It’s the crypto joke coin that keeps on giving. Characterized by company mascot “Doge”–-the Japanese dog breed, Shiba Inu—Dogecoin started out in 2013 as a tongue in cheek riposte to bitcoin, and the crypto world generally. But co-founders Jackson Palmer and Billy Markus also came up with something rather clever: a digital currency that was more accessible, usable and all together a lot more fun than bitcoin. It was also armed with a massive coin supply (100 billion), thus ensuring that each unit of DOGE would always carry a low price, with correspondingly low transaction fees.
So perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Dogecoin has found wide appeal. It's now worth around $600 million, is listed on a number of digital exchanges, supported by multiple-coin wallets like Jaxx and is now even rumored to be listing on Coinbase. But for Palmer that was never the point.
In 2015, he bowed out of Dogecoin, leaving a core team behind. His reason? The “toxic community” that had encircled it and the stream of money that had seduced developers and speculators into thinking they'd reinvented the wheel. While that was all three years ago and he's moved onto other things, he's still horrified by its success, and wears the badge of spokesperson for Dogecoin reluctantly. When I asked about the recent Coinbase rumor, he answered, albeit hesitantly. “There's no way of submitting all the legal documentation that Coinbase requires. It’s by no means likely that they’ll get it.”
But what keeps him awake at night is not that he’s passed up a fortune, it's that, despite retail investors losing millions, money is still pouring into cryptocurrencies, people are blindly still believing the hype and the bankers are taking over crypto-land.
But first, surely, everyone will want to know whether he has any misgivings about passing up such an immense fortune, with Dogecoin.
“It was always like a hobby project, like a side project thing,” says Palmer, who has kindly agreed to our interview just before he’s due up on stage, at Crypto Springs, earlier this month. “I made a lot of people rich but I didn’t come away with any money. I get to tell people that I created Dogecoin, which is fun.”
But, on the sidelines, he’s also carving out a name for himself as something between a crypto cynic and a crusader. This warm, likable Aussie has, almost by accident, become one of the most influential people in crypto, has a YouTube Channel with some 32,000 followers educating people about cryptocurrencies, and amassed a following just shy of 50,000 on Twitter. Yet, he hasn’t been involved in a crypto project for over three years.
“A lot of what I do is trying to understand and then measure, qualify this stuff about adoption, and actual decentralization,” he says. “Bitcoin’s become a little bit like a religion, a little cult-like, and I think that’s not a good way to treat a technology. You should actually treat it proportionally to the value it adds back to society, which I think at this point of time—objectively—is very little.”
This is the key message that Palmer is keen to impart to his followers, as well as the fact that we are still in the early days of what cryptocurrency might be.
“I think that it’s still an unproven paradigm. A lot of people have this blind faith that it’s the future of everything and I think it’s important to have some skepticism there.” He also points to the materialistic attitude that's been cultivated as a reason why the industry finds itself rampant with speculators but virtually no users. “I think because it has money attached to it, it’s also incentivized people to be less reflective on its actual use because they don’t want to devalue their investment.”
No bankers allowed
While a lot of what Palmer believes tends to fall into the philosophical pile, he does have some forthright views on who this new technology should be kept away from: the bankers. These guardians of institutional investors purse strings are a menace in waiting, says Palmer. A menace with a $10 billion war chest, if recent estimates are to be believed.
“What it really is, is a re-centralization of some of the stuff that bitcoin was trying to decentralize, right? If we get to a point where the money distribution in bitcoin looks fairly identical to that of the traditional Wall St. banks, then what have we really achieved?”
Palmer’s views were shared by many at Crypto Springs, where the belief was that bitcoin has succumbed to the huge whales that pump and dump the ICO market and strayed too far off course; it needs realignment, even at the expense of courting traditional and institutional investors. He goes as far as to accuse the latter of “looking to do a hostile takeover of the space, and they’re winning because the narrative has changed from ‘we’re going to destroy the banks’ to ‘no, maybe that’s our only chance of getting this thing adopted.
“I think that investment significantly outweighs the return in value that’s been provided to society and that needs to change. There still needs to be a realization moment,” he says. “If bitcoin was a regular company, it would have gone out of business eight years ago and run out of funding because retail adoption is at an all-time low, right? Many retailers who, a few years ago, were accepting bitcoin have since removed support for bitcoin. That’s a fail. I think it says a lot that most bitcoin conferences, bitcoin hardware and all of that stuff is still purchased in USD rather than bitcoin.”
Palmer wants people to pay more attention to the technology behind the cryptocurrency boom and its humanitarian use cases. But that hasn’t stopped him HODLING, “mostly BTC and ETH but then I have some Tezos and other random ICO tokens,” he revealed during a recent Token Daily AMA. No Dogecoin, though, or so he claims.
Palmer may be practising what he preaches in distancing himself but there’s still no denying his progeny’s enduring popularity, and he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for that. It may have started off as a joke, but Dogecoin’s low transaction fees have made it a conduit for traders looking to convert their bitcoin into cash without having to pay the steep transaction fees. The high-school dropout of crypto has become, by accident, part of the fabric that keeps it afloat. And now, after years of stagnation, much-needed product development is in the works by the team that stayed behind, in particular a DOGE/Ethereum bridge, further cementing dogecoin as the antihero of crypto.
So the joke coin that turned around and bit its creator on the bum isn’t going away anytime soon, and it makes you wonder what Jackson Palmer could do if he took things a little more seriously.