It has been a decade since Bitcoin’s founding whitepaper was written a decade ago during the Halloween of 2008. The cryptocurrency has come a long way since then in terms of both value and global acceptance, but its origins are still shrouded in mystery.
Bitcoin was supposedly an invention of anonymous cryptographer who went by the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, who mailed the whitepaper to a cryptographic mailing list on the first day of November in 2008. But the identity of the Bitcoin founder is still a mystery even after all these years. In fact, no one has been able to figure out who Nakamoto is for a variety of reasons.
The name gave rise to widespread speculation that the person in question could be a Japanese man. However, that theory has been widely debated as Nakamoto’s perfect use of the English language, as well as the use of British phrases such as “bloody hard” across online forums, has led to the belief that the founder could be from the West.
The theory of Nakamoto not being Japanese finds further credibility when it is considered that Bitcoin’s software was not labeled in the Japanese language. Additionally, email time stamps also defeat the theory of Nakamoto being from Japan as they pointed the founder(s) location to the U.S., Ireland, or even Finland.
Meanwhile, the fact that the Bitcoin code was written in a very impressive manner has led many to believe that it isn’t the work of a single person. As such, not only has it been difficult to pinpoint the exact identity of Bitcoin’s founder, but there’s also confusion about whether it is a single person or a group of people.
Not surprisingly, there has been wide-ranging speculation about the true identity behind the pseudonym, with some people even coming forth and claiming to be Nakamoto. However, such claims or speculation hasn’t yet led us to Bitcoin’s founder who remains elusive to this day.
Quite a few people have been suspected to be Satoshi Nakamoto over the years. Most of them have denied such claims – Elon Musk for example – while those who have claimed to be Satoshi have a lot going against their credibility as Bitcoin’s founder. Let’s take a look at some of the names that have been touted to be Bitcoin’s founder over the years.
Four years ago, Newsweek Magazine ran an article claiming that the man behind the pseudonym was Japanese-American engineer Dorian Nakamoto. Newsweek’s claim was based on several similarities between the Bitcoin founder and Dorian Nakamoto. The magazine claimed that he had worked on classified projects for the U.S. military and other corporations after graduating in physics from California Polytechnic.
Moreover, when Newsweek interviewed Dorian Nakamoto, his response provided the fodder that the publication was looking for. The article read:
“I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,” he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. “It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”
The publication took this as a tacit acknowledgement of Dorian’s role as the founder of Bitcoin. However, the story eventually lost its legs once Dorian Nakamoto’s attorney directly contacted Newsweek to deny his role in the Bitcoin project. Dorian said that he didn’t understand the Newsweek journalist’s questions clearly and was under the impression that he was being interviewed about his previous job at Citibank.
So, despite a matching name and being an engineer by profession, Dorian Nakamoto wasn’t the man behind the famous pseudonym.
Many believe Nick Szabo to be Satoshi Nakamoto, and for good reason. This American-Hungarian computer scientist, legal scholar, and cryptographer is credited for inventing smart contracts, which now form a major feature of cryptocurrency. What’s more, Szabo is also credited with designing the proposal for BitGold back in 2005 for creating a decentralized financial system wherein participants would use their computing power to solve cryptographic puzzles.
Now, BitGold is considered to be the direct predecessor of the Bitcoin architecture as Szabo was advocating a protocol that would reduce third-party dependence, which is a major feature of Bitcoin. That’s why the cryptocurrency community believes Szabo to be the real Satoshi Nakamoto, with many claiming that his knowledge, expertise, and technical ability make him the apt candidate to be Bitcoin’s founder.
Additionally, people have found similarities between Szabo and Satoshi Nakamoto’s way of writing, while both have been known to use the same coding language and operating system. But that’s not where the similarities end. Nakamoto’s online posting times reportedly match Szabo’s posting times and sleep patterns very closely, and both of them have been known to subtly refer to economist Carl Menger in their work.
However, as is the norm, Nick Szabo has categorically denied that he is Satoshi Nakamoto. But then, it is believed that his profile fits that of the Bitcoin founder very closely thanks to all the circumstantial evidence available.
The case of Australian scientist Craig Wright is different than the others here in this list as he has been known to give deliberate evidence of him being Satoshi Nakamoto. Wired magazine published an article back in 2015 with the headline “Bitcoin’s Creator Satoshi Nakamoto Is Probably This Unknown Australian Genius.”
Wired laid out a list of points stating why Wright could be Nakamoto. For instance, a post on Wright’s blog in August 2008, three months before the Bitcoin whitepaper was sent to the mailing list, states his intention of releasing a cryptocurrency whitepaper. Similarities were found in timestamps on Nakamoto’s and Wright’s blog entries, and the latter fueled the fire further when he provided direct evidence of his involvement in an email. As reported by Investopedia, Wright wrote:
“I did my best to try and hide the fact that I’ve been running bitcoin since 2009. By the end of this (a tax dispute with the Australian government), I think half the world is going to bloody know.”
However, doubts have emerged regarding Wright’s credentials as Bitcoin’s founder, his critics strongly arguing that he has linked himself to Satoshi Nakamoto for fame and to gain influence within the cryptocurrency community. For instance, the PGP public key advertised by Wright on his blog in November 2008 for users to encrypt their messages before contacting him revealed that it was linked to an email address closely identifiable with Satoshi.
The PGP key was reportedly associated with the email address [email protected], which is very similar to [email protected], the address used by Nakamoto to send the whitepaper to the cryptography mailing list. But then, it has been reported that Wright backdated the PGP key and he has denied providing concrete proof of him being Satoshi Nakamoto.
What’s more, Wright is now being sued $10 billion by the brother of Dave Kleiman. Kleiman’s brother claims that Craig Wright forged signatures of the deceased Dave Kleiman to steal hundreds of thousands of Bitcoins. In all, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that Wright is not Nakamoto and he has been using the pseudonym to his advantage to gain recognition within the cryptocurrency community.
Believe it or not, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has also been touted to be the founder of Bitcoin. That’s because Musk reportedly has got a great hold over the programming language C++, has a background in economics, and has been known to write software himself. But then, Musk claims that he doesn’t own any Bitcoin, which seems a bit absurd for someone who founded the cryptocurrency. Additionally, Musk has himself denied being Satoshi.
The late Dave Kleiman, who we saw linked to Craig Wright earlier in the article, is another name that comes up as the founder of Bitcoin. Kleiman was an army veteran and a well-known expert in computer forensics who was tapped by national television networks for his expertise and commentary. He has authored several books and was known to speak at security-related events.
An investigation by Gizmodo in 2015 eventually concluded that Kleimanmay have been “deeply involved with Bitcoin.” However, Kleiman died in 2013 because of an MRSA infection in adverse financial circumstances. Had he actually been the founder of Bitcoin, then he must have been worth in the hundreds of millions at the time of his death. Why he didn’t cash out still remains a mystery, and so is his status of being Bitcoin’s founder.
Meanwhile, the first person on the receiving end of a Bitcoin transaction – Hal Finney – was also suspected to be Satoshi Nakamoto. But Finney’s death in 2014 because of ALS means that the mystery passed away with the man.
Now, there have been other people who have been linked to Satoshi Nakamoto, but the true identity behind the pseudonym is still an unsolved mystery. Moreover, the chance of the true identity coming out after all these years is slim because Nakamoto has gone on radio silence over the past few years.
After releasing the nine-page whitepaper, Satoshi Nakamoto released the first Bitcoin software a few months later. Post that, Nakamoto continued collaborating with the community of developers and coders to improve the software. However, the collaboration suddenly stopped in 2011. Nakamoto vanished suddenly, conveying to a fellow developer that the person(s) behind the pseudonym was moving on to other things before all communication stopped.
But it is reported that Nakamoto made a fortune before walking away. Argentine researcher Sergio Lerner is of the opinion that Satoshi Nakamoto had accumulated a million Bitcoins before he went into radio silence. At the current BTC/USD rate of around $6,300, the Bitcoin founder is now worth more than $6 billion.
Now, Bitcoin is expected to reach a finite supply of 21 million by 2140. Earlier this year, it was reported that 80% of this finite Bitcoin supply has already been mined into existence. This means that Nakamoto’s Bitcoin stash is more than 5% of the current Bitcoin supply in circulation. This gives Nakamoto the power to influence the price of Bitcoin.
For instance, if ever Satoshi Nakamoto decides that he, she, or they want to cash out, then the Bitcoin price would crash as new supply of the cryptocurrency would come into the market. Moreover, if Bitcoin eventually becomes the global currency it was destined to be, Nakamoto would wield a lot of economic influence and his net worth could grow exponentially.
So, is Satoshi Nakamoto’s anonymity and inactivity a good thing? Some might say yes, while some might not agree. Yes, because the absence of a central character who founded the digital currency will keep it from any central influence. This would help Bitcoin in fulfilling its potential of being an unregulated currency, and users won’t live in the fear that a central character such as Nakamoto would manipulate prices.
On the other hand, it might be a good thing to have a central figure guiding the development and growth of Bitcoin. In the absence of a central authority, the various stakeholders of the Bitcoin community such as miners, developers, and investors arrive at decisions after consulting among themselves and arriving at a consensus. Though this decentralization looks good at first, the drawback is that changes are slow to come by because the involvement of so many stakeholders slows down the decision making process.
This is where the presence of a leader in the form of the true founder of Bitcoin would have come in handy, helping the community avoid the forking controversy and contribute toward constructive development. However, it looks like Satoshi Nakamoto harbors no intention of making a comeback and revealing their true identity.
As such, the community will keep wondering who the actual face(s) is behind Bitcoin’s creation, and what has happened to the million Bitcoins that the real Satoshi Nakamoto holds until the name behind the pseudonym comes forward and proves their credibility.