Around 2013, Bitcoin’s unofficial logo was a crappily-drawn MS Paint wizard, and a gag cryptocurrency called Dogecoin was built around a puppy meme. Now every digital currency combined has a market cap just under the GDP of Sweden, and Dogecoin’s market alone is worth almost $1 billion USD. Whatever fun there was to be had with cryptocurrencies, it seems, has been smothered by wads of cash.
Undaunted by the technology’s newly suited-up nature, a Reddit poster called “DigitalizedOrange,” who previously created a satirical business magazine for memes called Meme Insider, has launched a cryptocurrency. Garlicoin describes itself as “the cryptocurrency you never thought you needed and you probably don’t.” Its website states it was “born from the shitposts of Reddit” and “baked with our special ingredient, copy/paste™” because its code was copied from Litecoin, itself a copy of Bitcoin.
Garlicoin was born as a meme, and has become one itself. It’s all presented as a joke, but the “We’re just having fun” posturing could also make convenient cover for elements of the community that are in it to make money, not memes. Posts and comments on the Garlicoin subreddit mention using expensive graphics cards to generate “those sweet GRLC boiz,” for. One could write these off as ironic jokes, except that Garlicoin has a modest market cap that briefly reached just under $1 million USD on Monday. Clearly, someone is buying in.
With so much money on the line, the “jokes” get less funny—last week a Garlicoin user said they were artificially inflating the currency’s value, a practice known as “pumping,” although DigitalizedOrange claims this person was a mere troll. There’s also a worrying controversy, involving "missing" coins and possibly malicious developers, that has already rocked the community. It all makes me wonder if we can ever go home again to a simpler, and funnier, time.
If Garlicoin can’t be fun, can any new cryptocurrency?
Garlic has been an internet meme since 2013. According to Google Trends, web searches for “garlic” have gone through several rounds of boom and bust since then, and are currently on an upward trend. Perhaps sensing the garlicky iron was hot in the last months of 2017, DigitalizedOrange posted on Reddit that they would develop and release a “garlic bread dating simulator” if the post got 30,000 upvotes. It was inexplicably a phenomenon.
A bustling subreddit grew around the non-existent game (the final version of which still hasn’t materialized), and one user suggested creating a garlic bread-based cryptocurrency, DigitalizedOrange told me in a message on the Garlicoin Discord channel. On Christmas day, DigitalizedOrange posted in a new subreddit called /r/Garlicoin that if the post got 30,000 upvotes they would create a new cryptocurrency called Garlicoin. This time, the post got more than 46,000 points and development started with a “testnet” that invited community input. On January 21, Garlicoin launched with a flashy website.
"I am actually surprised it has any value at all"
“Just as I did with Meme Insider, I asked the community for help and chose the best developers to construct the greatest shitpost of all time with me,” DigitalizedOrange told me in a Discord message. “This cryptocurrency was never meant to revolutionize anything, it is completely a joke. I am actually surprised it has any value at all. Reddit is stupid (love you guys).”
Of course, DigitalizedOrange added, it would be “nice” if they made some money, though they claimed they personally only own half a coin (worth 10 cents) currently stuck in a tip bot’s wallet. “Those who are here to make money are free to invest,” DigitalizedOrange added, “but remember that garlicoin is pretty useless.”
Not everybody in the Garlicoin community that I talked to shared DigitalizedOrange’s view.
“Is Garlicoin a joke?” the cryptocurrency’s co-founder and media liaison, who goes by the pseudonym “MIP5”, wrote me over Discord. “Well, functionally, no. Garlicoin serves the same purpose as Bitcoin and Litecoin, a decentralized means of exchangeable currency, though the differences between those coins and Garlicoin comes down to our primary focus on community.”
"No I wouldn’t call it a joke"
MIP5 worked on Meme Insider with DigitalizedOrange, they told me over Discord. The Garlicoin development team consists of nine people working on the coin and the website, they are all working for free, “for fun and experience,” MIP5 wrote.
“No I wouldn’t call it a joke,” Garlicoin developer “Kryptonite” wrote me in a Discord message. “But is born from a joke, people have invested a lot of time and effort into Garlicoin, to build an easy to use platform for newbies, I think we are almost there especially with GarlicWallet apps and the browser miner, these greatly lower the barrier for entry.”
Kryptonite told me that they “enjoy the fun community but like the seriousness,” and when asked about Garlicoin’s similarity to Dogecoin they answered that they’re “not involved in the whole meme thing.”
Garlicoin’s suite of technology includes wallet and mining software, as well as a blockchain explorer, and recently the team mobilized to execute a hard fork to update Garlicoin’s mining algorithm. Shortly after Garlicoin’s launch, rumors swirled that a super-powerful mining chip—called an ASIC—was live on the network. This would disadvantage people using their home computers to mine Garlicoin, and the ASIC’s existence was hotly debated before the development team eventually changed the algorithm to block an ASIC, although the team still referred to it as a “supposed ASIC” and called its existence “unlikely.”
Another, much more serious, controversy has dampened Garlicoin’s party vibes. About 40,000 garlic coins that were premined by the developer team with the intention of giving them out to users for free as part of an “airdrop” went missing—in cryptocurrency terms, “missing” means they’re publicly viewable on the blockchain but nobody knows who controls the funds. All signs point to a Garlicoin developer being involved at some stage of the heist, or even being directly responsible, DigitalizedOrange wrote me.
“We assumed it was a member of our dev team, as nobody else had access to the premine,” DigitalizedOrange wrote me, adding that an investigation didn’t lead to anything conclusive. “The only other option is that one of the developers leaked the files.”
Either way, malicious developers stealing funds (or helping to steal funds, even unintentionally) meant for the community does not scream “hilarious joke.”
There’s also the simple fact that the Garlicoin developer team holds the large majority of the premined coins, DigitalizedOrange said, a pot of money worth thousands of dollars thanks to the community’s interest and investment in Garlicoin. Currently, MIP5 wrote me, one developer is in charge of the money. DigitalizedOrange said that these funds are meant for “giveaways and whatever the community decides,” and the community simply has to trust that they are being sincere.
And finally, there’s the traders. No cryptocurrency gets to an $800,000 market cap without a lot of changing hands, paying incrementally more and more for it with every sale. Last week, a user in the Garlicoin Discord channel announced they were “pumping” the currency—buying or selling it for more than it’s worth in order to artificially inflate the market—and stated that they’d done so the day before as well. DigitalizedOrange dismissed this as a “troll” in a message to me and said they were not actually pumping. MIP5 stated that pumpers are banned from Discord.
Whatever the Garlicoin team’s intentions for the endeavor—either pure joke, as DigitalizedOrange frames it, or serious cryptocurrency and money-making opportunity—they’ve put themselves in a position that requires the community to have an immense amount of trust in them.
The poisoning element here, of course, is money on the line. At this point, if Garlicoin crashes, then some people may be be very, very angry. There’s no guarantee that saying, “It was a joke!” will calm the mob. In the words of Fleetwood Mac, it’s not that funny is it?
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