When it comes to buying and selling bitcoins, Tokyo-based Mt.Gox is still the biggest player. Even though it may have contributed to to April’s great Bitcoin crash, and other exchanges such as Bitstamp may be snapping at its heels, more than half of all trades by volume still take place through Mt.Gox – so it comes as good news for the burgeoning crypto-currency that the service is working hard to make itself more stable and reliable.
In a blog post on Monday, the Mt.Gox team said the service had moved from being externally hosted to being self-hosted, a shift that will apparently allow greater flexibility and control. It is also now using Akamai’s content delivery network to boost performance for users around the world.
Mt.Gox said it will also soon launch a new trading engine called Midas that is capable of running “much more” than 500,000 trades per second, as well as a new user interface design. Once all these pieces are in place, the team added, Mt.Gox will be able to support the Bitcoin rival Litecoin.
However, one of the biggest problems with Mt.Gox doesn’t look set to be fixed anytime soon, and that’s the time it takes to make deposits and withdrawals. Here the team wrote:
“It currently takes up to 10 days to process a deposit because our bank, upon receiving deposits, notifies us of the deposit but holds them for 7-10 days before transferring them to our account. This has always been the case, and we were still crediting customer accounts before receiving the funds ourselves, but some cases in which the bank subsequently rejected the deposits meant that we incurred significant losses.
“The risk is now too high for us to credit accounts prematurely. We are in the process of forming relationships with new partners, banks, and taking other steps — hopefully we will not only be back where we were before we encountered these issues, but much further ahead.”
This is crucial stuff. If Mt.Gox and other players in the Bitcoin ecosystem want to see the virtual currency gain wider traction, they will have to offer a service that can operate as closely as possible to standard-currency timescales.
That slow trading time is partly an issue of the liquidity of the exchange itself, and partly a matter of user verification – a touchy subject for many Bitcoin enthusiasts, who prize the relative anonymity of the currency’s use. Last month the Union Square Ventures-backed Coinbase offered instant Bitcoin purchases and sales to those willing to submit to a heavy ID check, as an anti-money-laundering measure (it usually takes 4 working days). Technical updates are only part of the picture when it comes to offering a smooth Bitcoin user experience.