Months ago, Woodcoin founder “Funkenstein the Dwarf” noticed something was awry with the 42 Coin project. When reviewing the code, he saw that there was nothing, actually, stopping the coin supply from exceeding the apparently magic number of 42. He wrote about it, saying:
The function "getBlockValue" determines the coinbase reward and hence the money supply. What I saw surprised me: the reward was set to be 0.00042 per block, forever. In other words, no limited supply. No cap at 42!
The next thing to do, for anyone who can read and write code, is to create a patch and submit it, right? Obviously. This is exactly what Funkenstein did, as described here:
I submitted my pull request and went back to the forum. Guess what? The guy who ran the code repo on github thought ~I~ was the coin developer, and had no idea what was going on. Read his comments there for a laugh. A couple other folks on the forum also thought I was the coin developer (apparently a guy called Hendo), who were angry at me for running a scamcoin. [...] In the end nobody was interested in a smoothly reducing supply curve. This was Nov. 2014.
Now, in October, 2015, the patch has finally been merged. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter now – there are 48 coins in circulation. There will also be problems with the various exchanges listing the coin, and users, moving to a forked chain which has repaired the code. Potentially, there are now two competing 42 Coin block chains out in the world.
There are several morals to this story for “alt coin” aficionados. One is that cryptocurrency is not as simple as copying and pasting and changing out some images. In truth, it should only be done if there is something novel and different about it that isn't currently being done in Bitcoin or Litecoin. That leaves a wide range of possibilities, certainly.
Another is that the code maintainers should actually be able to understand the code. This blunder was so basic, it could be consider malfeasance. Why? Well, the whole project was advertised as being capped at 42 coins, but not a single line was changed to make that happen. In fact, little more than a single line was necessary:
if(nHeight >= 990382)
nSubsidy = 0.00;
This says: when block 990382 is reached, do not issue out any new coins as a result of the coinbase reward or subsidy. It's not rocket science, it's pretty basic computer programming.
Another moral of this story is that it'd behoove the proponents of a given cryptocurrency to actually audit the codebase of their coin. Without knowing it, you could be supporting something totally not like what you expected, as happened to anyone who went in on 42 Coin at any point.
The current price of 42 Coin at Cryptsy rests at over 2 BTC each, with significant buy pressure at that rate. It may take some time for holders to realize they've been scammed by about 14% unexpected inflation.
Featurerd image from Shutterstock.