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Bitcoin 'Glitch' Sparks 23% Flash Crash

Tyler Durden's picture


While we are used to seeing insta-crashes in our highly-regulated and trustworthy equity markets, the unregulated digital world of Bitcoins suffered another flash-crash last night. According to Ars Technica, the 23% plungefest in the value of the digital currency (the second in a week) was due not to Waddel & Reed, not HFT algos, but 'forking' Cryptographic algos gone wild agreeing on different (legacy) keys as being correct  - akin to finding Tungsten in your Gold bars (and hence the drop in the value). This latest glitch is different from the problem that caused Bitcoin prices to briefly crash to zero in June of 2011. In that case, the sell-off was caused by the compromise of the exchange itself, whereas this time the glitch occurred in the core Bitcoin software. Obviously, the incident will be another important test of the cryptocurrency's decentralized governance structure - to say nothing of its reputation among the less technically-capable owners and miners (even though BTC rapidly recovered almost all its losses).

Last night's bitcoin software-related crash...


and last week's 'market' based crash


and the life of BTC...


From a high of more than $48 earlier Monday, the value of Bitcoins plummeted to less than $37 around 10 PM Central time on Monday evening, a 23 percent decline. The price has since recovered; one Bitcoin is now worth about $46 - which, one could argue reflects a rapid recoupling with value and confidence (especially given the recent run-up in price) but notably, flash-crashes in equities (as we noted above) never seemed to stop greed-stricken investors piling into them anyway.


(h/t BD)


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Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:10 | 3324504 NoWayJose
NoWayJose's picture

Stacks of Electronic bitcoins do not hold a shine to my other stacks. You know, the ones that computers cannot touch.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:14 | 3324523 knukles
knukles's picture

Hah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ahhhh
Toldja so....

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:17 | 3324531 nmewn
nmewn's picture

Why...its almost as was never, there one minute, gone the next.

How odd ;-)

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:20 | 3324537 XenoFrog
XenoFrog's picture

Yes, quite a shocking turn of events.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:21 | 3324542 tsx500
tsx500's picture

forking crazy if you ask me !

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:28 | 3324565 kaiserhoff
kaiserhoff's picture

I felt a disturbance in the force...

Or maybe it was one of Knuck's gefilte fish.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:49 | 3324629 SafelyGraze
SafelyGraze's picture

"if you don't understand how the X market operates, get out of it"

X elementOf { equity, bond, foreignExchange, bitcoin }


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:51 | 3324639 markmotive
markmotive's picture

Anyone else wondering WTF are bit coins?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:56 | 3324651 disabledvet
disabledvet's picture

here's a hint: "allegedly worthless dollars are traded for them." now give those boyz some twinkies!

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:15 | 3324693 Half_A_Billion_...
Half_A_Billion_Hollow_Points's picture



Still over 1.5 ounces of silver.  Not a single bitcoin was Corzined.  


Laugh it up, and forget about bitcoin.  Ponzi-scam inflitrated by the CIA, it won't survive after the sun explodes, or something.



Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:24 | 3324714 Pool Shark
Pool Shark's picture




"Aaaaaaaaand, it's gone."


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:37 | 3324748 flacon
flacon's picture


It's too bad this happened. One day it might be useful to transmit "money" from one location to another without SWIFT and without government's prying eyes. For example if one had to flee the United States to another country one could sell assets in USA, put them into bitcoin and then re-buy the assets in the other country - all done without a banking system and government reporting. 


I don't own bitcoin because I don't think it's stable, but I do see the value of it in some circumstances. 


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:13 | 3324840 whotookmyalias
whotookmyalias's picture

Yes, the concept is great but why should I trust anything about a virtual currency?  Then again why should I trust any currency, but that is not my point here.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 02:05 | 3325150 fnord88
fnord88's picture

As a general rule i would say you should trust a currency inversely proportional to the ability of man/government/idiot/krugman/bernanke  to fuck with it. Both gold and bitcoin are a threat to the powers that be, my gold is harder to hide, plus i can't encrypt it, copy it, and stash it in multiple locations. Thing is though, bitcoin is a CURRENCY, like the US dollar, not a STORE OF VALUE, like gold. Hence i would recommend bitcoin whenever you can use it just to fuck with .gov, but i would not recommend stashing it like gold, as, like most currencies, it's value is pretty goddamn subjective. 

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 05:20 | 3325218 gold-is-not-dead
gold-is-not-dead's picture

This forking is nothing, and has happend before.

Do you realize that BTC is trading in a spread of 30% everyday?!?!


Wed, 03/13/2013 - 09:21 | 3325540 CH1
CH1's picture

They don't care. They just want some disaster to gloat over. Froget them.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 11:43 | 3326067 gold-is-not-dead
gold-is-not-dead's picture

hehehe, true...

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 09:34 | 3325589 Havok
Havok's picture


However the one advantage of paper money over bitcoin is:

At least I can wipe my ass with it when it all goes down.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 05:19 | 3331827 Long_Xau
Long_Xau's picture

One advantage of bitcoins over paper money: you don't get sued for littering if you throw away bitcoins.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:35 | 3324737 digitalhermit
digitalhermit's picture

Yes, I'm actually kind of glad this happened. I hope this shook out some of the speculative froth in Bitcoin, leaving people who are more serious about actually using the currency and building new businesses around it.

I just tried out one of the recent newcomers today: - You can now spend bitcoins on Amazon, EBay and any number of other online stores. Super easy!

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 06:53 | 3325264 Lets_Eat_Ben
Lets_Eat_Ben's picture

Bitcoin is atm highly dependent upon The Silk Road. Shut that road down and Bitcoin plummets.


I like the idea of BT, but in the age of information manipulation, it's too easy to scare off investers and keep down a competing curreny.


Realize having control of the money is hugely advantageous for those who seek power; theyll kill this and any competing currency they can. Everything depends on controlling money.

Thu, 03/14/2013 - 00:01 | 3328637 12ToothAssassin
12ToothAssassin's picture

And if it proves that it cant be killed? What will happen to BitCoin value then?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:00 | 3324656 akak
akak's picture


I felt a disturbance in the force...

" ... as if millions of bitcoin users suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:38 | 3324752 The Shootist
The Shootist's picture

It's a fad.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:04 | 3324666 fonestar
fonestar's picture

I actually love bitcoins, it's like I am in a love triangle between my two favorite currencies, physical silver and bitcoin.  One has tradition and scarcity going for it.  It looks nice, it has a lovely ring to it when I play with it.  The other has all the things going for it that banksters and government agencies hate, anonymity, no charge or holding fees, no middle men, no ability to print more.

The one thing I fear the most would be some bankster saying that bitcoin is so great, they decided to open up an exchange for it and naked-short the shit out of the thing and then get Bit Chilton on the case!

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:23 | 3324877 Boondocker
Boondocker's picture

lol....its anonymous... 

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:38 | 3324909 Pseudo Anonym
Pseudo Anonym's picture

out of all the purported negatives btc detractors throw around, this is the only one that is real threat:

open up an exchange for it and naked-short the shit out of the thing

i can imagine this scenario: btc takes off and becomes a threat to the present day confetti that's been thrown around by central banks.  since all cb's print "money" at no cost and can purchase with it anything they want, they can print enough to drive btc to the moon; and then short sell it into the ground just as quickly.  and that'll be the end.  no one will have any confidence in the value of btc again if it can be manipulated that easily.  on the other hand, i cannot explain why so many still trust and buy paper gold/silver instead of bullion.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:49 | 3324936 fonestar
fonestar's picture

Yeah, that's a real tough one all right.  Would the fact that there are already established BTC exchanges help?  Or would "the boyz" and their media cronies and stooges just disregard that and give theirs all the press?  Or by that time would their press have any currency in the realm of public opinion anyway?  I can see how this could easily turn into the mother of all us vs them social interregnums.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:43 | 3325020 Half_A_Billion_...
Half_A_Billion_Hollow_Points's picture

If they drive the price to say $1, taking delivery kills them.  There are less than 11M btc out there.  As of today, a single bitcoin is more scarse than 10kgs of gold.  


They can't do it--and they know it.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:58 | 3325047 digitalhermit
digitalhermit's picture

Come on now, don't discourage them.

Please TPTB I know you can do it. In fact I'm begging you, please short the shit out of this market. Short it to $1.

Thank you (in advance)!

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 04:53 | 3325216 gold-is-not-dead
gold-is-not-dead's picture

No violence is strong enough to solve the math problem.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 02:05 | 3325148 TPTB_r_TBTF
TPTB_r_TBTF's picture

They can always settle for cash. 


There is no [enforceable] requirement to deliver.  So who's gonna make them deliver?  The SEC?

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 07:17 | 3325283 Lets_Eat_Ben
Lets_Eat_Ben's picture

"it's like I am in a love triangle between my two favorite currencies, physical silver and bitcoin."

In any event your going toe-to-toe with the current champ. He's a large and ruthless cyborg that hits below the belt with weighted gloves and owns the venue. The ref and all three judges are in his corner (so it's gotta be a KO). Hell, he'd bite your fucking ear off if needbe.


So be careful.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:09 | 3324680 DblAjent
DblAjent's picture




Shit coins is more like it.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:15 | 3324696 Ignatius
Ignatius's picture

All those wantin' to hate on Bitcoin here's an anthem for ya:

I don't own any and do wonder what the potential is as store of value,


anonymity is something to consider in this 'check your socks and underwear' world.

Think about it.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:22 | 3324711 fonestar
fonestar's picture

I don't think some people appreciate the evil genius of Bitcoin.  Allow me to help:

CLUELESS BORDER GUARD - So do you have any firearms, bonds or currency over $10,000 you need to declare?

SOME YOUNG GUY - Well I got this flash drive sir, but it's encrypted using 3DES on a secret Truecrypt partition.  Honestly, I don't remember if I got naked pics of my ex gf, my college thesis or ten million dollars on here?  Sorry, I forgot the password....


Bitcoin is a crypto-tunneling currency.  Information wants to be free.  Now try do that with bullion.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:28 | 3324727 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

what if the border guard keeps it so he can check out your ex or just drops it on the floor and stomps on it because he is a dick?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:31 | 3324735 fonestar
fonestar's picture

Which is exactly why you always backup and store your wallet.dat file somewhere else.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:36 | 3324745 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

cool man, it does seem interesting.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:55 | 3324797 digitalhermit
digitalhermit's picture

Actually you don't even need the USB drive. If you can remember a random 12 word "seed" you can recover your funds by simply reinstalling the bitcoin client on a new computer wherever you decide to go and typing in the seed.

Brain wallet bitchez!

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:09 | 3324829 fonestar
fonestar's picture

mnemonics is for 'terrists! 

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 01:45 | 3325129 hmmmstrange
hmmmstrange's picture

I can't wait to read the comments when ZH publishes the first "ripple" news.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:08 | 3324827 RideTheWalrus
RideTheWalrus's picture

CLUELESS BORDER GUARD: OK, well i'm going to have to run this high-powered magnet over your USB drive since Homeland Security has been informed drug gangs are smuggling digital currency out of the country via USB sticks. 


In the cloud, no one hears your bitcoins scream!


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:14 | 3324849 whotookmyalias
whotookmyalias's picture

Yeah, we've been over this before.  I then take my pretend money and buy a picture of a cup of coffee and a pictures of a croissant. Blah, blah, blah.  He who giveth taketh away.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 02:30 | 3325165 Dave Thomas
Dave Thomas's picture

HAH! Flash memory is immune to bulk demagnitizing. You musta been one of those kids wandering through radio shack who thought that thing was a new Tandy Iron.

Bulk demagnitizers still can't demagnitize a stack of Carlton Sheets real estate videos however, so hide your bitcoins in there.


Wed, 03/13/2013 - 08:01 | 3325329 Acet
Acet's picture

Yupes - Flash Ram (the storage medium in USB Flash Disks) is not magnetic.

On the other hand 220V (or 110V if in the US) from a wall socket directly into the pins will fry it nicelly, thank you very much. Also microwaves will fry it (in more ways than one).

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 03:55 | 3325196 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

USB drives are not necessarily susceptible to magnetic fields, just sayin'.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 07:21 | 3325287 Lets_Eat_Ben
Lets_Eat_Ben's picture

I've heard it said by MK and Naomi Wolfe that a developing paradigm is spying vs. privacy. I think there will be a market for both for a while yet to come.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 07:59 | 3325338 Acet
Acet's picture

Almost a decade ago in the UK a law was passed that the police can demand the password from you and can jail you until you give it. Even better, not knowing it is no excuse.

The fight between freedom-loving techies and authoritarian authorities has been going on for decades now: far longer than Bitcoin has been around.

(I'm one of those that was on the Internet from when it was just a University and Military network, before AOL made it mainstream)

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 01:15 | 3325072 Haole
Haole's picture

Real free market price discovery and the very idea of freedom of any kind have become such abhorrent abstractions that even the keyboard warriors on ZH reject the concepts outright evidently. That is something...

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 01:34 | 3325107 fuu
fuu's picture

Yes it is quite something.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 03:56 | 3325198 StychoKiller
StychoKiller's picture

Once bitten, twice shy.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:14 | 3324692 Matt
Matt's picture

This looks like a Y2K type issue: the older software could not handle blocks that had too many transactions in them. Looks like the two big problems are:

1) during the divergence, any coinds mined may be lost

2) problems with transactions that were completed during the time the issue persisted.

If I had to guess at the cause, I would guess too much penny bets on online gambling. That's the only way I see the amount of transactions in a ten minute period going into the thousands.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:47 | 3325025 Half_A_Billion_...
Half_A_Billion_Hollow_Points's picture

that's exactly what happened.  zero bitcoins were lost, and the system is now more robust, as everyone is working on solutions for a similar problem in the future.


"For the fragile (TBTF), an error is a catastrophe."

"For the antifragile, an error is information."

By the way, why not report that Litecoin, another cryptocurrency, is about to reach parity with the hyperinflating fedbanknote anytime now?

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:13 | 3324979 samwell
samwell's picture

what are you doing out and about tadpole?  Oh, I forgot you are a government lab worker slave sent forth to attack any threats to your beloved government paycheck for doing "research" on tadpoles and "trying" to change the world.  How about that rebound last night.  a dumb ass like you who doesn't know the difference between a blockchain fork and a dinner fork was hoping that it would go to zero right?  well it didn't bitch, so get used to btc being an ever present annoyance to your beloved FRN.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:24 | 3324552 knukles
knukles's picture

Happens Ben gets pissed and punches the delete key?

(That's probably why he needed Timmah around for those intimate  conversations up in the tree house and in his office... Remember the tree house sagas?  LOL)

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:26 | 3324557 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

i wonder what the intrade odds were on a bitcoin crash...oh....wait....

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:28 | 3324562 knukles
knukles's picture


Gold Star Award!
Go for it!


The broken leading the defunct.  Like Treasury having the Fed do it's bidding.
What could go wrong?


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:04 | 3324817 digitalhermit
digitalhermit's picture

Intrade closes. Bitcoin user not affected.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:15 | 3324851 palmereldritch
palmereldritch's picture

Too bad they weren't still around in a form that could provide the statistical probability of a populist free-market futures exchange and a grass-roots non-fiat based de-centralized digital currency suffering such proximate losses in the face of a rising critical awareness and distaste for the synthetic robo-gamed alternatives.

Really, what are the odds...?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:28 | 3324564 BLOTTO
BLOTTO's picture

How much does it cost to dig it out of the ground?


Did King Solomon have bitcoins?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:57 | 3324653 akak
akak's picture

Come on, Blotto!

You know very well that it only costs $5 to dig bitcoins from the cyberground!

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:06 | 3324674 willwork4food
willwork4food's picture

You might be right about that. The cost of data mining computers, time and electricity add up.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:06 | 3324670 Matt
Matt's picture

The cost is dependant on electricty price, the hash rate per watt of your hardware, and the current mathematical difficulty of mining a new block. Depending on your location, air conditioning and bandwidth costs may also be a factor.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:32 | 3324586 trollin4sukrz
trollin4sukrz's picture

PIZZ! I just about had enuff shitcoins to buy a RPG from Dick's! 

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:45 | 3324616 ziggy59
ziggy59's picture

MF Bitcoin

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 08:20 | 3325381 aerojet
aerojet's picture

It's an interesting experiment, but all it is accomplishing is showcasing our human limitations when it comes to forming reliable institutions.  The virtual dollar is only slightly more reliable than Bitcoin. And that's only because of certain perceptions. 

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:36 | 3324746 wee-weed up
wee-weed up's picture

Fool's Gold!

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:53 | 3324625 Scro
Scro's picture

Where are the BITCON defenders? Getting stoned and whacking it to some kiddie porn.


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:19 | 3324706 Matt
Matt's picture

Because gold and silver never get slammed? Because there is never any fake or diluted gold or silver?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:46 | 3324930 Midas
Midas's picture

Dear Bitcoin haters:

It is with deep regret that I must inform you that you have to wait until it actually blows up before you can gloat.  My bitcoins are as usable today as they were yesterday.  It was a technical difficulty that will occur in a developing system.  I am sure ATMs have gone haywire, people have found silver clad eagles, counterfeit bills, etc.

And assuming people who use bitcoin are into kiddie porn or drugs fits very well into the Nanny State Mindset (NSM).  Why would anyone want banking privacy unless they are doing something wrong?  If you don't want drones flying over your city you must have mass graves in your backyard!

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:59 | 3324955 bigwavedave
bigwavedave's picture

Two words.... Quantum Computing

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 06:46 | 3325262 Silver Garbage Man
Silver Garbage Man's picture

Exactly, my life savings are under my control, it's not going to disappear because of a software glitch.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 10:35 | 3325800 Dr. Kenneth Noi...
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture


Thu, 03/14/2013 - 15:03 | 3330271 TraderTimm
TraderTimm's picture

Just for the record - a great write-up of what happened during the hard fork, written in a non-technical way for the everyday user.


Full Article Extract:

Monday, March 11th saw calamity strike at the core of the Bitcoin system – over the last 3 years the number of users has increased exponentially, and the value along with it.  In the past we’ve seen large public thefts, but Monday’s event was fundamentally different.

Bitcoin is basically one big public distributed ledger (known as The Blockchain) where the ownership of every Bitcoin ever created is tracked, accounted for, and verified automatically by various participants in the system. Transactions can be detected within a few seconds, but merchants generally take the hour or so to gather 6 confirmations to ensure the payment cannot be reversed.

Other participants, upon receiving news of the ownership transfer (payment), check the payer’s account to ensure that they haven’t already spent them publicly.  A confirmation is the return message saying “Yes, this all seems to be in order, the value is truly available to be transferred to the intended recipient and we’ve updated our ownership records to reflect that.” With that background in mind, on Monday the blockchain split in two without warning. 

Why’d it happen?

Call it growing pains – Berkeley Database (BDB) was used for versions of the Bitcoin software 0.7 and below and as luck would have it, will accept a maximum number of changes per block.  The protocol’s self adjusting difficulty seeks to issue a block every 10 minutes.  As Bitcoin usage has increased, so have the number of transactions contained in the average block. 

So what happened?

On Monday, a single block went through the system containing 1700 transactions, and was rejected by the participants still running on 0.7 due to how many changes it made.  Had everyone been running 0.7, the block would have been rejected and the transactions processed in (hopefully) smaller blocks.

Because an upgrade to 0.8 was rolled out several weeks (error in original article) ago that switched to a different database system without the same limitation, we found ourselves with two separate blockchains (ledgers) each disagreeing with the other’s interpretation of reality.   Those running 0.7 saw too-large blocks as invalid, while to those running 0.8, everything was normal and the larger blocks were acceptable and built upon. 

Cause and effect

An alert went out immediately (at 1:30am UTC) from the mostly volunteer open source development team letting merchants know to not accept Bitcoins for the next few hours while the system sorted itself out.  To miners, they asked that everyone revert back to 0.7 so no incompatible blocks will be generated. The average user was unaffected.

Crisis isn’t good for anyone, so participants quickly fell in line wanting to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Within 8 hours things were back to normal;  If you live in America, chances are pretty good you slept through the whole thing, including the 23% drop in price, which vanished by morning.

Schrödinger’s Bitcoin

The “Double Spend” is the bogeyman of digital currency world. Since Bitcoins are just data and data can be copied, what’s to protect a merchant from being paid with money already spent elsewhere?  This is the function of the blockchain, which represents the network consensus of reality.

When that consensus broke down due to the fork, it created a state best represented by the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment – one in which a single entity simultaneously and paradoxically exists in two states, only one of which can eventually be real.

During the disruption, one large Double Spend actually occurred and was paid out in US Dollars.  When the faulty blockchain was abandoned, the reality consensus settled on the backwards compatible ledger.  In this case, payment processor OKPAY was left without the Bitcoins they thought they received, and were also still out the nearly $10,000 they exchanged for them.

This is the most valuable instance of a successful Double Spend in the Bitcoin ecosystem, which can only occur under the Schrödinger’s Bitcoin scenario described above.

Luckily this story has a happy ending.  Both parties “did the right thing” and have refunded each other. But will things work so well next time?  Will there be a next time, is this situation repeatable?

I asked Gavin Andresen, Lead Developer on the Bitcoin project about the risks moving forward:

Question: Are “Double Spends” possible under normal circumstances?

Gavin: Double-spend risk is not a “yes or no” — like most risks, it is “more risky” or “less risky”, down to “So little risk I won’t worry about it.  One of the reasons I still tell people “bitcoin is an experiment” is because everybody is still figuring out where the edge-case risks are.

Q: So for the average user or merchant, how much risk is there in every-day use?

Gavin: For the, average user or merchant delivering a physical product to customers:  I’d say very close to zero risk after 3 confirmations.  Exchanges or merchants that deliver “cash-like” high-value products or services have their own particular set of risks, and they need to be more careful. merchants that deliver services that have a zero marginal cost to them (e.g. “Subscribe to my e-magazine”) have even less risk than users or merchants delivering physical products.

And all of that is modified if you have some trust in the person you’re transacting with.  I recently sold a couple thousand dollars worth of bitcoin to a friend who promised to send me a check in the mail, and I was happy to do that.

Q: In your worst case scenario, where you flat out do not trust the person but want to do business with them, what would you recommend?

Gavin: For ultimate trust transacting a huge amount of value to somebody who I think will try to rip me off– 24 hours would be the “100% safe” time.  It really is confirmations and not time, but unless something wacky is happening those two are equal after 6 confirmations or so.

I pick 24 hours because that would be 120+ confirmations.  I can’t conceive of a situation where “we” (the shared consensus of the bitcoin network) would allow a 120-block fork to happen that double-spent

Q: Now that the issue has been resolved for a day, any lessons learned or things that will be improved on?

Gavin: actually one really stupid/simple thing ‘we’ should have done long ago:  make it easy for bitcoin services to get alerts sent to their email/SMS/etc.  We’ll be concentrating on things like improving communication during crises, because no two crises are exactly alike.

Regarding specific tasks:  implementing a -alertnotify=<run some command> is very high on my TODO list. That’s easy to do, and is the thing I’m kicking myself for not doing sooner

Q: What does that mean?

Gavin: That means “if you get an alert, run this command to tell me about it” where “this command” is specified by the service operator — send email, send sms, whatever

Moving forward

History would have us believe Bitcoin scandal leads to big losses in the trading value of the currency, but this time was different.  Despite the currency itself seeming at risk and the impossible momentarily made real, the price immediately bounced back up to near all-time highs.

Bitcoin may be small as currencies go, but the hourly chart below speaks volumes given that every 1K Bitcoins represents about $50,000 USD.

So here we are, less than 72 hours after the event, and we’re basically back to where we started.  The system is stable, the fork abandoned and the consensus reality once again agreed upon.  And all this with a basically volunteer development team who has no real ability to make anybody do anything, outside of telling them it’s a good idea.

Compare that to the ongoing crisis in currencies controlled by central banks, who have the unilateral authority not only to make all decisions related to their respective monetary policy, but also the ability to issue more bills at will, should the need arise.

Lacking such an option, Bitcoin is forced to deal with its problems and try as quickly as possible to return to a state of normality. So does it work? For now, the answer is a definitive “yes,” but since it was just created in 2009, only time will tell.

From where I’m sitting this was just about as good an outcome as anyone could hope for.  No value was lost, even though the system prides itself on irreversible transactions (which once you’ve dealt with Paypal’s merchant Chargebacks, you begin to see the appeal of).

The development team isn’t hiding the cause of the recent issue and is instead using this as a reason to dig into the response with work being done on an internal, comprehensive post-mortem.

They’ve taken the whole thing as a learning opportunity and have pledged to implement a more agile communication-alert system so if this does happen again, users will be alerted and large users will take appropriate precautions.

I like to see people with power admit they are not omniscient, and in this world of centrally planned money it’s too rare a thing.

One thing is certain: Bitcoin isn’t suffering for lack of its own Bernanke, and that should give us all reason to hope.

End of Article.

(Minor format additions for readability.)

I hope that is helpful for someone in the future that turns up this thread via search engines.

Also, in the end - the "power" he refers to is the ability to analyze the code and correct it, not control over the decentralized bitcoin network.


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:11 | 3324510 kaiserhoff
kaiserhoff's picture

Leroy.  I told you to watch yo big feet and that damned extension cord.  Leeroy!

Ah say, you listenin' to me son?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:19 | 3324536 nmewn
nmewn's picture

Fawtenetly, ah keeps ma digits coded fah jest sech an amugency.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:39 | 3324602 WmMcK
WmMcK's picture

+1 - Long Foghorn

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:12 | 3324511 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Wait, this isn't possible, it's math, and math is infallible!

Someone just doesn't understand math!

"Enigma" will never be hacked!

Bitcoin is foolproof!


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:22 | 3324713 Matt
Matt's picture

Obviously, they either did not understand how the core components of their software worked, or they did not anticipate there would ever be more than 100 transactions per minute. Maybe better to wait for bitcoin 2.0, after all the bugs are worked out and the infrastructure is better developed.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:38 | 3325004 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Obviously, anything on the Internet and computers is infinitely fungible, fallible, and full of holes.

Fight the machine, yes, but not with their own weapons.  Defer to tangibles you hold in your physical defensible possession or suffer the consequences.

I'm with you all in spirit but know after 30+ years in I.T. that anything relying on electricity, the grid, the Internet, and binary databases - that it is a shot in the dark and playing into their hands.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 05:42 | 3325231 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

So what you are admitting is that the infallible encryption algorithm's and math behind Bitcoin are infinitely fallible becuase human beings run the sotware and the servers.

C'mon, it's o.k., 1+1=2 until you get human beings involved, you know this to be true, so give up the ghost already.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 08:21 | 3325385 aerojet
aerojet's picture

The math is probably fine, but the math is only one part of a complex system.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:11 | 3324512 zorba THE GREEK
zorba THE GREEK's picture

Bitcoin, Shitcoin, if it ain't gold or silver and

you ain't holding it in your hand, it is fiat, and

we all know where the value of fiat is going.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:17 | 3324528 Dead Canary
Dead Canary's picture

Yea, but it gives the central planners shit fits so that alone endears itself in my heart.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:21 | 3324540 Capitalist
Capitalist's picture

Someone doesn't know what fiat means. 

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:12 | 3324513 Crash Overide
Crash Overide's picture

Do you think it's the same people going after Silver too...?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:25 | 3324554 nmewn
nmewn's picture

Could be.

But it wouldn't matter if the "currency" was something you could hold in your hand and didn't need anything else to make it a valid internet, USB's, commercial or stored know...real money, not a debit-credit system.

I got nothing against bit-coin guys fighting the system...but just realize, you're fighting it on their terms.


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:27 | 3324561 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

exactly. I would never use it for that reason. but to those that do I sincerely wish them well.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:30 | 3324574 knukles
knukles's picture


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:42 | 3324605 zorba THE GREEK
zorba THE GREEK's picture

Bitcoin believers are like

modern day Don Quixotes, they are fighting windmills, 

but we wish them well.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:44 | 3324615 knukles
knukles's picture

Well here's a classic Texas swing piece for my sign off tonight.

(gefilte fish LOL, OMG)

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:28 | 3324892 digitalhermit
digitalhermit's picture

What was that old chinese proverb?


When the wind of change blows some build shelters, others build windmills.

We know what Gold and Silver are. So what does that make Bitcoin?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:12 | 3324516 taniquetil
taniquetil's picture

Better hope the power grid (and therefore the internet) never goes out.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:13 | 3324519 Crash Overide
Crash Overide's picture

Wait, where did Bitcoin originate and who is that Japanese guy?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:18 | 3324534 Lost Wages
Lost Wages's picture

No one knows who "Satoshi Nakamoto" is. He/She/They might not even be Japanese. Therefore, dump all your money into this shit.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:34 | 3324594 kaiserhoff
kaiserhoff's picture

You mean it could even be a Pseudonym like... like Tyler Durden, the Dude with the funny hair?

Oh the horror.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:37 | 3324749 rich_wicks
rich_wicks's picture

All I know for certain is that "Satoshi Nakamoto" is an anagram for "Ooh, Satanist Amok".



  • A mania hooks tots,
  • A Lotsa math, snook.
  • A lota tanks, homos

And probably a lot more.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:29 | 3324895 RideTheWalrus
RideTheWalrus's picture

The real question is what will be the name of the russian math prodigy that's currently locked away in his apartment decyphering the central algorythm keys buried deep into the source code.
The guy that created this isn't putting his name or face to it, doesn't add a lot of confidence that it's unbreakable or not a genius pump and dump ponzi.

Homer Simpson at the 'Million$ for Nothing' seminar:

"First, let me assure you that this is not one of those shady pyramid schemes you've been hearing about. No sir. Our model is the trapezoid!" The speaker hears a siren outside and leaps out the window (through the glass) in panic.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:14 | 3324520 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

This reeks of what happened to silver in 2011. Anytime something gains some traction it gets smashed. That being said, the fact that it has pretty much recovered completely is impressive.

Meanwhile the dow rises one pathetic point on 85 freaking billion dollars a month being thrown at it.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:25 | 3324719 Matt
Matt's picture

No conspiracy with this particular problem; the older versions of the software simply had limits, and those limits got exceeded. Since not everyone was on the newest version of the software, problems happened.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:14 | 3324521 The Invisible Foot
The Invisible Foot's picture


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:16 | 3324527 Lost Wages
Lost Wages's picture

Nothing digital is safe. Nothing digital is secure. Nothing digital is private.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:18 | 3324532 fonzannoon
fonzannoon's picture

I knew I should not have let my bank put that chip in my ass.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:32 | 3324572 zorba THE GREEK
zorba THE GREEK's picture

I wish that was the only thing my bank shoved up mine.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:36 | 3324596 trollin4sukrz
trollin4sukrz's picture

Your Ass? Fvkme they shoved it down the head of my Dick's. You have a really nice bank.. I would keep them.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:48 | 3324628 zorba THE GREEK
zorba THE GREEK's picture

Troll... HaHA

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:19 | 3324862 knukles
knukles's picture

Now that is fucking funny

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 07:33 | 3325302 Papasmurf
Papasmurf's picture

That wasn't a chip.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:22 | 3324547 Cursive
Cursive's picture

@Lost Wages

So true.  And now there is a "fork" in the bitcoin algorithm.  From the Ars Technica post:

It's essential for all miners to enforce exactly the same rules about what counts as a valid block. If a client announces a block that half the network accepts and the other half rejects, the result could be a fork in the network. Different nodes could disagree about which transactions have occurred, potentially producing chaos.

That's what happened on Monday evening. A block was produced that the latest version of the Bitcoin software, version 0.8, recognized as valid but that nodes still running version 0.7 or earlier rejected.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:31 | 3324577 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

"Fozzie, turn left at the fork in the road".

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:39 | 3324598 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

p.s.- They don't have their servers synchronized on version update rollouts?  Wow. That kind of makes Apple (Mac O.S.) security look good.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:58 | 3324654 Cursive
Cursive's picture


The "strength" of BTC lies in its distributed nature.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:36 | 3325009 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

And thus, it's weakness.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:28 | 3324724 Matt
Matt's picture

It's not just servers, it is each user using the original client or mining as well. Why would you blindly update your software without knowing what the changes are, and agreeing to them?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:26 | 3324721 rich_wicks
rich_wicks's picture

A block was produced that the latest version of the Bitcoin software, version 0.8, recognized as valid but that nodes still running version 0.7 or earlier rejected.

What's to prevent an entity, say a government, from putting a bunch of software in, I dunno, Utah, and then intentionally causing this?

I admire people's faith in this, but I think it's misplaced, and it's also a waste of electricity.  If it can work, great, but what you just saw is a flaw in fundamental idea.  If this can happen by accident, imagine what can happen on purpose?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:30 | 3324733 Matt
Matt's picture

I see this as a great open beta test for the possibility of a better cryptocurrency in the future. As such, the electricity used is just an investment in R&D.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:42 | 3324763 rich_wicks
rich_wicks's picture

I frankly can't see how a cyrpto currency is even viable if you can take it down by just setting up a parallel network that just disagrees with the real one.

Hell, a computer virus could COMPLETELY wipe this out.

What's to prevent anybody from setting up a parallel network to have their own bitcoins generated, then JOINING the networks together?  I bet fun ensues then.

As I understand this, it also depends on a transaction history to verify that a transaction is valid.  What if you get a bitcoin, and don't spend it for 10 years?  Will the fact that this coin EVER existed still be in the network?

And everybody is like "look at the code", as if they have.  Nobody has really bothered to do any real work on finding out how to sabatoge this thing but although I'm not certain, I'm betting, it's damned easy to sabotage.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:29 | 3324900 Matt
Matt's picture

I don't know what happens if a region, say Iran for no particular reason, was suddenly cut off from the rest of the Internet and kept using bitcoins internally. I guess it would still work, except any new coins they mined would not exist once they reunified with the rest of the Internet.

When you first launch the original client, it downloads the entire history, which can take days. There are alternative clients that do not carry the history with them. There is probably a faster way to download a copy of the blockchain as a direct download.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:37 | 3325015 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

And TPTB, since they control the networks and the Internet (remember, it was set up as a military backbone) can take down Bitcoin at will.

Play at your own risk.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 06:03 | 3325242 awakening
awakening's picture

They aren't following a good track record on that one, I think bitcoins will be perfectly save from that. Exhibit A:

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:52 | 3325033 rich_wicks
rich_wicks's picture

I don't know what happens if a region, say Iran for no particular reason, was suddenly cut off from the rest of the Internet and kept using bitcoins internally. I guess it would still work, except any new coins they mined would not exist once they reunified with the rest of the Internet.

Wait wait wait.

Let's say it was Iran cut off the rest of the world from using "the Internet", and the rest of the world used bitcoins anyhow.  Would this mean once the world was allowed to rejoin the Internet (which in this case would merely be Iran), that the newly minted coins that were minted outside of Iran would cease to exist once the world reunified with the rest of the Internet?

If you don't have a central authority, who makes the final decision as to what is a valid exchange and what is not, or who mined a coin first?

It appears this sytem works on majority rules.  Well, who has unlimited funds to make an astroturf majority?  China does, the US does, Russia does, maybe even India does, Europe does.

You don't have to know math to see there's a problem here.

Let's say Stuxnet is released, now wtih the ability to be a node, and this node says "nope, this coin isn't valid, it was already spent ages ago", and this virus is everywhere on the net?

If this really became a threat to the people that lied about Libor, that have taken us into Iraq and Afghanistan for some unknown reason still (unless you think they sincerely believed Hussein was working on weapons of mass destruction and cared, or really gave a damn about the government in Afghanistan), who created the housing bubble, which MIGHT be shorting gold and silver, who stole the entire United States private gold supply (well actually 1/3rd), who you suspect started WWI and WWII, etc etc etc - do you really think they will give up without a fight?

Any vulnerability will be used to destroy it.  You need to realize who runs this world.  It isn't Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, it's an AMMORAL ruthless group of assholes who will do anything to retain their power.  Murder?  Mass Murder? WAR?  These people steep like babies because sociopaths don't have any regrets and they don't feel bad for what they do to other people.  They are subhuman machines and we live under their thumb because most people just can't imagine somebody could be that remoseless.

If there's any fault in bitcoin, and it appears there is, it cannot replace standard currency.  It will not be allowed to, ever.  They would destroy the internet if they had to do it.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:18 | 3324533 Cursive
Cursive's picture


Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:20 | 3324539 Lost Wages
Lost Wages's picture

Everyone knows Max Keiser will sell his silver if needed to support the price of Bitcoin. No need to worry.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:26 | 3324558 knukles
knukles's picture

If he was gonna sell Lauren Lyster, I'd byte!

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:28 | 3324567 Lost Wages
Lost Wages's picture

I don't think he has ownership rights to Lauren Lyster, but maybe Stacy Herbert.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:44 | 3324614 delacroix
delacroix's picture

haven't you heard? you don't need ownership rights to sell something anymore.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:30 | 3324573 tsx500
tsx500's picture

+1000   i'd give her the best 30 seconds of her life !

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 02:32 | 3325169 The Navigator
The Navigator's picture

Slow down man, enjoy life - make it at least 30 minutes.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:23 | 3324549 notquantumdum
notquantumdum's picture

It still just trades on the technicals over the short terms, I'll bet.

‘If it is actually a decently free market, that is.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:45 | 3324776 Pseudo Anonym
Pseudo Anonym's picture

notice the parabolic rise.   this should correct nicely very soon

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:30 | 3324575 maskone909
maskone909's picture

Because the market is so fuckin small right now.... All you would need to do is buy about 10 million in bitcoins and you could manipulate the whole market

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:31 | 3324581 maskone909
maskone909's picture

Whereas USD is in the trillions

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:33 | 3324738 Matt
Matt's picture

since ~9 million out of ~10.5 million bitcoins are not in active circulation, you could only buy up up to 10%, but it might be easier to sell them off and drive down the price.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:31 | 3324580 ss123
ss123's picture

Geezus, we can't even get electronic coinage right in this country anymore!!!

Kids, GET THE F OFF OF FACEBOOK and learn some math and encryption algorithms while you're at it.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:39 | 3324754 ss123
ss123's picture

The FB zombies junking me?

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:36 | 3324585 statelessman
statelessman's picture

Watching the last trade on MtGox as some sort of indicator of the value is crazy, since it could have been 0.00000001 Bitcoin traded at $37, at least watch the weighted avarage price which did not drop below $43 and was only as high as $47.5 before the drop.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:33 | 3324587 Capitalist
Capitalist's picture

Why I can't people accept bitcoin is just a competing currency? There's no reason why precious metals can't crash too. PMs and bitcoin are both reducing the power of fiat.


Wed, 03/13/2013 - 00:07 | 3324974 Haole
Haole's picture

"Why I can't people accept bitcoin is just a competing currency?"

Because if you're not down in the basement huddled around your gold, silver, guns and beans in the fetal position waiting for the global grid to go down permanently due to a massive EMP, the implosion of the global financial system and the "government" to kick your door in (likely all at the same time, mind you), you just don't make the grade at ZH anymore. It really seems to be as simple as that and it is not only sad but frickin' hilarious.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:33 | 3324589 CH1
CH1's picture

Wow... all the supposed enemies of fiat HATE a huge enemy of fiat.

Good - stay away from BTC. That way the people with balls can use it unobstructed.

Wimps, masquerading as wise-asses.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 21:53 | 3324644 Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa's picture

I personally feel that the government is using Bitcoin as a way to get people to accept the idea of a digital currency. If Bitcoin ever becomes popular, the government will make it illegal and replace it with their own digital currency. Or maybe the government will force Bitcoin to give them the ability to track every Bitcoin transaction, control the number of Bitcoins, etc.

So I think many people are not against Bitcoin per se. But they see it as a step on the way to a world where the government electronically tracks every purchase you make. And ultimately we will end up with something that is even worse than fiat.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 22:17 | 3324703 willwork4food
willwork4food's picture

Good point. I would even say the government might have even invented and introduced Bitcoin into circulation.

Tue, 03/12/2013 - 23:51 | 3324940 samwell
samwell's picture

why would the government get people used to having their privacy with a cryptographic currency then?  Nice try but not everything you don't understand is a government conspiracy.  It will be years before the government even notices BTC.  government can't ban btc because it is a voluntary currency where individuals enter into an exchange of goods for btc.  there is no mandate as with fiat, therefore they cannot interfere in commerce between consenting adults.  additionally, BTC isn't classified as a currency, so the governement has no legal recourse unless they specifically right legislation to outlaw it.  the criminal bankers will try and destroy btc long before that happends, but until they can figure out how to create BTC derivatives(paper leverage), btc should be safe.  No one really knows how desperate the shyster banksters will get though.  since the btc network is a P2P distributed anonymous network, it will be pretty hard to shut it down unless the ISP's decide to knuckle under and a lot of the people that run ISP's are btc officianados.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 01:09 | 3325073 Gordon_Gekko
Gordon_Gekko's picture

" so the governement has no legal recourse unless they specifically right legislation to outlaw it"

How hard would creating this legislation be? Not very, I assume, once the banksters who own the government decided that it was a considerable threat. Mind you, no vendor will accept as payment anything that has been declared illegal. Even if some would, they wouldn't if it could be tracked (true for ANYTHING digital, not for physical means of payment). So there you go...bitcoins plunge to zero INSTANTLY. I can't imagine the rush for the exits on this one :-)

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 01:58 | 3325141 Lost Wages
Lost Wages's picture

You are ignorant as fuck. InQTel asked one of the original bitcon artists to give a presentation to them in June 2012. InQTel is the venture capital fund of the CIA. If anything, they may not have invented it, but they are invested in it now. Put out a fake grassroots currency with a mysterious orgin, tell people it is anti-authoritarian, watch them plow all their money into it and you've got them by the balls.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 06:08 | 3325245 awakening
awakening's picture

"watch them plow all their money into it"

People that do that with anything are either on the take (inside info) or at the end of that timeline (with a throw back to the ZH quote) are gonna get what they deserve.

Fri, 03/15/2013 - 05:55 | 3331840 Long_Xau
Long_Xau's picture

I personally feel that the government is using Bitcoin[...]


The government is not using Bitcoin, in any way whatsoever. They would be the last ones to even comprehend it.

[...]the government will make it illegal[...]


Breaking news! The government makes illegal absolutely everything in the entire universe, forever! Bitcoin users not affected.

[...]the government will force Bitcoin[...]


Good luck applying force to an idea. Like it worked so well every time so far.

Wed, 03/13/2013 - 11:20 | 3325176 The Navigator
The Navigator's picture

BitCoin offers a lot of possitives - transparency, transportability, anti-Central Bank

The downsides are - if the network goes down, you're fucked - same for your IRA's, bank accounts, SS account, anything over the web or on computers.

2 weeks ago I thought BC was a joke - now, with the safe full of ammo, AU and AG, BC might be ANOTHER hedge against The Fall.

I'm pretty much anti everything - thus I got shit from friends when in 2007 I said "buy gold/siver", "inflation gonna hit the fan".

Don't buy on my advise, I never had a crystal ball worth shit. But when a lot say bullshit, it might, MIGHT, be worth considering as an additional hedge.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!