A major bitcoin exchange went offline late Monday evening, sending the value of the digital currency tumbling and feeding rampant speculation about its stability.
The website for Mt. Gox, a bitcoin exchange based in Tokyo, went blank late Monday night, after reports surfaced on Twitter and Reddit saying the company had halted all trading. In the hours since Mt. Gox went offline, the value of one bitcoin fell to $470, down from $550 just a few hours ago. The currency has long been volatile.
A purported Mt. Gox document that has been shared online says more than 740,000 bitcoin are missing from the exchange, a loss of $350 million, the Associated Press reports. In the wake of Mt. Gox’s failure, several other bitcoin companies issued a joint statement saying they are working to “re-establish the trust squandered by the failings of Mt. Gox.” The statement said that Mt. Gox’s closure “was the result of one company’s actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of bitcoin and the digital currency industry.”
The closure of one of bitcoin’s largest exchanges comes as the digital currency has gained broader acceptance. The currency is “mined” by computers and gets more difficult to generate over time. There are currently more than 12 million bitcoin in circulation, more than half of the maximum 21 million that can be generated. Mt. Gox’s closure cost many currency traders all of the money they had invested in bitcoin. Kolin Burgess, a bitcoin trader who flew to Tokyo from London in an attempt to retrieve more than $300,000 worth of bitcoin, told the AP that Mt. Gox’s closure “hasn’t shaken my trust in Bitcoin, but it has shaken my trust in bitcoin exchanges.”