Meme Coins Are So 2021—It’s All About Meme Chains Now
- Several meme-themed blockchains have hit the crypto space, offering users some respite from the ongoing crypto winter.
- Dogechain, Berachain, and Kekchain are among the projects utilizing popular memes to promote themselves.
- While meme chains are often highly speculative, some have ambitions to change the way blockchains and DeFi function.
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The most popular memes in the crypto space are back—in blockchain form.
What Are Meme Chains?
It’s becoming easier than ever to launch your own blockchain—and the memes are taking advantage of it.
In recent weeks several new meme-themed blockchains have hit the crypto space, offering users some lighthearted fun and a brief respite from the enduring crypto winter.
Until now, most crypto meme projects took the form of a token on a pre-existing Layer 1 chain. For example, Shiba Inu launched as an ERC-20 token on Ethereum, and Solana got its own dog token in the form of Samoyedcoin. The main exception to this trend has been the crypto meme progenitor, Dogecoin, which was originally created as a fork of Litecoin and lives on its own chain.
However, despite their success in going viral, these meme projects have faced significant hurdles. During its height, Shiba Inu mania helped the gas fees on Ethereum soar, dissuading new buyers and limiting the meme’s potential. Dogecoin, which speculators mostly bought through centralized exchanges, was much cheaper to obtain but limited by its lack of Turing completeness, meaning it cannot support smart contracts or DeFi applications.
The new wave of meme chains capitalizes on two things: smart contract interoperability and rock bottom fees. After paying a small fee to bridge tokens to a meme chain, users are unrestricted in what they can build or do. Low transaction fees encourage use, and more users bring more developers.
In recent weeks, several up-and-coming meme-themed blockchains have captured the crypto market’s attention and generated excitement even as prices trend down across the board.
Dogechain is a meme chain that’s bringing smart contracts to Dogecoin. Marketed as a “Layer 2 for Dogecoin,” Dogechain is built using the Polygon Edge framework. While Dogechain is Ethereum-compatible, it doesn’t use ETH for its transaction fees. Instead, users can pay fees with either wrapped Dogecoin (wDOGE) or the chain’s native Dogechain token (DC).
The team behind Dogechain is anonymous and reportedly has no connection to Jackson Palmer, Dogecoin’s original creator who has since distanced himself from the crypto space. On the Dogechain website, the meme chain is advertised with the tagline “NFTs, Games, and DeFi for Dogecoin users,” alluding to all the possibilities Dogechain’s smart contract functionality enables.
Currently, most of the activity on Dogechain comes in the form of wild token speculation that’s turned the network into a makeshift casino. Due to the cheap transaction fees and low barrier to entry, it’s easy to create new tokens with meme-worthy names, and even easier to buy them. Low levels of liquidity mean new tokens can quickly go parabolic, netting early buyers huge returns on even a modest “investment.” However, for every winner, there’s an entire graveyard of tokens that didn’t make it, many of them sitting 99% down from their all-time highs.
Although most activity on Dogechain is glorified gambling, adoption appears to be increasing. According to the official Dogechain Twitter account, the network surpassed 15 million transactions on September 5 and hit an all-time high daily transaction count of 2.6 million the following day. Additionally, there are also hints of more serious projects getting involved with Dogechain. Stablecoin protocol Frax Finance recently launched a decentralized exchange on the meme chain, and the Dogechain team officially endorsed it as it went live.
As a meme, Doge has a long history dating back over a decade and has become a mainstay of Internet culture. Dogecoin’s parabolic run in 2021 shows the explosive potential of meme coins given the right conditions. If interest in crypto picks up again, Dogecoin and Dogechain could capture a lot of attention from newer entrants and crypto veterans alike.
Berachain pays homage to the ongoing crypto bear market and the concept of “bearposting.” It uses image derivatives of Bobo the Bear to bring its community together, much like Dogechain uses the Doge meme. However, while Berachain may look like another lighthearted meme on the surface, the project is pioneering several innovations that could change the way blockchains and DeFi function.
Berachain differentiates itself from other meme chains by promising to bring new levels of capital efficiency to DeFi. The project plans to do so through a new tri-token design and a “Proof of Liquidity” concept. The three tokens in the Berachain ecosystem are a gas token called BERA, the BGT governance token, and a collateralized stablecoin called HONEY.
According to the Berachain team, the rationale behind having separate tokens is the belief that a decentralized economy has three main components that are important to its success: a medium to price a unit of work (gas), a medium to come to consensus and make decisions about the future of the network (governance token), and a medium in which in to transact through a common stable denomination (stablecoin). Most existing networks combine these functions under the same tokens, but Berachain wants to separate each one.
By making each component separate, Berachain can implement its novel Proof of Liquidity Sybil resistance mechanism. Here, tokens used to help the network come to consensus are repurposed to provide liquidity throughout the Berachain ecosystem while earning a yield from block rewards and protocol fees. If the plan works, Berachain could set a new standard for capital efficiency and blockchain design.
Berachain is still in the early stages of development but plans to launch its first incentivized testnet soon. Although the chain is being built using the Cosmos software developer kit and uses the Tendermint consensus mechanism, its developers are promising it will be Ethereum-compatible and have full cross-chain interoperability.
Separate from its tokenomic innovations, Berachain has garnered a lot of attention in crypto circles. The project’s Discord server has attracted over 60,000 members, with many aiming to make it onto Berachain’s exclusive “Honeylist.” Not much is known about what a spot on the Honeylist grants or what hopefuls can do to get on it, but some have speculated that it will grant early access to the Berachain testnet or other benefits.
Last up is Kekchain—a meme chain dedicated to the satirical religion based around the worship of the ancient Egyptian frog God Kek. The meme was first conjured up on the imageboards of 4chan, where posters noted a similarity between Kek and the popular meme character Pepe the Frog created by Matt Furie.
Kekchain harnesses the meme power of Pepe and its derivatives, such as Peepo and Apu Apustaja. Finding viral success as early as 2008, Pepe rivals Doge in its widespread recognition across the Internet. However, the meme’s adoption by some far-right circles has hurt its reputation in recent years.
Like Berachain, Kekchain is also in its pre-launch phase but has launched its native KEK token as an ERC-20 on Ethereum. Additionally, the project has also launched its own .kek domain name service akin to Ethereum Name Service’s .eth domains. When the Kekchain mainnet launches later this year, its developers plan to migrate KEK over from Ethereum so it can be used to pay transaction fees. Kekchain is currently running a testnet where users can try out the chain and start building applications.
Despite its small following, Kekchain has made good progress promoting itself. So far, the KEK token has been listed on Coingecko, and ChainList has also added the Kekchain testnet to its roster of RPC server addresses.
However, the KEK token contract charges a controversial 10% exit tax for selling KEK on the open market. Kekchain’s developers maintain the tax is necessary to help develop and market the chain. Still, taking a cut of traders’ tokens could be a nasty surprise for some and hurt the network’s overall adoption.
Although meme coins—and now meme chains—have produced handsome returns for early buyers, the risks associated with these types of projects are high. Meme projects can occasionally soar in value, but they can just as quickly plummet, leaving those who bought at the top holding the bag. Additionally, many meme projects are created by anonymous teams, meaning that it is very difficult to hold anyone accountable for them. This increases the risk of projects “pulling the rug” on token holders by stealing funds, dumping tokens, or abandoning the project. Anyone thinking of exploring any meme chains or projects found in their ecosystems should do their own research and understand the risks involved.
Disclosure: At the time of writing this piece, the author owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies. The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice.