The reckless abandon of the investing world has a new fixation: a cryptocurrency that began in 2013 as a joke, was mostly forgotten, and thanks to a flurry of tweets from Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk, is suddenly worth a total of more than $6 billion.
It is called dogecoin, a homage to bitcoin that was designed to serve no real purpose. Dogecoin holders can’t buy much with it and can’t easily convert it to cash. For most of its life, the virtual currency has traded for no reason other than to generate online laughs.
Dogecoin is named after an internet meme that surfaced nearly a decade ago. The meme centered around an image of a Shiba Inu dog with bad spelling habits (thus doge instead of dog). Users Photoshopped the dog’s furry face onto everything from astronauts to Twinkies.
In 2013, the software developer Billy Markus was watching bitcoin gain in popularity and decided to make his own lighthearted cryptocurrency. He first based it on the videogame “Animal Crossing,” and called it bells, named after the game’s pretend currency.
People online hated it, he said. So when another developer, Jackson Palmer, shared a new idea for a cryptocurrency based on the doge meme, Mr. Markus reconfigured his code for bells to fit the meme.