Futurist Douglas Rushkoff, famous for correctly predicting the rise of social media, is trying to convince Craigslist’s Craig Newmark to create “craigbucks.” He thinks it’s the obvious next step in the evolution of money. “People could buy and sell things exclusively on Craigslist using craigbucks,” Rushkoff enthuses. “Sure they’ll want to keep their Visas and their MasterCards, but they’ll want a specialized, alternative form of cash too.”
The idea is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Economists already have a term for this kind of community-specific money; they’re called “complimentary currencies” and they naturally take root when conditions are right. For example, in 2006, a Chinese online social network called QQ produced “QQ coins” that became widely traded, used for almost a billion dollars a year in transactions. Even though the currency was designed just to buy things on the QQ network, other websites started accepting QQ coins for payment of even non-virtual goods, and a black market sprung up to convert QQ coins directly to Yuan. The Chinese government cracked down: They feared that QQ could trigger inflation of the Yuan by increasing the total money supply in China.