Bitcoin was conceived as a communal project. Designed as an open-source software and released to the public in 2009, Bitcoin was conceived with openness in mind. Functioning on an open ledger that is accessible to the public, Bitcoin is an open-source project. But for all its openness, one grand mystery remains unsolved:
Who Created Bitcoin and Who exactly is Satoshi Nakamoto?
First, lets detail what is known for certain. The first step was taken in 2007, when Nakamoto wrote the Bitcoin code1. In November 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published his now famous White Paper, which laid the groundwork for the Bitcoin protocol2.
On January 3rd, 2009, the first ever Bitcoin block was mined, marking the creation of the cryptocurrency, it bore the message :
The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks
Satoshi was heavily involved with the Bitcoin community, and collaborated with them in order to modify the underlying bitcoin protocol. After two years of involvement, Nakamoto handed the reins to Gavin Andresen, and seized involvement with the Bitcoin project in December of 2010. Then, in the Spring of 2011, Nakamoto returned to leave a final message, stating in a post that he had moved on to other things, and that Bitcoin was in good hands with Gavin [Andresen] and everyone. That was the last the world heard of the secretive Bitcoin creator.
The mystery behind Nakamotos identity has only grown, as the Bitcoin community eagerly speculates who it could potentially be. Satoshi Nakamoto claims to be Japanese, born on April 5, 19753. It is unknown whether Nakamoto is male or female, or whether Nakamoto is even a single person or a group of individuals.
While Nakamotos identity remains unknown, This has not stopped enthusiasts from investigating his background and drawing up conclusions. Nakamotos use of perfect English in his posts and his publication of the White Paper has raised skepticism as to his Japanese origin. Furthermore, his occasional use of British English in the code and comments has fueled speculation that he is a native English speaker of commonwealth origin4. Additionally, Stefan Thomas, a Swiss coder and active member in the Bitcoin community, graphed the time stamps of Nakamotos more than 500 posts, showing his or her complete absence of posts between midnight am and 6 am Greenwich Time, further informing investigators as to his potential whereabouts5.
To date, there are several potential individuals suspected of being the mysterious Bitcoin creator. One of the first suggestions was Nick Szabo, a decentralized currency enthusiast who published a paper on bit gold considered to be a precursor to the first cryptocurrency. Running a reverse textual analysis, internet researcher Skye Grey found dozens of unique phrases that linked Szabos writing style to that of the original White Paper6. This evidence is only circumstantial, however, and Szabo has repeatedly denied that he is the creator of Bitcoin.
Nick Szabo, Image from The-Blockchain
Another possibility is a Japanese American man living in California, named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, birth name Satoshi Nakamoto. First brought up in a March 2014 Newsweek article, Leah McGrath Goodman pointed to Nakamotos training as a physicist at Cal Poly University in Pomona and libertarian background as potential indicators of his identity. Her biggest piece of evidence was his response to a question regarding Bitcoin: I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. Its been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.7 This led to a wild media frenzy, which even included a car chase. However, in a later interview, he recanted his previous position, stating that he had misunderstood the reporters question, thinking it was related to his previous classified work as a military contractor8.
Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, Image from The Verge.
Hal Finney is another potential candidate to be the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Finney was a pre-bitcoin cryptographic pioneer and was only the second person after Nakamoto himself to make use of the software, file bug reports, and suggest improvements.
Furthermore, he was the first to ever receive Bitcoin, stating in an interview that [he] was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to [him] as a test.9
Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg speculated after requesting aid from writing analysis consultancy Juola & Associates that Greenberg may have been the ghostwriter for Satoshi Nakamoto. Further adding to the speculation that Finney was involved with the creation of Bitcoin was his correspondence with the aforementioned Nick Szabo, and the fact that he lived only blocks apart from Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto10. At the time of his death on August 28, 2014, only circumstantial evidence pointed to Hal Finney being the original Satoshi Nakamoto.
Hal Finney, Image from Wired.
Yet another possible contender to be Satoshi Nakamoto is the Australian academic, computer engineering expert, and entrepreneur, Craig Wright. In early November of 2015, Gizmodo received an anonymous email from an individual stating that not only did he know that Craig Wright was the creator of Bitcoin, but that he had also worked for him11. On December 9, hours after Wired certified that Wright was indeed Nakamoto, the Australian Federal Police raided his home, and afterwards stating the [the] matter is unrelated to recent media reporting regarding the digital currency Bitcoin. Afterwards, Wright deleted his internet presence until May of 2016, when he stepped forward and revealed himself on Twitter as the creator of the digital currency Bitcoin12, and claimed he had the proof to back up his statement. Then, amid a torrent of skepticism, Wright retracted his statement and did not offer the extraordinary proof he claimed to have, stating that he did not have the courage to prove his identity13.
Craig Wright, Image from CCN.
In an era where information is widespread, Satoshi Nakamoto has managed to maintain his identity a complete secret. So why is uncovering Nakamotos identity so important? If Nakamoto is indeed a single individual, then he or she owns approximately 5% of the worlds Bitcoin supply, placing him or her as the 52nd richest person in the world as of December 12th14.
The implications of this wealth are considerable, beyond even the real world implications. If Satoshi Nakamoto were ever to sell the rumored 980,000 Bitcoins in his or her possession ( currently worth over $16 billion at todays price, as of 5th Jan 2018 ), the price of Bitcoin could potentially become more volatile than it already is.
Furthermore, there is significant debate as to the future of Bitcoin. Heated discussions have arisen due to some of the growing pains surrounding Bitcoin, particularly the issue of how to deal with an increase in transaction volume in the Bitcoin network. As the number of blocks increases, the Bitcoin network runs the risk of becoming overloaded. One side of the debate wants to fundamentally change the Bitcoin node by increasing the block size, in order to allow the system to process transactions more quickly. The other side of the debate sees this as a betrayal of the original concept behind Bitcoin, arguing that this would lead to increased centralization15. Identifying Bitcoins true creator would create more certainty and could potentially lay down the following steps in Bitcoins ever growing development.
Ultimately, identifying Bitcoins creator may be a quixotic endeavor. His or her complete silence since the Spring of 2011 means it is likely we will never hear from them again. Nevertheless, Bitcoin, the open source digital currency created nearly a decade ago, will continue to in spite of this mystery. The Bitcoin community will be forced to coexist with the enigma that is Satoshi Nakamoto, for the better or for the worst.