Bitcoin may be the largest and most popular cryptocurrency since its inception, but did you know that the creator of Bitcoin has successfully kept his true identity anonymous all this while, even today? Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the person (or even potentially “persons”) who created Bitcoin, has been a mystery even to the most avid Bitcoin fanatics.
Having such a massive, world-changing currency system be created by somebody whose identity is unknown seems risky - but fortunately, the very decentralized nature of Bitcoin that Satoshi Nakamoto built is the same reason why we can trust his software, as every single line of code and operation on the Bitcoin network is naked and fully visible to the public eye.
Nonetheless, historians, computer geeks, intelligence services and forensic specialists have tried for many years now to decipher the mystery of who is the true inventor of Bitcoin; and while many people have stepped up over the years to proclaim themselves as the alleged inventor, the truth seems to remain out of reach.
A quick history of Satoshi Nakamoto
Back in October 31st, 2008, Satoshi published “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, which is now known as the Bitcoin whitepaper - the document that started it all. He described it as an alternative to existing centralized currency systems, detailing the flaws related to centralized systems and how a decentralized approach could potentially address those flaws.
Subsequently, he published the first version of the Bitcoin software on the popular open-source software repository Sourceforge on January 9th, 2009, with an embedded message: “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”, referencing a headline in a UK newspaper published on that date.
He continued to develop and collaborate with others on the development of the open-source software, making all modifications to the source code himself; eventually, he handed control of the source code repository (not the network, but rather the “blueprints” of the network) over to Gavin Andresen in 2010, one of the major contributors to Bitcoin development.
He disappeared from the public eye early on, having never made any transfers of the Bitcoin he owns from mining early blocks except the test transfers from 2009. His final and last known communication from a verified account was as follows:
“I wish you wouldn’t keep talking about me as a mysterious shadowy figure, the press just turns that into a pirate currency angle. Maybe instead make it about the open source project and give more credit to your dev contributors; it helps motivate them.”
While we’re aware of the irony of writing about him even though this was his final correspondence, we hope that sharing more about the vision and thoughts of Satoshi Nakamoto can help people to understand more about the origins and purpose of Bitcoin.
Individuals who could be Satoshi Nakamoto
Nothing could be more interesting than the suspects involved in this mystery, so here are some of the top names that have been thrown around:
1. Gavin Andresen
Gavin was the biggest name after Satoshi to be associated with the Bitcoin name, having been the developer whom Satoshi handed over control of the public source code repository, as well as the last known contact from him. Some historians believe that he fits the profile of Satoshi, and has been writing from a pseudonym to distance himself from being held responsible for Bitcoin.
However, Gavin has never stepped forward himself to lay claim to the title, and in 2016 was even briefly supporting Craig Wright’s Satoshi claim.
2. Hal Finney
Hal Finney is one of the most prominent suspects in the Bitcoin story; a computer scientist who graduated from Caltech, he worked on computer games where he would have been exposed to the idea of digital currencies used inside of these games. He was a prominent cryptography activist and created the first proof of work system before Bitcoin. He has publicly spoken out against centralization.
Perhaps the strongest evidence is the fact that Hal Finney was the very first person to reply to Satoshi’s mailing list announcing Bitcoin, as well as the first recipient of a Bitcoin transaction - although it would seem unlikely that Satoshi Nakamoto would place such an obvious trail of breadcrumbs leading to Hal Finney, it could also have been a simple way to just distance himself from the responsibility of becoming a cult personality behind Bitcoin (which Satoshi has spoken out against).
Interestingly enough, Hal Finney lived just two blocks next to an old retired man named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, whose house had been foreclosed by bankers, making it hugely possible that they had decided to use him as the poster name to act as a symbolic representation on behalf of the victims of the financial crisis of 2008.
3. Nick Szabo
Nick Szabo, a prominent computer scientist whose field of expertise is in cryptography, had previously penned thoughts in 1998 for a highly similar concept to Bitcoin known as “Bit Gold”, also a decentralized digital currency. With his qualifications, he would have been one of the most likely people to have built Bitcoin - and more interestingly enough, he pioneered the concept of Smart Contracts that eventually led to the development of Ethereum.
He has repeatedly denied any early involvement in Bitcoin, despite circumstantial evidence by various authors, researchers, and stylometry experts (people who analyze and study text) that he is the most likely person to be Satoshi.