Novelty cryptocurrencies are all the rage these days. Russian Whoppercoin is the latest example — order a Whopper from Burger King in Russia and you get a Whoppercoin, which you can probably exchange later for more Whoppers. This deal is known ordinarily as a loyalty point scheme, but add the word “cryptocurrency” and it means international headlines.
Russian Whoppercoin probably got more mainstream media attention this week than Bitcoin finally activating SegWit. Arguably, SegWit will probably impact far more lives and wallets in more meaningful ways — but it’s too esoteric for the average reader to grasp. So, burgers in Russia.
Whoppercoin: Is Another Dotcom Era Here?
Blockchain/cryptocurrency hype often gets compared to the 1990s “dotcom” craze. Back then, like now, news wasn’t looking for paradigm-shifting use cases — just wacky everyday ones people could understand.
Years after the 2000 crash we got social networking, video streaming and Uber — but in the 90s the headlines went to Boo.com’s wild parties and Kozmo.com delivering DVDs on scooters. The public thought dotcoms were cool, but it wasn’t really interested in the tech.
There’s a Burger King in Arnhem, Netherlands, that actually accepts Bitcoin. It got a few headlines back in February, but even that wasn’t as interesting as launching a new burger-based token… in Russia.
Interested in Bitcoin for New Reasons
Money first flowed into Bitcoin because its users liked what the technology could do. Instant transfers anywhere, with no banks and minimal fees. No government restrictions and no accounts.
How much of Bitcoin’s market cap is based on those principles these days? Do most investors even care about the technology and principles anymore, or only the potential returns?
Can most people actually explain the difference between their Bitcoin, Ethereum, DASH, Ripple and the ERC20-based token they just bought in an ICO?
Does it matter? Not really, if you’re trying to make a quick fortune. Or yes it does, if you don’t want to be holding the bag when your favorite cryptocoin goes to the potato. Dotcom investors who got out of the market before March 2000 made a killing, and it never mattered whether their companies ever made a profit.
Help, It’s Going Too Far
In a way, the Russian Whoppercoin story could be a cry for help. “This blockchain craze is getting out of hand and we don’t know how it’s going to end!” it shrieks.
Indeed, many within the cryptocurrency industry have this fear too. They sense a bubble, know their history, but also don’t want to sell out too soon.
In the long run, blockchain and cryptocurrency tech will transform economies and commerce. But apart from a few visionaries, no-one really understands how yet. Most people don’t actually know what money is, or why its form is so important.
While they’re learning, though, we have ICOs and Whoppercoins to play with.
Has crypto-hype gone too far, or is there still plenty of special sauce left? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Wikipedia, Kozmo.com, Pixabay