TOKYO — Japanese cryptocurrency exchanges resumed bitcoin services on Monday after many shut down the day before to introduce a swifter settlement method, staving off a fork in the virtual currency.

Bitbank, one of Japan’s largest such exchanges, restarted bitcoin deposits and withdrawals at 3 p.m. Monday. Bitpoint Japan, a subsidiary of Remixpoint, reopened at 4 p.m., while Zaif and Fisco Cryptocurrency Exchange resumed services during the 3 p.m. hour.

Coincheck, jumping ahead of competitors, reopened on Sunday. BitFlyer never suspended service.

The new method allows transaction history to be logged more efficiently on the blockchain, the distributed ledger that underpins bitcoin. Bitcoin’s soaring popularity has made completing each transaction more time-intensive. Fixing the issue has become a point of contention in the bitcoin community, with many warning of a fork in the currency as two camps duke it out with competing solutions. One wants to raise the cap on block size, allowing more transaction information to fit, while the other wants to keep the limit but find a way of squeezing more data into each block. The current solution is a compromise of the two.

The new process was originally supposed to be introduced Aug. 1, but the date was pushed up to Sunday owing to widespread support for the move. In order to guard against unforeseen glitches, exchanges temporarily suspended service.

The bitcoin community remains on its toes, however. Some still do no support the current solution and are working to force a split in the currency by launching an alternative virtual currency, Bitcoin Cash. This stance is common among Chinese and other “miners,” or people who verify transactions and add them to the blockchain in exchange for bitcoin and other virtual currency.

Exchanges plan to suspend bitcoin services again around Aug. 1 to brace for another possible split.

Bitcoin held steady in the $2,700 range.

(Nikkei)

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