A tech-savvy community in Iceland is trying to jump-start the country's flagging economy with an Iceland-specific variant of bitcoin they call Auroracoin. On Tuesday (late Monday afternoon in the U.S.), every Icelandic citizen will receive a bundle of them — and what happens next, no one knows.
Bitcoin is in the news a lot these days, but it's far from the only "crypto-currency" out there. Between the serious competitors like Litecoin and joking ones like Dogecoin, there are actually quite a few to choose from.
So why not one more? That's what the creators of Auroracoin asked, frustrated with ongoing economic stagnation in their country and an official currency that has lost a huge amount of its value through inflation.
But their crypto-currency comes with a twist: every Icelander gets a handful to start. Coins will still be able to be "mined" with powerful computers, but by giving everyone a few to begin with, the Auroracoin creators hope to make them immediately useful to more than the niche crypto community.
The relatively few coins in circulation right now are trading for about 0.02 bitcoins — around $11. Every Icelander will be getting 31.8 of them on Mar. 25, which amounts to about $350 at today's prices. But no one knows whether they'll sell for that — or more — or far less.
And that's if people even understand what these things are, and if they don't get banned. Iceland's government has warned against using bitcoin, and may act against Auroracoin as well.
Whether Auroracoin starts a thriving second market or fails to make an impression, it's certainly a novel and interesting variation on the bitcoin idea.
First published March 24 2014, 1:20 PM
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer at NBC News; he started his role in April of 2013. Coldewey is responsible for original reporting on a number of tech topics, such as photography, biotechnology, and Internet policy.
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Coldewey joined NBCNews.com from TechCrunch, where he was an editor covering a similarly wide variety of content and industries. His personal website is coldewey.cc.