Meet Coinye West, the Kanye-inspired Bitcoin alternative for normal folk

The technology is designed to bring digital currency to the masses

When Kanye West [cq] wrote the lyric, "I'm chilling, trying to stack these millions," he probably did not mean digital currency. But a new technology might give him pause, or at least have him scratching his head.

In a sign that the frenzy over Bitcoin may have reached a new level of ridiculousness, there is now another phenomenon inspired by it: Coinye West, named after the American hip hop artist Kanye West.

Bitcoin is a new online technology designed as a currency to enable anonymous transactions over the Internet with little or no fees. Bitcoin mining involves pooling together the resources of computers over a network to solve mathematical problems that, theoretically, generate bitcoins as a reward. The software supporting the system is open source, so it has already spawned a number of alternative forms of the technology, such as Ripple, Litecoin and Colored Coins.

Coinye West, however, might be the first to be modeled after, and take its name from, a celebrity. "We chose Kanye because of his trendsetting abilities and his originality," the developers of the currency said via email. They declined to identify themselves due to the collaborative and "decentralized" nature of the currency.

West himself was not involved in developing the currency, and he was notified of its existence only via Twitter. But who knows how the artist might respond, given his previous claim that "I am Steve Jobs."

The currency will officially launch on Jan. 11, underpinned by a common-sense goal: To make digital currencies more accessible to a less technical audience. The Coinye West system, its developers said, will use a different algorithm from Bitcoin's that will let people use their home computers to acquire Coinye West coins instead of having to go out and buy expensive, specialized hardware.

The name of this mining software will be "Gold Digger," the developers said, presumably after the title of a popular song by West. "We want to bring cryptocurrency to the masses," they said, "so that anybody can get into mining with a couple of clicks."

The currency is also intended to support hip-hop-related e-commerce transactions. Some online merchants have already contacted the currency's founders asking how they can accept it as money, the founders said.

Making digital currencies like Bitcoin more accessible to a less technical audience may be a good marketing strategy, given the complexity and strangeness of it all. Describing how Bitcoin works is not easy, and a good number of people still don't even know what it is. Apart from the currency itself -- and some experts say it's not even a currency -- there are a range of ancillary services such as exchanges, payment processors and so-called wallets to understand.

While libertarians, venture capitalists and others have enthusiastically embraced Bitcoin and other digital currencies, governments and financial regulators are still not quite sure what to make of them. In recent weeks, authorities in New Zealand, Denmark and the European Union have issued warnings against the technology, which might threaten its viability. In the U.S., federal officials have offered cautionary support for it.

The developers of Coinye West, however, don't seem concerned. They dismissed the government's growing interest in digital currency and used an expletive to indicate their lack of concern for law enforcement.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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