Kanye West-inspired currency 'to launch soon'

Coinye West image The currency would launch on 11 January, the makers said

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A new Bitcoin-like virtual currency inspired by rapper Kanye West is set to be launched, and has been dubbed "Coinye West".

Kanye West is not involved and has yet to comment on its inception.

It will follow in the footsteps of "Dogecoin", another virtual currency based on the popular Doge meme.

The value of Bitcoin, the most famous virtual currency, peaked at over $1000 (£613) last year but is currently worth around $850 (£520).

Various alternatives to Bitcoin have sprung up, such as Litecoin, Namecoin and PPCoin.

Virtual currencies are often linked to the purchase of illegal items, namely drugs, thanks to transactions being extremely difficult to trace.

However, more humorous currencies like Dogecoin are used for more tongue-in-cheek transactions.

One user, posting on Dogemarket, a section on popular link sharing site Reddit, offered Dogecoins in exchange for ideas to name a company.

Cryptocurrency explained: how Bitcoin works

Bitcoin is often referred to as a new kind of currency.

But it may be best to think of its units being virtual tokens rather than physical coins or notes.

However, like all currencies its value is determined by how much people are willing to exchange it for.

To process Bitcoin transactions, a procedure called "mining" must take place, which involves a computer solving a difficult mathematical problem with a 64-digit solution.

For each problem solved, one block of bitcoins is processed. In addition the miner is rewarded with new bitcoins.

This provides an incentive for people to provide computer processing power to solve the problems.

To compensate for the growing power of computer chips, the difficulty of the puzzles is adjusted to ensure a steady stream of about 3,600 new bitcoins a day.

There are currently about 11 million bitcoins in existence.

To receive a bitcoin a user must have a Bitcoin address - a string of 27-34 letters and numbers - which acts as a kind of virtual postbox to and from which the bitcoins are sent.

Since there is no registry of these addresses, people can use them to protect their anonymity when making a transaction.

These addresses are in turn stored in Bitcoin wallets which are used to manage savings.

They operate like privately run bank accounts - with the proviso that if the data is lost, so are the bitcoins owned.

"I thought the whole Dogecoin thing was interesting," said Jeremy Bonney, from virtual currency news site Coindesk.

"It grew into something somewhat legitimate. There are people that genuinely believe in it out there."

Gig tickets

The makers of Coinye West have lofty ambitions for the currency which they described as a "cryptocurrency for the masses".

Speaking anonymously to music site Noisey, they said: "I can picture a future where Coinye is used to buy concert tickets, with cryptographically verified virtual tickets, and other ideas I can't give away just yet."

They said they planned to give away a number of Coinye to early users when the currency launches on 11 January.

"It will get people who are on the fence interested and help them to start using the currency, and we hope they'll share it with their friends, too."

However, one Bitcoin expert urged caution in investing in new virtual currencies that were as yet untested in public use.

"There's been a number of people who have put out 'joke' currencies in the past," said Johnathan Turrall, chief technology officer at Metalair, a cryptocurrency start-up based at the University of Sussex.

"There were some coins in the past that seemed to be a 'pump and dump' operation.

"In one case, the original developers launched on obscure websites, but when they took it mainstream, and the price spiked, they sold up and disappeared. Estimated earnings in one instance were $800,000."

Mike Hearn, a Bitcoin developer, said Coinye West was, at the very least, an expression of the "democratic" nature of the technology behind virtual currencies.

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