"If this post gets 30,000 upvotes, I will make a garlic bread cryptocurrency called garlicoin," a Reddit post by DigitalizedOrange at the end of 2017 reads. Considering DigitalizedOrange's previous promise to make a "Garlic bread dating simulator" in exchange for 30,000 upvotes (which, unsurprisingly, never happened), one could expect this to be another joke. Only it wasn't.
According to the cryptocurrency's website, it was "born from the shitposts of Reddit" and "baked with our special ingredient, copy/pasteTM" because its code was copied from litecoin, itself a copy of bitcoin. "We're just having fun" is a motto of this unusual cryptocurrency. But is that so?
Well, not exactly. Garlicoin is a perfectly functional cryptocurrency that can be mined, bought and sold. The "joke" cryptocurrency has a market cap that briefly reached just under $1 million on Monday. If the cryptocurrency goes down now, a lot of real money will be lost, making a lot of people seriously unhappy.
There is also a controversy regarding 40,000 Garlicoins mined at early stages of development and intended for giveaways and other community actions that subsequently went "missing." The coins themselves are still there in the system, but no one can tell who owns them — and the developing team suspects one of their developing colleagues.
"We assumed it was a member of our dev team, as nobody else had access to the premine," DigitalizedOrange wrote in a chat with Motherboard's Jordan Pearson, noting further 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,'" Pearson writes.
Currently, there are nine people in the garlicoin team and not all of them take this startup project as a joke.
"No I wouldn't call it a joke," one garlicoin developer who goes by "Kryptonite" told Pearson in a Discord chat.
"But [it] 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."
According to Kryptonite, the team "enjoys the fun community but likes the seriousness."
As if this whole situation wasn't weird enough, garlicoin isn't even the first "meme-based" cryptocurrency. In fact, it was preceded by dogecoin, created in 2013, and in turn based on a much older meme.
"Dogecoin sets itself apart from other digital currencies with an amazing, vibrant community made up of friendly folks just like you," its website reads.
Unlike bitcoin, which exchanges for some $10,000, dogecoin costs way less than $1, but that doesn't stop the cryptocurrency from having a solid market cap size of $720 million, hundreds of times bigger than garlicoin.
That's some serious capitalization for internet jokes, huh?