Or at least, this looks like it's the end of Bitcoin.The Bitcoin community faced another crisis on Sunday afternoon as the price of the currency on the most popular exchange, Mt.Gox, fell from $17 to pennies in a matter of minutes. Trading was quickly suspended and visitors to the home page were redirected to a statement blaming the crash on a compromised user account. Mt.Gox's Mark Karpeles said that the exchange would be taken offline to give administrators time to roll back the suspect transactions.
The initial problem leading to the price collapse was that one user tried to sell more than the market could absorb. For of course the value of anything is determined by the balance of supply and demand for it. Thus the price crashed (and you can see a chart of how quickly it did here). However, it appears that this isn't the only problem:Since I began writing this, it has emerged that details of more than 60,000 users have been stolen from the Mt Gox exchange. The compromised information includes hashed passwords.
No, the doesn't necessarily mean the end of the Bitcoin experiment, but it's a pretty good indication of it. For there are certain things that we want from a currency. A medium of exchange, a store of value, we'd also like to it be liquid and security is important as well. No currency can have all of these features (and humans have used some pretty odd things as currency over the centuries, from copper sheets to cowrie shells via butter, salt, gold, silver and even pieces of paper with Dead Presidents on them, surely the final lunacy?) to perfection but a currency which doesn't have any of them in appreciable quantities isn't going to last very long.
Bitcoins aren't secure, as both the recent theft and this password problem show. They're not liquid, nor a store of value, as the price collapse shows and if they're none of those things then they'll not be a great medium of exchange either as who would want to...