A database problem has knocked Blockchain's Bitcoin wallet service offline for hours.
With the high-profile collapse of Bitcoin exchange site Mt. Gox in February and then Flexcoin's failure earlier in March, Bitcoin backers could be forgiven for fretting about the fate of their virtual currency. Blockchain servers house nearly 1.4 million bitcoin wallets, but the company says the access problem is only a temporary glitch -- albeit one that's lasted more than 16 hours so far.
Blockchain Limited Chief Security Officer Andreas M. Antonopoulos said in a blog post Monday:
Blockchain is experiencing a technical issue that has forced us to temporarily interrupt services. The outage was caused by a bug in some database handling code. We are working hard to fix the issue and restore service as soon as possible, but anticipate the outage may last more than an hour, as it requires restarting database servers with very largedata sets. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this recent outage has caused you.
Please rest assured that your wallets are safe and this outage does not affect the security of funds or the completion of executed transactions...
Later, the company added another blog post on how to import wallet data into a local wallet app. The company recommends using the Multibit wallet software and gives instructions on how to do so for those who have their wallet information. For those who don't, Blockchain said people can file a request from Blockchain to get it.
Blockchain doesn't take control of users' bitcoins, the company said:
Unlike other services that have ownership over private keys [data used to sign bitcoin transactions], Blockchain is superior because it allows users to access their private keys, thus enabling them to have access to their funds under circumstances such as this. It is very important for us to emphasize how crucial it is that users make regular backups of their wallets. Doing so will allow users to import their funds into a wallet client such as MultiBit and therefore avoid the headache and stress of being unable to access their funds, for whatever reason.
Blockchain said that as of January, it had 1.1 million registered users and 200 million page views per month. The site is popular among those monitoring Bitcoin statistics such as new coins that have been mined through the public ledger confirmation process.