Bitcoin Price Drops 22% in Four Days As Infighting Goes Public

December 21, 2017, 8:55 PM UTC

From a Sunday high of nearly $20,000 per digital coin, Bitcoin dropped more than 22% to a price as low as $15,262 on Thursday afternoon. Some see the drop as fallout from long-unresolved problems with Bitcoin’s infrastructure, and the increasingly intense civil war it has produced in the cryptocurrency community.

Some recent Bitcoin buyers have described trying to actually use bitcoin for purchases, only to run into the reality of the network’s absurdly high transaction fees. Those fees have risen steadily for years due to crowding on the network.

The long-running fight over how to fix the issue hit the mainstream as never before yesterday, when cryptocurrency pioneer Roger Ver appeared on CNBC. Ver was promoting Bitcoin Cash, a fork of Bitcoin created to address the digital currency’s scaling problems. Ver warned viewers that bitcoin could see “a mass exodus of people rushing for the door.” At the same time, a CNBC Twitter account was accused of “shilling” thanks to tweets that appeared to support Bitcoin Cash.

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Almost simultaneously, the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase announced that it had halted trading in Bitcoin Cash over concerns that the exchanges’ employees may have engaged in insider trading—another possible shock to investor confidence.

The conflicts and imperfections of the cryptocurrency world are nothing new, and neither are huge price dips—Bitcoin has seen two similarly sharp drops in just the last two months. And long-term supporters are optimistic that fixes for the underlying crowding issue, particularly a new feature known as Lightning Network, are on the way.

The more pressing question, though, is whether a mass of new investors, attracted by this year’s massive price run-up, will stick with Bitcoin through such big short-term losses.