David Farmer, communications director at Coinbase, officially announced that Coinbase will integrate Bitcoin Cash (BCH) support by January of 2018, crediting all bitcoin account holders that have had stored bitcoin on Coinbase prior to the August 1 hard fork.
Farmer stated :
We are planning to have support for bitcoin cash by January 1, 2018, assuming no additional risks emerge during that time. Once supported, customers will be able to withdraw bitcoin cash. We’ll make a determination at a later date about adding trading support. In the meantime, customer bitcoin cash will remain safely stored on Coinbase.
Under normal circumstances, when a cryptocurrency or a blockchain network undergoes a hard fork execution, exchanges and businesses temporarily suspend operations throughout the day of the fork to integrate support for the newly forked cryptocurrency. For instance, when Ethereum Classic (ETC) was created by conducting a hard fork execution on the Ethereum network, businesses including Coinbase suspended their operations to prepare for ETC support.
Because businesses only have a small window of time to prepare for the newly forked cryptocurrency, issues regarding security of user accounts and funds may occur during the process of crediting user accounts and withdrawing the newly forked cryptocurrency. Hence, bitcoin exchanges or businesses that are concerned with the hard fork and the security issues imposed by BCH can choose to wait until the BCH market stabilizes before offering users a way to withdraw BCH.
Business like Coinbase can choose to credit user accounts with BCH as late as January of 2018 as BCH has already been attributed to bitcoin holders prior to the fork. For users on noncustodial bitcoin wallet platforms that have absolute control over their private keys, BCH was automatically credited to their accounts. Since Coinbase stores private keys for account holders, BCH was essentially already attributed to Coinbase and it can choose to wait for a few months before allocating BCH to users.
If a business or an exchange does not believe it can safely handle the hard fork on the day it occurs, in terms of security, it is a safer decision to wait until the BCH market stabilizes. As Farmer wrote:
In the case of bitcoin cash, we made clear to our customers that we did not feel we could safely support it on the day it was launched. For customers who wanted immediate access to their bitcoin cash, we advised them to withdraw their bitcoin from the Coinbase platform.
Other service providers including Trezor have already integrated support for BCH by creating a BCH wallet but their platforms remain in beta. It is technically difficult for exchanges to integrate support for a newly forked coin on the date of its launch and to some extent, the decision of Coinbase to integrate support for Bitcoin Cash by January of 2018 can be considered as a responsible approach to the hard fork.
Perhaps more importantly, Farmer explained to the community and to Coinbase users that the decision to integrate Bitcoin Cash by January was formed after a careful examination of BCH.
Over the last several days, we’ve examined all of the relevant issues and have decided to work on adding support for bitcoin cash for Coinbase customers. We made this decision based on factors such as the security of the network, customer demand, trading volumes, and regulatory considerations.
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