Multibit described itself as “a secure, lightweight, international Bitcoin wallet for Windows, MacOS and Linux.” The wallet was initially hosted on MultiBit.org. An attempt to access MultiBit today is met with the message, “Multibit is Deprecated – Do Not Use.”
What happened to the Bitcoin wallet that was reported to have been downloaded 2 million times?
We took some time to follow the history of the wallet. This article will also look at how MultiBit changed hands over the years and some of its challenges. Finally, we will focus on what eventually happened to MultiBit.
The History of MultiBit Wallet
Multibit was established in 2011 by two developers, Jim Burton and Gary Rowe.
Gary Rowe provides an idea of the environment under which Multibit was established. He says that since they established MultiBit, there had been many Bitcoin “booms and busts.” This had led some to declare that Bitcoin was dead.
Rowe also says that when MultiBit came into the scene in July 2011, there were very few Bitcoin wallets and services. He reports that Instawallet was only three months old at this time. Instawallet provided Bitcoin owners with a way to create Bitcoin wallets. It shut down in 2013 following a hacking incident.
Rowe notes that when MultiBit started, the June 2011 Mt. Gox incident was still fresh in many Bitcoin owners’ minds. Mt. Gox was a popular Bitcoin exchange. In June 2011, VentureBeat.com reported that Mt. Gox had admitted that its servers had been hacked. Mt.Gox made the announcement after the price of Bitcoin had fallen from around $17.50 to almost nothing within minutes.
The Brains Behind the MultiBit Wallet
In July 2011 Burton completed the first “commit” of the MultiBit source code. (A commit is the process where a software developer stores a version of their program in a source code repository).
Burton and Rowe then collaborated on the user interface that resulted in the birth of the MultiBit wallet.
JadeResearch.org, a website that curates and researches issues in the blockchain industry, provides some details on Burton and Rowe’s profiles.
Rowe is a software engineer with more than two decades’ experience. He gained his expertise working for various industries, including banks, airlines, and governments.
Rowe has been a contributor to numerous open-source projects. Hid4java, the Bitcoinj library, and XChange are some of the projects he contributed to. He left MultiBit in 2016 but continued working in the blockchain space.
When Burton started working on the MultiBit wallet, he had spent most of his time working for financial software houses, including Infor and BancTec. He started working in the blockchain ecosystem in 2011.
Like Rowe, Burton also contributed to the Bitcoinj library. He has also worked with the HSBC Canary Wharf Applied Innovation Blockchain as a blockchain subject matter expert.
To understand the service provided by MultiBit, let’s start by recapping what a Bitcoin wallet is.
A Bitcoin wallet is a software program that provides Bitcoin owners with a secure way to store the private keys that control their Bitcoin. There are various types of Bitcoin wallets, including web-based, mobile, desktop, and hardware wallets.
The developers of the MultiBit wallet claimed that their service provided the following features:
- Simplicity: Users could easily and quickly install the wallet across major operating systems such as MacOS, Windows, and Linux.
- Security: Encrypted private keys protected balances on the local machines or USB sticks.
- Lightweight footprint: The stored data did not require much space on the device.
- Flexibility: MultiBit users could create separate accounts within their wallet.
- International: Users could access the wallet in over 35 languages.
- Faster synchronizing: MultiBit promised to synchronize transactions with the Bitcoin ledger within a matter of minutes.
MultiBit.org provided a link to download the wallet, and promised that users begin to use their wallets within 5 minutes.
Reaching 1.5 Million Downloads
In March 2014, the MultiBit.org blog announced that the wallet had reached 1,517,200 downloads since its inception. In the first 20 months, the number of downloads moved from several hundred in a month to a few thousand.
Starting from around April 2013, the number of downloads grew exponentially. They reached a peak in November 2013 when users downloaded the wallet 330,000 times. This explosion corresponded with the Bitcoin booms experienced between April and November 2013.
A 2014 article published by Coindesk.com suggested that at more than 1.5 million, MultiBit had “shifted significantly more wallets than Blockchain.info and Coinbase.” The two services had each passed the one-million wallet mark.
If the number of MultiBit downloads was impressive, it is because the service introduced ongoing improvements. For instance, the MultiBit.org blog lists 11 updates.
In an article published by Coindesk.com, Danny Bradbury calls MultiBit “one of the unsung heroes of the Bitcoin world.”
A Host of Challenges
On February 27, 2014, MultiBit released a statement informing users that the service had in the past few days “noticed a few Denial of Service (DoS) attacks taking place against [its] servers.”
The statement informs readers that while there was no concrete information regarding the motives for the DoS, MultiBit had a theory. The theory: “Given the recent history of price manipulation based on similar techniques, it seems plausible that the attackers think that taking down the MultiBit website would prevent the MultiBit application from working.”
Why would the attackers want to prevent the application from working? To attract “bad news headlines and [drive] the price down,” MultiBit speculates.
In an April 2014 article published on Coindesk.com, Bradbury reports that MultiBit was “battling a wave of criticism this week after a user suggested that a bug in the software rendered his bitcoins inaccessible.” Bradbury proposes that this was an indication that there was a need for new Bitcoin wallets.
Bradbury believes that “with 1.8 million downloads to date, the MultiBit project could be described as a victim of its own success.” This statement makes sense when Rowe reports that the wallet was getting 20,000 downloads a day at one point.
KeepKey Acquires Multibit
In May 2016, MultiBit was acquired by KeepKey. KeepKey, originally based in Seattle, is a developer of a USB device that securely stores Bitcoins (otherwise known as a hardware wallet).
In an article reporting on the acquisition, Econotimes.com says that companies concluded the deal entirely in Bitcoin. The same publication quotes Darin Stanchfield, the KeepKey founder and CEO. He said, “We [KeepKey and MultiBit] have similar target users and, most importantly, hold the same core mission of making payments secure and easy-to-use.”
Following its acquisition of MultiBit, KeepKey gave MultiBit a facelift. Bitcoin.com reports that KeepKey had indicated that “although we will alter the look and feel of MultiBit, you can be assured that KeepKey will closely follow the principles Jim and Gary wove into their software.”
What Then Happened to MultiBit.org?
About a year after it acquired MultiBit, KeepKey had an announcement for users: “It is time for us to let Multibit go.”
What explanation did KeepKey give? The company said that the MultiBit wallet needed a lot of work. In an announcement, the company said “Multibit has stubborn bugs that have caused us and Multibit users much grief.”
KeepKey tells readers that it “simply does not have the resources to support the current issues, nor to rebuild Multibit to ensure [an] ideal user experience.”
KeepKey continued: “Multibit was a fantastic piece of software in its time… [W]e want to thank the Multibit developers for such an important contribution to Bitcoin’s history.”
Moving Funds from an old MultiBit Wallet to a New Wallet
If you have Bitcoin stored in a MultiBit wallet and you’re having trouble sending that Bitcoin to a new address, you may want to simply restore the entire wallet to another wallet, such as Electrum. You can find directions for this here.