One of the world’s most popular bitcoin exchanges is struggling to keep up with soaring demand as the global mania for the cryptocurrency drives wild swings in valuation. Over the course of one hour today, the value of a single bitcoin on Coinbase jumped from above $16,000, to more than $19,000, before once again falling back down below $16,000.
For some users, Coinbase service was extremely slow; for others, it was impossible to log in or complete transactions at all. The company posted a statement just after noon explaining that it was “currently experiencing record high traffic. This is resulting in some customers having slow performance or issues logging into their Coinbase accounts. We are actively working to resolve this as quickly as possible.”
According to a report this morning from The New York Times, active accounts on Coinbase have more than doubled since January, climbing from 5.5 million at the start of this year to over 13.3 million at the end of November. The exchange has at times been signing up more than 100,000 new customers a day, and now has more accounts than Charles Schwab.
With traffic to the exchange skyrocketing, the young startup is hiring engineers and customer service staff at a blistering pace. Still, it can’t keep up with the current rise in demand. For now, at least, that may not matter: consumers are so hungry for bitcoin that they are seemingly willing to endure spotty service.
The price of bitcoin has grown exponentially over the last year: a single coin traded for under $1,000 in January. Given such drastic changes, consumers would pay dearly for a service that can quickly and reliably execute transactions. In the absence of that, speculators will just have to buckle up and enjoy the ride.