Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? The hunt for bitcoin’s elusive founder

  • The creation of Bitcoin on January 3, 2009, under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto,” marked the beginning of a revolution in digital currency, with Nakamoto’s identity remaining shrouded in mystery ever since.
  • Despite Nakamoto’s departure from the cryptocurrency scene in 2010, his visionary solution to the double-spending problem through blockchain technology continues to shape the landscape of digital transactions and finance worldwide.
  • While various individuals, including Dorian Nakamoto, Craig Wright, Nick Szabo, and Hal Finney, have been proposed as potential candidates behind the pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity remains unknown, underscoring the enduring intrigue surrounding the enigmatic figure’s legacy.

The inaugural bitcoin was mined on January 3, 2009, under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” This name has since become synonymous with the enigmatic creator or creators of bitcoin, representing the elusive figure or group behind the revolutionary technology that has left an indelible mark on the world.

The innovator behind blockchain technology

Although Nakamoto did not invent the idea of cryptocurrencies, he was the one to address a key issue that hindered their widespread use: unlike conventional money, cryptocurrencies could be copied. This was referred to as “double-spending,” and Nakamoto created the blockchain verification method to address it.

A white paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” was released on a cryptography mailing list by Satoshi Nakamoto months before the first bitcoin was mined. The article described a cryptographically safe decentralized peer-to-peer protocol that was released on October 31, 2008.

However, Nakamoto’s participation in bitcoin ceased in 2010. Nakamoto’s final communication to anybody was an email to another cryptocurrency developer stating that they had “moved on to other things.” The failure to identify Nakamoto has resulted in a great deal of conjecture over his identity, particularly in light of the rise in the quantity, popularity, and notoriety of cryptocurrencies.

Also read: 7 things you need to know about the bitcoin halving

Satoshi Nakamoto’s enormous wealth

Satoshi is estimated to own approximately one million bitcoins, according to a chain analysis conducted by RSK Labs’ principal scientist, Sergio Demián Lerner. Other studies have reported varying estimates, ranging from around 750,000 to 1.1 million bitcoins.

Though Nakamoto’s identity remains unclaimed, the estimated value of the approximately one million bitcoins associated with Nakamoto is substantial. At the time of writing, 1 BTC is worth approximately $65,000, making a haul of 1 million BTC worth around $65 billion. With a maximum cap of 21 million bitcoins, Nakamoto’s 5% ownership holds significant sway in the market. While several individuals have been suggested as the potential “true” Nakamoto, none have been conclusively proven to be the elusive figure.

Pop quiz

What marked the beginning of a revolution in digital currency on January 3, 2009?

A. The release of the white paper “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”

B. The creation of bitcoin under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”

C. The launch of the first cryptocurrency exchange

D. The development of blockchain technology

The correct answer is at the bottom of the article.

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

Three years after releasing his white paper on bitcoin and mining the genesis block, Nakamoto exited the cryptocurrency arena.

On April 23, 2011, he communicated to another bitcoin developer via email that he had “moved on to other things” and expressed confidence that the future of the cryptocurrency was “in good hands.” Subsequently, none of the email addresses previously associated with Nakamoto have been active.

The identity of bitcoin’s founder remains a hotly debated topic, sparking various theories and speculations. Some suggest that Nakamoto could be a collective pseudonym rather than an individual, while others speculate on possibilities ranging from British origin to involvement in money laundering, even entertaining the idea of Nakamoto being a woman masquerading as a man.

Over the years, several individuals have been scrutinized as potential candidates behind the enigmatic pseudonym:

Dorian Nakamoto

In 2014, Newsweek journalist Leah McGrath Goodman published an article titled “The Face Behind Bitcoin,” aiming to uncover Nakamoto’s identity. Goodman pointed to Dorian Nakamoto as the mysterious bitcoin creator.

Goodman highlighted numerous similarities between the two Nakamotos: mathematical prowess, personality traits, Japanese ancestry, and political beliefs. Later on, Dorian Nakamoto refuted any connection to bitcoin, labeling the published quotes as misinterpretations.

The suspicions were put to rest when Satoshi Nakamoto declared on a bitcoin forum that they were not Dorian Nakamoto.

Dorian Nakamoto

Craig Wright

Craig Wright, an Australian academic and entrepreneur, has repeatedly asserted his identity as Satoshi Nakamoto, going so far as to engage in legal battles over the rights to the pseudonym.

In 2016, Dr. Wright claimed the identity after Wired Magazine’s profile titled “Is Bitcoin’s Creator this Unknown Australian Genius?” was released. Evidence included a cryptocurrency paper allegedly published on Wright’s blog before the bitcoin white paper’s release, leaked emails discussing a “P2P distributed ledger,” and transcripts referencing Wright’s involvement in bitcoin’s creation.

Contrary evidence surfaced when it was discovered that the blog entries and purported public encryption keys associated with Nakamoto had been backdated.

In the end, Wright recanted the assertion due to doubts expressed by the cryptocurrency community.

Recently, London’s High Court recently dismissed Craig Wright’s claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto. Judge Mellor cited evidence undermining Wright’s assertion, including inconsistent stories, limited technical knowledge, and failure to provide cryptographic proof. The Crypto Open Patent Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to removing patents and legal barriers impeding crypto’s progress, hailed the win and alleged Wright’s deception and intimidation within the bitcoin community.

Profile picture from Craig Wright’s previous LinkedIn page.

Nick Szabo

Nick Szabo, an early cypherpunk, speculated about a digital currency named “Bitgold” in a 2005 blog post, envisioning a system independent of third-party trust. He then became one of the suspected Satoshis in the media.

Given their comparable writing styles and areas of interest, as well as Szabo’s major role in the creation of bitcoin, comparisons between him and the enigmatic Nakamoto have been drawn.

Author Dominic Frisby outlined evidence in his book “Bitcoin: The Future of Money?” to back up his theory that Satoshi Nakamoto and Nick Szabo were the same. Szabo, however, refuted the claims made about his purportedly hidden identity.

Nick Szabo

Hal Finney

Hall Finney was a computer scientist, programmer, and zealous about encryption. After five years of fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, he passed away in 2014 at the age of fifty-eight.

Hal Finney was the first individual to receive bitcoin in a transaction and was involved in the community both before and after its introduction.

After comparing writing samples from Hal Finney and Satoshi Nakamoto, journalist Andy Greenberg from Forbes suspected Finney might have been Nakamoto’s ghostwriter.

Finney refuted these assertions, though, and provided proof that he was not Satoshi Nakamoto. When Finney first met Greenberg, he showed him his bitcoin wallet history and the emails that he and Nakamoto had exchanged over the years.

Hal Finney

Also read: Bitcoin mining difficulty hits 84 trillion ahead of bitcoin halving

Whether he is one individual or a group, “Satoshi Nakamoto” is important because of his contribution to the greatest technological innovation ever made, not because of his identity or lack thereof. Nakamoto set the path for cryptocurrencies to grow and change in response to the financial crisis of 2008, establishing a substitute form of money.

Ultimately, Nakamoto’s legacy transcends his identity, serving as a testament to the transformative power of technology and the enduring quest for innovation in the digital age.

The correct answer is B, the creation of bitcoin under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.


Sylvia Shen

Sylvia Shen is an editorial assistant at Blue Tech Wave specialising in Fintech and Blockchain. She graduated from the University of California, Davis. Send tips to s.shen@btw.media.

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