There's no doubt that the technology industry has made its presence in pop culture known loud and clear.
Gone are the days when only engineers and geeky hobbyists talked about using new software applications or gossiped about the most recent company acquisition.
Today, it's difficult to think of anyone in our social circles who doesn't use Facebook, and the mainstream media buzzed about the social networking giant's recent acquisition of WhatsApp.
Technology companies have impacted the lives of almost everybody on the planet. Along the way, they have used their products, marketing campaigns and the power of branding to create their own distinct identities within the broader scope of pop culture's influence.
Though digital currencies may be relatively late to the party, they're certainly making up for lost time. Thanks to the open source nature of the Bitcoin protocol, anyone with some time and programming experience can create their own uniquely branded digital currency.
Some of the biggest players in the digital currency space are already distinguishing themselves from others in the market using carefully crafted branding strategies.
Whether these currencies are modeling their marketing tactics after those of well-established tech companies or not, some similarities between digital currencies and our favorite technology companies are hard to deny.
... Bitcoin would be Google
Just like how Google is the de facto search engine of choice for Internet users, a vast majority of people who use digital currencies are dealing with bitcoin.
Bitcoin and Google's dominating popularity in their respective industries is not the only similarity between them, though.
Bitcoin has made it this far in part due to its open source development model, which allows developers to build applications that expand on the core protocol. Google has also taken a noticeably open approach to its development.
In contrast to competitor Apple, Google's Android operating system embraces open source development, which is why digital currency apps are only available for use on Android platforms — at least for now.
... Litecoin would be Yahoo!
Litecoin was one of the first alternatives to bitcoin for digital currency enthusiasts. Though nearly identical to bitcoin, litecoin distinguished itself with a faster block time of 2.5 minutes (compared to the 10 minutes it takes on the Bitcoin protocol), and has even been declared the "silver to bitcoin's gold".
Though Yahoo! was around before Google, the veteran search engine has fallen behind Google in traffic rankings. In recent years, however, Yahoo! has revamped its marketing approach and has sought out expansion to new verticals, similar to litecoin's quest to use branding to distinguish itself and gain market share from its titan rival.
Regardless of popularity, litecoin and Yahoo! have another similarity in their consistent reliability as an alternative option to their respective industry's leader.
... Ripple would be Uber
Ripple arrived on the digital currency scene and right away grabbed everybody's attention. Situating itself more as a payment protocol than an actual currency, Ripple was successful in disrupting the ecosystem of digital currencies that largely consisted of near clones of the Bitcoin protocol.
Ripple relies on mathematical algorithms and a consensus ledger for its protocol, and its decentralized nature has already proven to be disruptive in the world of traditional payment protocols.
Like Ripple, Uber made a loud entrance into the world of ridesharing and taxi services when it was founded in 2009. Uber used software to build an app that quickly proved to be disruptive to the taxicab industry.
Uber offers its users to all the same services of traditional taxis, but with a technologically advanced twist, just like Ripple's approach to payment protocols.
... Dogecoin would be Snapchat
Aside from bitcoin, dogecoin may be the most buzzed-about digital currency. Members of the dogecoin community are active, loyal, and vocal about their digital currency of choice. There is a lighthearted feel to the dogecoin movement, and supporters of the meme-inspired coin sometimes struggle to be taken seriously by other digital currency enthusiasts.
Similar to the story of dogecoin, few people expected Snapchat to become so popular in its early days. Both dogecoin and Snapchat have found considerable success, thanks in large part to their active user bases and the happy-go-lucky culture of their communities.
Selfie-taking teenage users of Snapchat also face some of the same problems of dogecoiners: they're the clear drivers behind their respective movements, but are still scoffed at by peers who consider themselves more mature.
... Namecoin would be GoDaddy
Namecoin was one of the first digital currencies created with a specific purpose outside of the standard uses of bitcoin. Namecoin builds on the Bitcoin protocol to operate as a domain name system (DNS), but is novel in its decentralized approach to domain name registration.
Their utility as DNSs is possibly the only similarity between namecoin and GoDaddy. Namecoin solves many problems that plague centralized DNSs like GoDaddy; chief among them is the issue of domain name censorship.
Using namecoin, anyone can register a .bit domain outside of ICANN – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – control, which makes it much easier to avoid Internet censorship, with all of the authority lying in the hands of the peer-to-peer namecoin network.
... Darkcoin would be Apple
Darkcoin made quite the splash when it was introduced to the public. The creators crafted darkcoin to have all the qualities that make bitcoin great, but with added functionality as a truly anonymous digital currency. Their hope is for darkcoin to become as ubiquitous as bitcoin, but to make sure that any and all transactions on the darkcoin blockchain can remain completely anonymous along the way.
If bitcoin is the Google of digital currencies, then darkcoin is certainly the Apple amongst its peers. Apple is notoriously opaque in their business operations, preferring to keep important decisions behind closed doors.
A prime example of Apple's darkcoin-like ambiguity is the recent update to their policies regarding virtual currency apps in the App store:
"Apps may facilitate transmission of approved virtual currencies provided that they do so in compliance with all state and federal laws for the territories in which the app functions."
While many speculate this may open the door for bitcoin apps to make their return to the App store, Apple never explicitly discloses what constitutes an "approved" virtual currency.
... Ethereum would be Tesla
Even though Ethereum has not yet been officially introduced to the public, it's still one of the most talked about platforms in the digital currency space. In theory, Ethereum's technology could be truly revolutionary to the Internet and beyond. It's easy to imagine an ethereum-fueled decentralized utopia, but even with all the hype, only time will tell if this product will be received by and adopted into society with open arms.
Replacing "ethereum" with "Tesla electric cars" and "digital currency/Internet" with "automotive industry/transportation" in the above paragraph makes a strong enough argument for the similarities between the two that any further explanation is superfluous.
Bitcoin and Litecoin images via Shutterstock; Dogecoin, Darkcoin and Ripple images via Coinbrief.net; Namecoin image via Wikimedia; Ethereum image via Ethereum.org; Technology company logos via Google, Yahoo!, Uber, Snapchat, GoDaddy, Apple and Tesla.