Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

24 Aug, 2018
by David Robb
Educational
Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

There are few figures more important, or more mysterious, in the world of crypto than Satoshi Nakamoto. The anonymous Bitcoin founder launched the world's first cryptocurrency back in 2009, and people have been puzzling over the question of his/her/their true identity ever since.

What we do know about the figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto is that they published a whitepaper, Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, in late 2008, and subsequently launched the Bitcoin blockchain in January 2009. 

After posting online in various channels semi-regularly for a few years, Satoshi passed on most of the Bitcoin operations to others around 2010, and hasn't been heard from since 2011. These early years were not wasted, however, and wallets linked to Satoshi account for almost 1 million BTC mined. If Satoshi is just one individual, this would make them one of the top 50 richest people in the world. 

Anything else we can say about the semi-mythical creator of Bitcoin is mostly speculation, and it's likely we will never know Satoshi's true identity, but there is no shortage of clues to be found, or theories that have been put forward to reveal the truth about this anonymous billionaire and crypto pioneer.

The message "The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks" was encoded into the very first block to be mined in the Bitcoin network, indicating a dissatisfaction with the prevailing monetary policy at the time as being one of the key motivations for the Bitcoin project. As a useful clue to Satoshi's identity, this message also suggests that Satoshi was a regular reader of London's The Times newspaper.

Also, despite an East Asian-sounding name and despite claiming on a P2P Foundation profile to be a 37-year-old Japanese man, no part of the Bitcoin project was written or labelled in any language other than perfect English. In Satoshi's source code comments, as well as in posts to the bitcointalk forum under the name satoshi, British English spellings and terminology would often be used.

These Commonwealth connections provided support for what was temporarily one of the most convincing theories - which was that Australian computer scientist and businessman Craig Wright was the real Satoshi Nakamoto.

Wright claimed to have been involved with the development of Bitcoin in its early days, and major articles published by The Economist, the BBC, and Wired suggested that he had given proof that he was Satoshi. This proof was based around him sending messages with a cryptographic signature that only Satoshi could have provided.

This was later proven to be insufficient evidence, and some suggested that a Canadian company Wright was involved with might have been seeking to profit from the Satoshi 'revelation'. His home was raided by Australian tax authorities a few days after the story broke.

Wright has become a figure of contempt for many in the crypto community since this apparent hoax, although he still has supporters, and some still believe he could be the most likely candidate for Satoshi's true identity. 

In 2014, Newsweek published an article that identified Dorian Nakamoto, whose birthname is Satoshi, as the Bitcoin creator. The Japanese-American man, who was living in California at the time, had previously worked as computer engineer on several classified projects, including in the financial sector, and was an avowed libertarian.

The publication of the article led to a huge flurry of media interest, with eager reporters camping outside Nakamoto's house and following him by car. It later emerged that he had never even heard of Bitcoin, and one of the most convincing pieces of evidence in the article was based on him simply misunderstanding a question about his time working for Citibank, according to a Reddit AMA.

Other people who have been put forward as potential candidates are decentralized currency enthusiast Nick Szabo and pre-Bitcoin cryptography expert Hal Finney, both suggested to be Satoshi after detailed textual analysis of their writing found strong similarities with that of the Bitcoin creator. Both strongly denied the claims.

A blogpost by an excitable former SpaceX intern even claimed that Elon Musk might be the real Satoshi Nakamoto, and it proved so popular that Musk himself was led to publicly deny the theory.

As a key part of the story behind one of the most exciting technological developments of recent times, the mystery will continue to fascinate people, and people will continue to ask 'Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?'.

However, the real fascination with Bitcoin and the most important question that should be posed, is not where it originated, but what will happen to it in the years ahead.

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