Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

The silhouette of an anonymous person in front of a light background.

Despite being the world’s first, biggest, and oldest cryptocurrency, in some ways Bitcoin is still a mystery thanks to the anonymity of its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Sitting at a market cap of more than $1.75 trillion, as of 3rd December 2021, Bitcoin has proven its value as an asset and digital currency. However, its success has gone largely unclaimed as its pseudonymous inventor, known as Satoshi Nakamoto, is still unknown.

Who or what is Satoshi Nakamoto? Will they ever come forward? What is their reason for remaining anonymous? These are questions that have entranced the cryptocurrency community since the early 2010s. Let’s explore everything that we know about the illusive inventor.

A timeline of Bitcoin’s rise

As stated by Nakamoto himself (Satoshi Nakamoto is widely believed to be male so we use the pronouns he/him), he began working on Bitcoin during the spring of 2007. In 2008, Nakamoto shared the idea with a few fellow cryptographers, including the creators of b-money and Hashcash which were early cryptocurrency prototypes.

In August 2008, a domain named bitcoin.org was registered. In October 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto announced the launch of Bitcoin in a whitepaper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”.

The nine-page paper proposed the benefits of a trustless, electronic monetary system that bypassed financial institutions. It detailed the peer-to-peer system that Nakamoto had conceptualized which would end “the double-spending problem” that had existed with previous electronic currencies, whereby users are able to find ways to fraudulently spend their money multiple times.

On 3rd January 2009 at approximately 18:15:05 UTC, the first-ever Bitcoin was mined, also known as the Genesis block.

A forum post by Nakamoto on 11th February 2009 explained the inspiration behind creating Bitcoin – the catastrophic financial crash of 2008. “The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that’s required to make it work. Banks must be trusted to hold our money and transfer it electronically, but they lend it out in waves of credit bubbles with barely a fraction in reserve.”

Despite launching in 2009, Bitcoin didn’t gain much traction until 2010 when it experienced its first major price increase from a fraction of one penny to $0.08. Bitcoin first topped $1,000 in November 2013 before slumping to below $350 in April 2014. It took another three years before Bitcoin reached the $5,000 mark in September 2017 and a further three years down the line, Bitcoin hit the milestone $20,000 figure in December 2020. As of 3rd December 2021, the price of one Bitcoin is $55,510.

What we know about Satoshi Nakamoto

Internet sleuths and researchers have put together all the information we have from the crumbs of detail that Nakamoto left before disappearing in 2011.

Most of the clues are in messages he posted in forums between 2008 and 2011, namely a forum entitled BitcoinTalk which he created in 2009. Although millions of people have now analyzed his posts, they were mainly read by a small group of cryptographers and programmers at the time.

Satoshi Nakamoto would communicate with fellow developers via email but wouldn’t disclose any identifying features, such as his location or real name. He once stated in a forum profile that he was a 37-year-old male living in Japan however, most people believe this was nothing more than a red herring.

Was Nakamoto a Brit?

blurry parliament london

 

In fact, some believe that Nakamoto is from or lives in the United Kingdom. Within the metadata of the Genesis block, there was a headline from that day’s The Times, which is a London newspaper: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”. It’s also noted that Nakamoto used Britishisms such as “maths” instead of math and “flat” instead of apartment. Lastly, researchers have zeroed in on the UK as the timestamps of his posts coincide with UK daylight hours.

However, much of this is speculation, as is the belief that Satoshi Nakamoto may actually be a group of people rather than a single, genius inventor.

One of the last known and verified communications from Satoshi Nakamoto was a brief email on 23 April 2011 to a developer friend named Mike Hearn. Just as Bitcoin was beginning to gain momentum, Nakamoto explained to Hearn that he had “moved on to other things,” and felt that he was leaving the Bitcoin project “in good hands.”

Finding Satoshi – the alleged creators of Bitcoin

Over the last 13 years, a number of individuals have been voluntarily and involuntarily pinned as Bitcoin’s creator. Here are some of the most well-known suspects:

  1. Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto: In 2014, Newsweek caused mass hysteria when it claimed to have located the creator of Bitcoin in Southern California. A man named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a then 64-year-old retiree with previous experience in engineering, was hounded by reporters before issuing a statement to Newsweek two weeks later stating that he had no involvement in Bitcoin. All hopes that Dorian Nakamoto had created Bitcoin were further quashed in the last known communication from Satoshi Nakamoto – or at least someone who has his login information. On 7 March 2014, he briefly resurfaced on the Bitcoin forum to post one single statement: “I am not Dorian Nakamoto”.
  2. Hal Finney: Many people believed that esteemed cryptographer Hal Finney was Satoshi Nakamoto because he was one of the first people to use Bitcoin. However, Finney consistently denied being Bitcoin’s inventor or knowing Nakamoto. He passed away in 2014.
  3. Nick Szabo: Another key suspect is Nick Szabo, a computer scientist and well-known cypherpunk who first introduced smart contracts in the 1990s. Researchers have claimed that there are glaring similarities between Szabo’s linguistic style and Nakamoto’s, but Szabo has also maintained that he didn’t create Bitcoin.
  4. Craig Wright: Craig Wright is an Australian entrepreneur who said that he created Bitcoin and provided code as proof. Although one of Bitcoin’s developers endorsed Wright’s proclamation, the code was publicly disputed and the claim is widely believed to be false.
  5. Len Sassaman: Len Sassaman was a well-known cryptographer within the Bitcoin space who tragically died by suicide in 2011. Despite being American, Sassaman used the same British English as Nakamoto and was living in Belgium at the time that Bitcoin was developed, which aligns with assumptions that Nakamoto lived in Europe. But, as with the other claims, this hasn’t been proven.
A 3D illustration of a credit card with the name Satoshi Nakamoto on it and some Bitcoins, represented in physical gold coin form, on top of the card and surface below.

 

Why would Satoshi Nakamoto want to remain anonymous?

Firstly, the US government and FBI have long hounded individuals who create alternatives to federal currencies.

Bernard von NotHaus created a currency called Liberty Dollars in 1998 and in 2011, was convicted on federal charges. He was sentenced to six months house arrest and three years probation. Similarly, in 2007, the promising digital currency E-gold was shut down by the government on suspicion of money laundering. For that reason, Satoshi Nakamoto may be protecting himself from potential punishment for creating Bitcoin.

On the other hand, the Bitcoin movement is underpinned by decentralization. Satoshi Nakamoto is believed to hold more than 1 million Bitcoins in dormant wallets which are worth upwards of $60 billion by today’s price. If he is unmasked or decides to move or use those holdings, it could destabilize the currency as a significant chunk would then be controlled by one individual.

What does this mean for Bitcoin’s future?

Although very few would have foreseen it back in 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto has revolutionized the financial system. It’s fair to assume that revealing his identity would impact the market and potentially Bitcoin’s price, however, it’s hard to estimate exactly what that impact would be.

In the meantime, the questions about his identity and whereabouts remain unanswered more than 13 years on and we’re left with Bitcoin as one of the world’s most generous anonymous donations.

 

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