Shiba Inu (SHIB 7.44%) made the cryptocurrency market look like a gold mine last year. The popular meme token soared more than 45,000,000%. That kind of performance intrigued investors -- and they're still intrigued by Shiba Inu today. The token is one of the top 10 holdings of Ethereum whales. 

Clearly, some investors are still betting on Shiba Inu. But is that enough to push the token higher over time? Motley Fool contributors Adria Cimino and Anders Bylund present the bear and bull cases.

A cryptocurrency like many others

Adria Cimino: This year, Shiba Inu has fallen along with the general crypto market. And it doesn't look like the cryptocurrency will repeat last year's performance any time in the near future.

Yes, Shiba Inu has made some progress. It's still a token running on Ethereum. But developers are getting closer and closer to the release of a layer-2 scaling solution. And Shiba Inu is advancing on its metaverse project.

Still, that doesn't set Shiba Inu apart from the thousands of other cryptocurrencies out there. Basically, Shiba Inu is a payment token. It also can be staked for passive income like many other players. So, there isn't really a reason for developers or users to favor Shiba Inu. And that means there isn't really a reason for investors to favor Shiba Inu either.

Shiba Inu also has another problem that stands in the way of it gaining in value. That's the number of tokens in circulation. They total about 549 trillion. Today, Shiba Inu trades for a fraction of a cent. For Shiba Inu to trade for $1, the market value would balloon to $549 trillion.

That's more than the entire cryptocurrency market. And that's more than stock market giants such as Apple or Alphabet.

Efforts to burn Shiba Inu tokens to reduce supply are positive but not nearly enough to push the cryptocurrency to the level of $1.

It's true Shiba Inu probably will be a better cryptocurrency in the future in terms of utility than it was in the past. But it doesn't have what it takes to emerge as a leading player or one that could significantly gain in value in this innovative space.

This dog-themed token is no joke

Anders Bylund: It's easy to lump Shiba Inu together with so-called meme coins. Like the original meme token, Dogecoin (DOGE 10.32%), Shiba Inu's marketing features a cuddly dog. Other cryptocurrencies are based on strategy and technology discussed in a whitepaper, but Shiba Inu has a Woof Paper instead. The ecosystem described in that paper includes a limited-supply token called Doge Killer (LEASH) and a governance token named Bone ShibaSwap (BONE).

Many people reading the paragraph above naturally focus on the silly side of the Shiba Inu project. It's another crypto with a cute dog symbol! The other coins in the Shiba Inu orbit are also dog-themed. A single Shiba Inu coin is worth less than one-millionth of a dollar. This can't be a serious project with real value, right?

Right?

Well, other readers might focus on the presence of several distinct cryptocurrencies within the Shiba Inu system where each digital coin plays a specific (and important) role in a complex network of functions for decentralized token governance. There's a metaverse of virtual real estate and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) utilizing the Shiba Inu token. And while Dogecoin is a tweaked clone of the Bitcoin (BTC 7.35%) code base, Shiba Inu is an ERC-20 token based on the Ethereum blockchain network. Hence, Shiba Inu inherits the lightweight power requirements and robust security layer from Ethereum.

And the Shiba Inu developer community is not content with running a meme currency just for the laughs. Future plans include a layer-2 scaling network and a Shiba Inu-based stablecoin. The community already has platforms for voting on upcoming projects, funneling liquidity into promising ideas, and more.

Furthermore, Alphabet recently added Shiba Inu to the list of cryptocurrencies you can use to pay your bills for Google Cloud services. That's a vote of confidence in this cryptocurrency and its technology platform, and one more reason to take Shiba Inu seriously.

So Shiba Inu may look like a joke at first glance, but it's really a sophisticated experiment in decentralized cryptocurrency management, and this blockchain ecosystem may evolve into a serious investment vehicle over time. The grand experiment may also fail, so I would not suggest betting the literal farm on Shiba Inu today. But a small investment in this speculative cryptocurrency could make you some serious money in the long run as long as the developer community gets a foot in the door when decentralized finance apps and Web3 content management start going mainstream.

Should you buy Shiba Inu?

Shiba Inu is on its way to becoming a better cryptocurrency than it was in the past. And there's a lot of serious technology behind the Shiba Inu system. As mentioned above, an investment today could result in growth. But it remains highly speculative and risky.

Problems such as limited utility and enormous coin supply are likely to work against Shiba Inu -- and keep it trading well below $1. That's why, today, it's best to put your money elsewhere.