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A crypto-currency based on a dog meme is now worth over $1 billion

And that's just one of the crazy things we've seen in digital currencies already this year.

by David Gilbert
Jan 5 2018, 2:32pm

The 2018 cryptocurrency craziness is already in full swing.

On Friday, the market capitalization of dogecoin, a cryptocurrency based on a meme about a Shiba Inu dog, passed the $1 billion mark for the first time.

About 24 hours earlier, the creator of another cryptocurrency called ripple, which many experts claim has no intrinsic value, briefly became America’s fifth-wealthiest person, surpassing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The rapid spike in the price of bitcoin throughout 2017 — going from $1,000 to a high of $20,000 — has led many to call the current craze a bubble, and the latest price rises will do little to calm such worries.

“Much amaze”

Dogecoin was created back in the early days of the cryptocurrency craze. Launched in December 2013 as somewhat of a joke, the meme-inspired coin was dubbed “the internet currency” and designed to promote a sense of community and generosity rather than simply looking to make money.

It gained fame during 2014 when it was used to send the Jamaican bobsled team to the Winter Olympics in Sochi and it even sponsored a Nascar team.

The currency has been in relative stasis since, and despite no software updates being released in over two years, the cryptocurrency has risen more than 400 percent in the last month — though one dogecoin is still worth just over 1 cent.

Even Jackson Palmer, one of the founders of the coin, expressed concern about the hyperinflation of dogecoin. “It says a lot about the state of the cryptocurrency space in general that a currency with a dog on it which hasn't released a software update in over 2 years has a $1B+ market cap,” Jackson told Coindesk.

A ripple in the force

But dogecoin’s gains are dwarfed by ripple, a peer-to-peer payment system that has seen the price of its token rise by a staggering 30,000 percent in the last year.

Now the world’s second most valuable cryptocurrency, ripple has a market capitalization of over $125 billion. It was founded in 2012, but unlike bitcoin, all the tokens were premined, with the majority of its tokens held by those in charge — including co-founder and former CEO Chris Larsen.

Thanks to the insane price spike of recent months, Larsen was briefly worth more than $59 billion on Thursday, according to figures from Forbes, putting him ahead of Zuckerberg as the fifth-richest person in the U.S.

A lot of smaller investors, many who may have missed out on the huge bitcoin gains last year, are now buying up ripple tokens hoping to become crypto millionaires or even billionaires.

The problem is that ripple tokens — known as XRP — have little to no value, because the underlying ripple technology, which banks are testing for international transactions, doesn’t need to use those tokens in order to work.

The company Ripple claims that many banks and financial institutions are looking to use its token and therefore the valuation is accurate, but to date just a single Mexican money-transfer business has officially announced it will be using the token.