Inside the dogecoin community, the slogan “to the moon” is used to describe the belief that the price of the cryptocurrency is about to surge. But the creator of the meme token has embraced a more literal interpretation.
“I think having an ally like Elon Musk is pretty incredible, honestly,” Billy Markus, the currency’s co-founder, told Newsweek. “I think it would be really cool if he does literally send dogecoin to the moon on one of his rockets.”
Markus, 38, of Portland, Oregon, started the project in late 2013 after joining forces with fellow software engineer Jackson Palmer.
Unlike bitcoin, which currently costs the equivalent of $49,440 per coin, dogecoin has a price tag of about $0.05 and there is no limit to the number of coins that can be made. It is commonly used on websites for tipping.
Also unlike its more serious rivals, dogecoin was set up as a joke—a parody that combined the shiba inu dog meme, the Comic Sans font and some of the protocols behind an open source software project known as Litecoin.
It has since developed its own subculture and picked up celebrity fans. A Reddit community dedicated to the crypto has about 1.2 million members and the currency has been mentioned online by SpaceX boss Elon Musk, rapper Snoop Dog and rock star Gene Simmons. Somehow, dogecoin has thrived.
In January, Redditors saw an opportunity. As the r/WallStreetBets community of small investors unleashed a U.S. trading storm—pouring money into stocks to disrupt short sellers and hedge funds—advocates for the meme currency got in on the action.
Members hyped up their crypto, attempting to push its price to $1. They were aided by Musk, who frequently mentions the currency on Twitter even while conceding that he supports the more established bitcoin.
“Dogecoin is the people’s crypto,” Musk told his 48 million Twitter followers on February 4. The same day, he added: “No highs, no lows, only doge.” His most recent tweet about the currency was on March 1.
Both the original creators left the project in 2015. Markus wrote on Reddit last month that he had sold his holdings, earning about enough to buy a used Honda Civic. Palmer posted on Twitter in 2015 that he was taking an “extended leave of absence” from the crypto scene.
But Markus told Newsweek this week that he still feels dogecoin is a force for good. In this Q&A, which has been lightly edited for clarity, he discusses the project’s past and future.
Why did you start dogecoin and how has it changed in the years since?
“When I got into the cryptocurrency space in 2013, I found it fascinating. There were so many coins and they all were only very slightly different, yet all marketed themselves like they were superior and going to become the new world’s currency.
“I learned how to make a coin myself one weekend and when I saw Jackson Palmer’s dogecoin website linked out of an IRC [internet relay chat] channel, I thought the idea was genius—a parody of all the new overly serious coins that kept coming out that were just clones of each other.
“I threw it together and put some parameters I thought were ridiculous at the time, and we released it without much thought. Of course, fate loves irony and despite, or because of, the inherent absurdity, it caught on instantly and grew incredibly fast.
“There’s been many ups and downs, and the community has changed quite a bit over the last eight years as would be expected but, at its core, it has retained a lot of the silliness and good nature that defined the early community made around the coin.”
Tell me something that may surprise people about the crypto
“It was made in about three hours, with the bulk of that time customizing the look of the client. If I couldn’t make it use the Comic Sans font, I wouldn’t have released it!”
It appears dogecoin has a loyal community, especially on Reddit. How much does that shape its perception? Does it play a role in its price/value?
“About the price, a coin is literally worth what someone is willing to buy it for at any particular time. People have many various reasons for buying cryptocurrency and that is up to them. As far as value, my personal definition of that is positive impact, not price. So if the community is full of people who are excited, creating things and having fun, and willing to work together to do awesome things, I think that is very valuable.”
Elon Musk is probably one of your biggest advocates, even if he has said he mostly likes the cryptocurrency for the memes. What do you think about his posts?
“I appreciate that Elon Musk supports dogecoin and is having fun with it—that is what I would hope the attitude of anyone who wants to be involved in a meme currency would be. I think it would be really cool if he does literally send dogecoin to the moon on one of his rockets, or one of his companies allows purchases of products using dogecoin! I think having an ally like Elon Musk is pretty incredible, honestly.
“[It could be] something ‘figuratively literal’ like a picture of dogecoin, a flag with dogecoin on it, a physical token representing dogecoin, a picture of a meme related to dogecoin or a sticker of dogecoin slapped on something. [Or something] more literal, like a USB drive with a dogecoin wallet or a computer running dogecoin, would be cool!”
Have you been surprised that dogecoin has continued to grow?
“I’m consistently surprised, amused and thankful for all the work people do to support the coin, whether making games, all the amusing memes people make, the billboards, and especially the services people are working hard to provide.
“And of course, massive props to the core devs who have been volunteering their time and energy for years to keep the coin secure and functional.
“Dogecoin, though, shows the power of branding and really the power of memes, so in a way I’m not surprised by its longevity. The coin parameters allow it to basically last forever and stay relatively secure for transactions, and I think doge is somehow a meme that never gets old. People will forever love dogs. And shiba inus are adorable.”
So where do you see dogecoin in the coming months or years?
“I’m interested in community initiatives for the dogecoin community, like it did when it all started, when it raised money for absurd things, like sending the Jamaican bobsled team to the Sochi Olympics, or kind things, like building water wells in Africa.
“To kick off that effort and show the community that they can get involved, I started a small movement called #DoOnlyGoodEveryday (DOGE).
“The response from the community was really great and the reach of the campaign was around 75 million. There were so many supportive, appreciative and thankful messages around Twitter. I had a lot of fun reading everything and, at least for me personally, Twitter has been a little less toxic! I would call that quite a success in 2021.”