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Bithumb faces mounting criticism over repeated server errors

A digital board shows cryptocurrency prices at Bithumb on Friday. (Yonhap)
A digital board shows cryptocurrency prices at Bithumb on Friday. (Yonhap)


Bithumb, South Korea’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange by transaction volume, is facing mounting criticism over repeated glitches on its platform, which has accumulated to at least 11 times since April.

As of Sunday, there were a total of 11 server delays that Bithumb disclosed officially since April, including the latest one Friday. The figure excludes temporary suspensions in transactions due to network issues.

Bithumb’s server errors, ranging from suspension in price displays to transaction delays, occurred as the company’s servers were overwhelmed with a sudden surge in transactions amid soaring interests in the cryptocurrency markets. Friday’s server delays coincided with Bithumb’s new listings of DogeCoin and Klaytn, a cryptocurrency developed by mobile giant Kakao’s subsidiary Ground X.

On Tuesday, Bithumb and Upbit, the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in South Korea, both conducted an emergency server check following reports of blockages in transactions and the suspension of the price displays.

“When there is a sudden surge in transactions, some bottlenecks might occur as the system deals with orders in order,” an official at Bithumb said.

Yi Han-sang, a business school professor at Korea University hit out at Bithumb for the server problem in a Facebook post last week.

”This early morning’s incident was accompanied by delays in transactions and the suspension of the price displays. An exchange stopping price displays? This is a matter of trust serious enough for a company to shut down,” Yi wrote.

However, some other experts pointed out the dilemma cryptocurrency exchanges face.

“This is indeed a serious problem but the transactions are at record highs and even exceeded those of stock markets, and no one knows how long these good days would last for crypto exchanges,” another business professor who asked to remain anonymous said Sunday, noting that his technological understanding of exchanges is limited.

“Exchanges probably are not sure whether or not it is a good idea to expand too rapidly as they remember what happened in 2018,” the professor added.

Bithumb, who was the No. 1 exchange in the country then, had expanded their workforce rapidly in 2017 and 2018, but suffered due to a myriad of regulations as well as the market’s suspicions of the novel blockchain technology. 

By Park Ga-young (gypark@heraldcorp.com)
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