Shoulda invested in art, dudes: the world's most prominent online Bitcoin exchange shut itself down last night. This would be the final punchline to a long-running business farce, but there are a lot of people who are now missing a lot of money.
Go to MtGox.com, and you'll see nothing. If you've been using the site to invest your money in Bitcoin, this is a nightmare.
According to a leaked document, purportedly from Mt.Gox itself, the exchange has lost 744,408 BTC (around $350 million) in theft and fraud that was never reported, and has nowhere near enough real money to satisfy all its existing customers who want to pull their virtual money out. In short: Mt.Gox users are fucked, and Mark Karpele (above), the exchange's CEO, is gone without owing anything to anyone. Whether he disappeared with millions of dollars of his customers' money is anyone's guess—it sure looks bad. Financial regulators in Japan, where Mt.Gox was based, say they won't intervene, because virtual money is not their problem.
In the meantime, the Bitcoin community—that's a real thing!—is trying to salvage its legitimacy, and appear as anything other than a group of internet Monopoly money speculators. In a joint statement, the heads of several other Bitcoin services and exchanges tried to comfort bleary eyed Reddit hounds:
This tragic violation of the trust of users of Mt.Gox was the result of one company's actions and does not reflect the resilience or value of bitcoin and the digital currency industry. There are hundreds of trustworthy and responsible companies involved in bitcoin. These companies will continue to build the future of money by making bitcoin more secure and easy to use for consumers and merchants. As with any new industry, there are certain bad actors that need to be weeded out, and that is what we are seeing today.
Bad actors! But given that Bitcoin transactions are only a few levels of integrity above trading Pokemon cards and speculative greed is still rampant, it's easy to see how anyone could very quickly become a "bad actor."