emblazoned on top: the word “DOGECOIN” in all caps. Below: “digital currency”.
But Kennedy had to answer to more serious, disturbing crimes. In May 2016, he was tried and convicted on three counts of rape with three separate women. According to press reports he smiled as he was being led from court.
Moving at light speed
The community loved it. Soon Moolah began hiring people from the Dogecoin community for key positions in the company.
“Dogecoin is an easily replicable coin,” Lee said. “I don’t know how it distinguishes itself from Bitcoin. I really think it has to do with being established early.
“I liked it,” says Markus. “At the time, Dogecoin wasn’t worth anything, but getting five Dogecoin felt better than getting two cents.”
But then Markus read Palmer’s message on Dogecoin.com. That was the moment Billy Markus decided to come out of crypto retirement.
“We wanted to create something that was a force for good,” explains Palmer.
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.)
What problem did Dogecoin solve?
Palmer describes the situation using words like “crazy,” “surreal” and “nuts.” He remembers this moment as a “reality check.” Dogecoin was a tweet, then it was a cryptocurrency worth money in the real world. Six months later, he watched as a joke that he’d made in passing somehow manifested itself into something tangible. A Dogecar in full flight.
Earlier that night, Palmer and the Dogecoin community had brainstormed a ridiculous (but completely brilliant) idea.
“And also the dog.”
Animal Crossing, featuring the in-game currency “Bells”.
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.
And according to Markus, Palmer wasn’t even sure how to mine a cryptocurrency.
January 2014. Jackson Palmer is already three drinks deep at a trivia night at his local pub in Sydney. His phone starts buzzing. It doesn’t stop buzzing.
It was a timely reminder of what had been lost. Now playing:Watch this: Cryptojacking: The hot new hacker trick for easy money
A force for good
“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.
“I would like everyone to remember this moment,” he said. “My hope is that Dogecoin will always be remembered fondly.”
Months later, October 2014, Moolah went completely bankrupt. The Dogecoin community would end up losing every single cent they’d invested.
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 with broken modifiers: “so scare,” “much noble,” “wow.”
But Markus and Palmer didn’t premine any Dogecoin. Because they weren’t serious about launching a cryptocurrency.
For the first time in a decade, Jamaica’s bobsled team had qualified for the Winter Olympics, but it didn’t have enough money to attend. As huge fans of the comedy “Cool Runnings,” Palmer and the Dogecoin crew decided to do something about it.
Markus had a relatively powerful gaming PC, with two graphics cards, so he was officially the first person to mine Dogecoin. But given the 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 ,000 of Dogecoin.
Alex Green began by doling out Dogecoin in exchange for upvotes on the Dogecoin subreddit. He also donated generously to charitable causes the community were involved in, like ,500 to a cancer charity, or ,000 to help get the Dogecoin Nascar vehicle on the track.
And that’s all the Dogecoin either man would ever own.
“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 community, of the money they’d raised for various good causes. He thanked everyone for the incredible amount of work they’d put in.
Palmer has re-emerged on the cryptocurrency scene. He now runs his own YouTube channel. He has no interest in launching another cryptocurrency and has little to do with Dogecoin. He calls himself a crypto skeptic. “Cryptocurrency is a solution in search of a problem,” he says.Back in January 2014, Markus posted a message on the Dogecoin subreddit; an ode to the community and what it had achieved. One year later, in the wake of the Moolah disaster, it had been reposted. An attempt to recapture the spirit in which Dogecoin had been founded.
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.
Dogecoin is a digital coin with a picture of dog on it. The 2014 Jamaican bobsled team, holding Dogecoin t-shirts.
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“I was like, “Okay, this is dumb. I don’t want to be the leader of a cult.””
Later Moolah began soliciting the Dogecoin community for investment dollars and plenty donated Dogecoin to the cause. Why not? Moolah had been generous in the past. It made sense to repay the favor.
Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency, a form of digital money that, much like bitcoin, enables peer-to-peer transactions across a decentralized network. One important difference: bitcoin is the original blockchain proof-of-concept. Bitcoin is ground-breaking. Bitcoin is (some believe) world-changing tech with the potential to transform how money works in the 21st century.
Like Markus, Palmer decided to bail on Dogecoin.The tweet got a lot of attention.
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.
“The energy I was putting into it wasn’t helping me from a mental health perspective,” he explains.
“I don’t think it solves anything,” he says. “If anything, it exists as an educational tool. It’s a reminder that we can’t take this stuff seriously.
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It was a find-and-replace job. The famous Dogecoin. Much cryptocurrency.
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.
In online crypto circles, Dogecoin became popular very quickly. Forum threads moved rapidly. The name Dogecoin echoed throughout dark corners of the internet.
He left a note on the site: If you want to make Dogecoin a reality, get in touch.
“Pretty much everyone who used Reddit had Dogecoin,” says Palmer. “I think that was key to its success.” Now playing:Watch this: Dogecoin explained: The joke cryptocurrency worth serious…
But as the community grew, the initial spirit in which Dogecoin was launched was difficult to preserve. People started to care about the price of Dogecoin. They were literally and figuratively invested in it.
It was a gesture that symbolized the early spirit of Dogecoin.
“I don’t mind if someone spends ten bucks and gets some Dogecoin,” says Markus. “It’s like buying a movie ticket or something, that’s fun.
In the months after Moolah’s bankruptcy, Palmer struggled. He distanced himself from Dogecoin. From the community. From cryptocurrency as a whole.
Remember this moment
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…).
That’s when Palmer’s phone started vibrating off the hook.
“I was like alright, I retire,” says Markus. “I don’t need to do this anymore.”
Eventually he decided enough was enough.
In Markus’ words, they were allergic to the word “invest.” Both Palmer and Markus donated all their Dogecoin to these massive charity initiatives. They helped build water wells in Kenya and raised money to help train assistance dogs for autistic children.
Despite removing himself from the day-to-day workings of Dogecoin, Markus attended a Dogecoin convention, organized in part by Palmer. He wanted to catch up with some of the old gang. By chance, he ran into representatives from Moolah, who were at the bar guzzling Cristal at 0 a bottle. They poured a glass for Markus.
Bells was weird as hell. The major difference between Bells and regular cryptocurrencies was the rewards: they were completely random. If you mined bitcoin, using a decently powerful home computer, the rewards were consistent.
And then, during his lunch break, Markus set Dogecoin live.
Outside of the occasional donation, neither Palmer or Markus owns any significant amount of Dogecoin.
For laughs, Palmer decided to keep the joke going. He bought the Dogecoin.com domain and uploaded a photoshopped Shibe on a coin.
Markus began clashing with members of the community. For him, Dogecoin was still crypto “for sillies,” but here it was ballooning into a currency people were trading for real money. In his view Dogecoin was a silly thing that should remain silly. Many in the community disagreed.