The esoteric, ever-permutating collaborations within the internet community along with the mainstream’s co-opting of those collaborations never ceases to amaze. Dogecoin is but one fun and interesting example. But the Dogecoin origin story is more than amusing. It shows the possibilities of creative collaboration, which is a trite but also very true platitude. Most would agree that there are at least some if not many problems today that might be solved faster, easier, and better through worldwide creative collaboration. So, then, how did Dogecoin come to be? Or rather, going back even further, how did the term doge come to be?
Using doge to mean dog originated from an episode of Homestar Runner’s puppet show. The Homestar Runner website mainly features a flash-based cartoon series that mixes absurd humor with pop culture references from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The site began in 2000 and does not sell advertising space, paying for the cost of site by selling T-shirts, DVDs, baby clothes, patches, greeting cards, figurines, and many other types of merchandise featuring the show’s various characters. A small number of Homestar Runner episodes were done with puppets instead of flash animation. It is from one of these episodes that clocks in at less-than-two-minutes and was posted in 2005 that the use of the misspelling “doge” to mean dog originated.
Cut to five years later and 25 miles outside Tokyo, Japan. A 51-year-old kindergarten teacher posts pictures of her Shiba Inu Kabosu in 2010, a dog she had rescued a year earlier from a puppy mill, onto a blog she created to raise awareness about the horrors of puppy mills and to encourage people to adopt rather than purchase pets. (As of December 2013, she had the fourth most popular blog in Japan.) In October of 2010 on Reddit, someone posted a picture of Kabosu with the caption: “LMBO look @ this *#@! doge.” Thereafter, the word doge began to be included in the captions of dog photos that were silly in nature. The multicolored Comic Sans script part of the meme came in two years later from “Shiba Confessions,” a Tumblr account launched in September of 2012. The stated purpose of the Tumblr account is to put funny Comic Sans text over unrelated Shiba pictures.
In the summer of 2013 and on Reddit again, the final pastiche of what we know today as the doge meme came together. The saccharine Comic Sans of “Shiba Confessions” had been combined with one-word intensifiers or two-word (often ungrammatical) exclamations. There is an exaggerated sunny and unsophisticated style that hints, sometimes ironically, at social commentary, and all of it all somehow works very well as a shortcut to humor.
A few months later, in December of 2013, someone in Sydney who was following the world of crypto currency, tweeted that he was “investing in Dogecoin” because he was “pretty sure it’s the next big thing.” When he got some encouraging replies to that tweet, Jackson Palmer decided to buy the Dogecoin domain name. At the same time over in Portland, Oregon, a programmer was trying to write his own digital currency program. He was trying to think of ways to appeal to a demographic that was broader than the profiteers who had flooded Bitcoin. The Oregon programmer, Billy Markus, came across the Dogecoin website a couple of days after it went live and emailed Palmer. A partnership was struck up, Markus reconfigured Bitcoin’s publicly available sourcecode, and Dogecoin was launched less that two weeks later.
Two months later, a man is selling his Hayward, Wisconsin vacation has decided to accept Dogecoin as a form of payment. The asking price is 100 million Dogecoins or 191,338 US dollars. And then there is Australian porn star Angela White, who is currently looking to set up a Dogecoin payment system. Experts say that it is hard to predict whether or not Dogecoin will “be worth anything after the ‘meme-fad’ passes away,” but that it came this far is fairly amazing in and of itself.
By Donna Westlund