Bitcoin Alternatives Galore, but What's the Difference?

Kimcoin, a crypto-currency based around Kim Kardashian, hopes to follow the dog-themed Dogecoin to success ZimoNitrome/YouTube

There isn’t a BuzzFeed quiz to determine which cryptocurrency you are. But at the rate Bitcoin alternatives have been flooding the Internet in recent weeks and months, it can’t be long, can it?

The newest cryptocurrency, inspired by the aborted Coinye, a Kanye West themed-currency, is Kim Coindashian, or “Kimcoin,” a digital currency pegged around — yes — Kim Kardashian. It’s so new it doesn’t entirely exist yet, but its developers swear they’re not joking. And they are convinced the reality TV star will take to the cryptocurrency treatment better than her fiancé, who shut Coinye down faster than you could say “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Currency.” Can this one be different?

“When ‘Kanye-coin’ came out, I thought it was a huge business opportunity and he actually should have been flattered,” said Kimcoin co-developer Azeem, who works at a start-up in Boston and asked that his last name not be identified. “But they were really trying to provoke him. How we’re trying to approach it is being very earnest and saying, ‘This is a legitimate business opportunity and we’d love to sit down with you to talk about it.’”

Maybe it doesn’t seem like a “legitimate business opportunity,” considering that of thousands of potential celebrity targets, Azeem went after the one celebrity who’s closest to the only celebrity who has already filed a cease and desist notice regarding all of this cryptocurrency mumbo-jumbo. But like most “legitimate business opportunities” — most of the fun ones, at least — it started as a joke. Then, several weeks ago, Azeem and his partner spotted a window of opportunity and began acting on it. Now they’re filing trademarks and looking for a software engineer.

“It could serve the interest of a lot of people — the cryptocurrency people on one side and obviously Kim Kardashian and her brand on the other,” he told Newsweek. “We're essentially bringing two sides together who would not interact otherwise.”

Not that it would be the strangest digital currency floating around in 2014 — or the first to draw success from only semi-serious beginnings. Dogecoin, which fulfills some ancient Mayan prophecy by forging an unholy alliance between an Internet meme and a usable currency, has seized the Internet’s ever-flickering attention as of late, surging past alternatives like Namecoin (which has been around since the Dark Ages of 2011), Litecoin (which is the most valuable cryptocurrency after Bitcoin), and Florincoin (which purportedly lets users attach messages to their transactions) in the process.

Dogecoin, of course, has something none of its competitors has. It has dogs.

Dogs that peer out from its logo, faces lovingly splattered with Doge’s trademark Comic Sans proclamations. Dogs — real, live Shiba Inus — who reportedly pop up at Manhattan meetups and party alongside Doge-costumed enthusiasts when they take a break from manning their digital wallets or moderating subreddits. Dogs who, thank Basegod, don’t file cease and desist requests. Not yet, at least.

Still, it should surprise no one that this mutant form of canine-inspired tender also started as a joke. Or so says Ben Doernberg, an involved citizen of the Dogecoin Foundation who also, yes, moderates the Dogecoin subreddit and claims to be “monitoring a future based on blockchain technology,” referring to the public database of Bitcoin ownership and transactions.

The hazy origin story goes like this: there was “a guy named Jackson Palmer in Australia” who reached out to “a guy from Portland who goes by the name Billy Markus,” who programmed the coin, and “quickly, this huge community arose around the coin and it started to actually be used.”

And somehow, strangely, it has evolved into the second most popular cryptocurrency in terms of dollars being transacted. And it’s particularly useful for tipping, Doernberg said. Not at Olive Garden, but online: “If you’re a content creator and you make a video or a GIF that people like, they can send you a hundred doge or a thousand doge as a way to say, ‘Nice GIF.’ [Or] they can send them if someone is particularly helpful on an Internet forum.”

But its higher purpose, if it has such a thing, is to lighten the stodgy Bitcoin mood a bit. “Bitcoin is something that for most people involved is extremely serious,” Doernberg said. “The founding of Bitcoin is sort of a combination of a technological and economic project meant to have geopolitical implications. I think they just thought it’d be really funny to take something so serious and put a fun, goofy spin on it.”

“[But] it became clear very quickly that there are a lot of people sort of interested in that,” he added.

Meanwhile, roughly 160 miles southwest of Dogecoin’s New York hub, in the middle of Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, a registered nurse named Joe White runs the largest continual mining pool for FreiCoin, a digital currency whose developers include a former NASA rocket scientist named Mark Freidenbach.

Founded in late 2012, FreiCoin makes use of the same protocol rules Bitcoin uses, but White says it’s meant to complement rather than contend with Bitcoin, “to encourage daily trading and local economic growth.” Last spring, White quit his day job to work with FreiCoin full time.

Lately, he claims, interest has been picking up. Sort of.

“In recent days, FreiCoin has seen a rise in valuation and is seeing its increase back to the level it was earlier this year,” White, who has christened himself the “Pool Op,” or “pool operator,” told Newsweek. “It’s currently about 0.04 USD, but in my knowledge of cryptos I see the value being more like 1:1 with the USD.”

He also explained that a minor subsidy — or demurrage charge, paid by all FreiCoin holders — keeps transaction fees as low as possible. That’s another advantage over Bitcoin: “With Bitcoin it'd cost maybe a dollar or two to send a grand. I saw one [FreiCoin] transaction and it was about an eighth of a cent for something like 10 or 20 thousand U.S. dollars.”

Still, in a part of Pennsylvania where White’s neighbors are more likely to be found churning butter than mining Bitcoin, yet another digital currency with a harder-to-pronounce name is a tough sell. But White expresses no regret about throwing himself into it wholesale.

“I probably spend about 80 to 90 percent of my life keeping up with the security and code,” he said. “And I left my good-paying job to come do this. I’ve been really living frugally to get this all going.”

Join the Discussion