More than often, people who are newly introduced to Bitcoin have no idea that the currency is already several years old. The idea of Bitcoin was first introduced in 2008, when a man named ‘Satoshi Nakamoto‘ published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com. This paper was called Bitcoin: a peer to peer electronic cash system and is still a classic among the ‘old school’ Bitcoin fans. Not that much later, in 2009, he released the first Bitcoin software that enabled the world to start using Bitcoin.
So who is Satoshi Nakamoto? This is a question that still raises eyebrows all over the cryptocurrency world. There are plenty of suggested identities, which we will tackle later in this guide. Let’s take a look first at what we know about Nakamoto. The first certainty we have is that he did not work alone. He held close contact with other developers through forums and e-mails. He kept improving the source-code whilst taking advice from several other people. This continued until contacts between him and his team gradually began to fade. In the year 2010, he handed over control of the source code repository and alert key functions of the software to Gavin Andresen, another prominent figure in the Bitcoin universe. With the source code, he also gave away the Bitcoin.org domain and several other domains. After doing this, Nakamoto began to communicate less until he completely disappeared.
Nakamoto himself claims to be a 37-year old male who lives in Japan. A false statement according to many people. His use of the English language is near perfect, and the Bitcoin software was never documented in Japanese. Strange behavior for someone who claims to have lived in Japan for his entire life.
By now, you must have come to the conclusion that there is a lot of mystery surrounding Bitcoin’s inventor. If there is one thing the Internet likes, it’s a mystery (or rather solving it). This led Stefan Thomas, a Swiss coder, and active community member, to a great idea. He decided to look into the timestamps of Nakamoto’s forum posts. With over 500 posts, it had to be possible to find a pattern in it. His investigation resulted in a chart that showed a steep decline to almost no posts between the hours of 5 am, and 11 am GMT. It is very probable that Nakamoto was asleep at this time. When looking at the different time zones in the world, Nakamoto probably lives in the parts of North America that fall within the Eastern Time Zone and Central Time Zone. Parts of Central America, the Caribbean, and South America are possibilities as well.
It’s great to know where Nakamoto probably lives, but it still brings us nowhere closer to his real identity. Are we even talking about a single person? Some people consider him to be a team of people. A lot of prominent coders think the Bitcoin code was too well designed for one person. Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher who read the code, said that Nakamoto could either be a “team of people” or a “pure genius”.
That said, many identities have been pinned on the Bitcoin developer over the years.
- A 2011 article in The New Yorker written by Joshua Davis suggested that Nakamoto’s identity was pinned down to a number of possible individuals. The most notable among them were Finnish economic sociologist Dr. Vili Lehdonvirta and Irish student Michael Clear. Both Lehdonvirta and Clear responded by strongly denying this.
- In October 2011, Adam Penenberg claimed he found evidence suggesting Neal King, Vladimir Oksman and Charles Bry could be Nakamoto. As an investigative journalist writing for Fast Company, he found they jointly filed a patent application that contained the phrase “computationally impractical to reverse”. This was also used in the Bitcoin white paper. To add even more proof, he showed that the domain name bitcoin.org was registered three days after the patent was filed. All of them denied being Nakamoto.
- In May 2013, Ted Nelson speculated that Shinichi Mochizuki was Satoshi Nakamoto. Mochizuki was a Japanese mathematician. These speculations were denied in an article in The Age Newspaper, without attributing a source for the denial.
- Also in 2013, Nakamoto was linked to Ross William Ulbricht, owner of the Silk Road. This link was published in a paper written by two Israeli mathematicians, Dorit Ron, and Adi Shamir. They based this on an analysis of the Blockchain. They later retracted their claim.
- In April 2014, investigators from Aston University linked Nick Szabo to the Bitcoin whitepaper using a stylometric analysis. Szabo is a decentralized currency enthusiast and published a paper on “bitgold,” which is considered a precursor to bitcoin. The claim was not really taken seriously when even the investigators claimed that it was a far-fetched theory: “The study does not point conclusively to Mr. Szabo. It’s just that, of all the people studied, he appears to be the most likely candidate. It’s just another clue.”
But the most well-known speculation to date came in March 2014. An article in the magazine Newsweek, written by journalist Leah McGrath Goodman, identified Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. As a Japanese American living in California, he fits the bill for Newsweek. Unfortunately, Dorian Nakamoto immediately responded by denying everything. “I did not create, invent or otherwise work on Bitcoin. I unconditionally deny the Newsweek report.” He even filed a lawsuit against Newsweek as he had journalists camping out in front of his house and chasing him by car whenever he left. The Bitcoin community, led by Andreas Antonopoulos started a fundraising campaign to support Dorian Nakamoto.
The Newsweek report led to a worldwide interest in Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity. Maybe the greatest thing about this was that it made the real Nakamoto break his long silence. At the p2pfoundation website, Satoshi Nakamoto replied to his latest thread with the following words: “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
So if there is one thing we can be sure of, it’s the fact that we have no clue whatsoever as to who Satoshi Nakamoto really is. Is he a genius who is singlehandedly responsible for developing a revolutionary protocol? Or is Satoshi Nakamoto a pseudonym for a team of people? Nakamoto is believed to be in possession of roughly one million bitcoins. His identity remains one of the web’s most questioned mysteries.