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Meet the other dog-themed crypto challenging Dogecoin for dominance

October 27, 2021, 10:32 PM UTC

It’s off to the cryptocurrency dog races.

Shiba Inu coin is quickly gaining on the original joke digital asset that is Dogecoin in remarkable fashion. The previously little-known cryptocurrency has surged in recent weeks to become the 11th largest on record with a market capitalization of about $26.5 billion at midweek—making it worth more than blue-chip names in corporate America like Delta Air Lines, Warner Music Group, and Kellogg’s.

Granted, SHIB, as the coin is better known, only trades for a fraction of a penny, at around $0.00006. (Compare that to Bitcoin which has recently traded at more than $58,000.) But its gains have put SHIB into new light on the national stage, with it now inching closer to what had been the cryptocurrency world’s favorite dog-themed digital asset until now: Dogecoin. So, how has SHIB transformed from a joke to a force of its own right? Here’s what you need to know:

The ‘woofpaper’

Just 14 months ago, SHIB was launched as a potential “Dogecoin killer.”

SHIB—whose branding is based around a picture of a Shiba Inu, just as Dogecoin’s is—was built to be “an experiment in decentralized spontaneous community building,” its still-anonymous founder Ryoshi wrote in the cryptocurrency’s original so-called “woofpaper.” To do that, SHIB would come to rely on what has become known as the “SHIBArmy,” an informal collective of developers, holders, and fans of the cryptocurrency that has seemingly continued to drive the price higher as it has grown.

“We believe through the power of collective decentralization we can build something stronger than a centralized team ever could create,” Ryoshi wrote in the woofpaper, a name that is a clear play on the white papers that other crypto creators release when launching new assets. “A community-run token is nothing without the united individuals who give it purpose.”

The cryptocurrency is built on the Ethereum network, a blockchain that has surged in popularity over the past several years for its wide array of use cases, which now include everything from the basis for “decentralized finance” protocols to non-fungible tokens.

Meme movements

Over the course of 2021, financial markets have been on a whirlwind ride that have often been punctuated by dramatic movements in little-known assets that have been anointed with the “meme” qualifier.

First there was GameStop, the flailing video game retailer based out of Texas that saw its stock price explode following a rush of individual investor interest. Other so-called meme stocks saw similar rises throughout the year, perhaps none more so than AMC, the movie theater chain whose CEO has wholeheartedly embraced the retail trading movement. And in the crypto space, fanatics have often based their most speculative bets on a few tokens, perhaps none more famously than Dogecoin.

While its very nature is designed to make it cheaper over time, the original joke cryptocurrency has seen a ballooning in price this year, helped along by major celebrities, executives, and the like publicizing their backing of Doge. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who came to be known as the Dogefather earlier this year, holds it as just one of three cryptos in his portfolio, with the other two being Bitcoin and Ether. NFT-fanatic Snoop Dogg rebranded himself jokily as “Snoop Doge.” And even Kiss’s Gene Simmons said in February that he had bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Doge. Dogecoin is so far up more than 5,200% on the year.

And now SHIB seems to be benefiting from a similar move.

The SHIB surge

What exactly is driving the crypto higher remains a mystery, just as it has for many other meme assets that have inexplicably spiked at rapid rates this year.

The SHIBArmy has been working toward deploying SHIB in certain use cases, such as through the development of ShibaSwap, a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange, or Shiboshis Social Club, an online community that is built around 10,000 Shiba Inu coin non-fungible tokens. Those so-called Shiboshi NFTs have been selling for thousands of dollars on OpenSea, the NFT marketplace, in recent days, with one even going for 130 million SHIB Wednesday morning, or the equivalent of $8,895.90 at the time.

Perhaps one of the biggest drivers behind the renewed interest in SHIB, which was up more than 40% around midday Wednesday over the prior 24 hours, is the ongoing push to get retail-trader-beloved brokerage Robinhood to list the crypto on its platform. A Change.org petition asking that the brokerage do so had reached 355,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

For its part, Robinhood is not quite there, yet, considering the swirl of regulatory uncertainty around crypto in the U.S. right now. Not that cofounder and CEO Vlad Tenev is ruling anything out.

“We feel very, very good about the coins that we’re currently listing on our platform,” Tenev said Tuesday on an earnings call. “And for any new coins that we add, we want to feel equally, if not more, good. So we’re going to be very careful. We’re a regulated entity, and we’re hopeful to get some clarity soon on coins.”

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