Who created Bitcoin? Not since the enigma of Keyser Söze or the mystery around Banksy has there been so much speculation about a secret identity. Bitcoin was introduced to the world in a 2008 whitepaper titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. It was published by someone using the pseudonym ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’. To this day, no one knows for sure who Satoshi Nakamoto is.
What is undisputed is the impact Satoshi Nakamoto has had on cryptocurrency and blockchain. We explain what is known about Satoshi Nakamoto, who he may be, why he may have chosen to remain anonymous, and his impact in the crypto space.
Is Satoshi Nakamoto real?
Media outlets, industry figures and researchers have tried to identify Satoshi Nakamoto for years. It is now widely accepted that this name is a pseudonym for the individual or group of people who helped develop the first Bitcoin software and also who introduced the cryptocurrency and blockchain concepts to the world.
Such fervour and intrigue around his identity exists because the underlying technology and coding principles behind Bitcoin have birthed an entirely new industry. Nakamoto’s knowledge paved the way for countless other cryptocurrencies and decentralised applications and it changed the way wealth is created and distributed around the world.
Whether Nakamoto is an individual person or a group of people, their activity on online message boards (precursors to today’s chat platforms) has been found in many posts in the years leading up to Bitcoin’s creation.
Research shows he remained active in establishing Bitcoin and the blockchain until about 2010. However, it was reported that on April 23, 2011, he sent a farewell email to a fellow Bitcoin developer saying he had moved on to other things.
Because Bitcoin is the largest and most valuable cryptocurrency today by market cap, the quest to identify such an influential originator of today’s cryptocurrency landscape continues to feverishly grip imaginations.
We can’t explain who Satoshi Nakamoto is without delving into the history of Bitcoin. Before 2008, digital currency faced challenges with tokens being duplicated across multiple transactions. This meant digital currency, unlike traditional or paper currency, could be used for double spending, because there was no online traceability or guarantee that the tokens had left their digital wallet.
Enter Satoshi Nakamoto. On October 31, 2008, Nakamoto published the white paper “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, which outlined the concept of how digital currency could utilise a decentralised peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol that was cryptographically secure in order to address the double spending issue.
Nakamoto proposed an “electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party.”
This white paper detailed the blockchain system of verification to address this issue and outlined the theory and operating structure for Bitcoin.
Nakamoto developed this blueprint into Bitcoin in January 2009 and announced it the following month. Nakamoto created the first ever online message board post dedicated to cryptocurrency in February 2009 on the P2P Foundation forum.
In this post, Nakamoto stated, “I’ve developed a new open source P2P e-cash system called Bitcoin. It’s completely decentralised, with no central server or trusted parties, because everything is based on crypto proof instead of trust. Give it a try, or take a look at the screenshots and design paper.”
It is accepted as fact that Nakamoto collaborated with other developers on the Bitcoin software until mid-2010, making all modifications to the source code himself. He then gave control of the source code repository and network alert key to software developer and early Bitcoin lead developer Gavin Andresen. Nakamoto also transferred several related domains to members of the Bitcoin community, and ceased all recognised involvement in Bitcoin.
While his position as the inventor of Bitcoin is undisputed, Satoshi Nakamoto’s actual identity continues to be a hot topic of debate. Several people have been suggested, and even investigated, over many years.
Who could Satoshi Nakamoto be?
There are several theories that despite his Japanese name, Satoshi Nakamoto is not Japanese at all. The reasons for this are based on the use of ‘British English’ in the 500-plus forum posts he has made, in his white paper and throughout the Bitcoin code.
People have spent hours analysing his use of terms “bloody hard” and “maths” and the spelling of “grey” and “colour” as British English indicators that he was born in a Commonwealth country rather than Japan or even the USA.
Further theories about his possible British heritage come from text embedded in the first transaction he launched as part of his Bitcoin creation in January 2009. The text talks about an article in The Times British newspaper and a headline about traditional banking instability.
The time of day at which Nakamoto’s posts about Bitcoin were mostly made, have also contributed to speculation that he was not Japanese or living in Japan. They did not align with regular sleeping patterns and hours for Japanese people.
The complexity and brilliance of the Bitcoin code has led many people to posit that Satoshi Nakamoto is a group of people rather than an individual. However, the genius of the code probably belongs to one person than a group of people who have all managed to stay anonymous under years of intense scrutiny.
Here are the people speculated to be Satoshi Nakamoto.
Is Dorian Nakamoto the real Satoshi Nakamoto?
Newsweek thought they had identified Satoshi Nakamoto back in June 2014 when journalist Leah McGrath Goodman’s article “The Face Behind Bitcoin” was published.
Californian resident Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto was 64 at the time and had a long and distinguished career in computer engineering and academia. In addition to their comparable names, other similarities cited between Dorian Nakamoto and Satoshi Nakamoto included mathematical skill, temperament, Japanese descent and political leanings.
In her article, Goodman published quotes attributed to Dorian Nakamoto, that were said to be in reference to Bitcoin’s creation. However, Dorian Nakamoto staunchly denied any involvement with Bitcoin and dismissed the published quotes, claiming they were taken out of context. He maintained that he was discussing engineering rather than Bitcoin at the time of the interview.
The article created a media frenzy and generated debate around Dorian Nakamoto’s privacy because the Newsweek article included an image of Dorian’s home. Dorian Nakamoto went on the record back in 2014 after he was supposedly exposed, denying he was Satoshi Nakamoto and stating that he believed it was a fictional name.
This media uproar may have also been the reason that the real Satoshi Nakamoto made his last known public post following the article’s aftermath. Following Dorian’s public statement of denial, Satoshi posted, “I am not Dorian Nakamoto” in an online forum before finally vanishing for good.
Is Hal Finney Satoshi Nakamoto?
The first person to receive Bitcoin in a transaction in 2009, Hal Finney was a highly-respected computer scientist, coder, and cryptography enthusiast well before the Bitcoin boom. Other than Satoshi Nakamoto himself, Finney is widely believed to have worked on improving Bitcoin’s open-source code as part of its development.
He was speculated as being Satoshi Nakamoto because in addition to being part of Bitcoin’s creation, he happened to live closely to Dorian Nakamoto in Los Angeles, which was seen as suspicious by journalists from Forbes Magazine. When this was investigated, Finney was able to show proof that emails existed between he and Nakamoto as well as digital wallet transactions and history between the two.
While theories abounded, that Finney was either Satoshi Nakamoto or his ghostwriter, Finney strenuously denied that he was Nakamoto until his death from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 2014 at only 58.
Is Nick Szabo Satoshi Nakamoto?
Who created Bitcoin? Was it Nick Szabo? According to the New York Times in a published article in 2015, renowned cryptography expert and computer engineer Nick Szabo was suspected of being Nakamoto. This was due to the many similarities in their intellectual writings and studies and Szabo’s early involvement in the development of digital currencies including Bitcoin.
Szabo first pioneered the idea of smart contracts via a white paper in 1996 and his concept of a decentralised currency, “bit gold”, shares significant similarities with Bitcoin’s underlying principles. He also has a deep understanding of decentralised systems. In combination with his work for DigiCash, a digital payment system that used cryptography, this made him a worthy Satoshi suspect.
However, despite the parallels in their careers and interests, Szabo has consistently denied that he is Satoshi Nakamoto and no concrete evidence proving otherwise has been found.
Is Craig Wright Satoshi Nakamoto?
Australian academic and businessman Dr Craig Wright is the only identity who has claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, and that has been under oath in some legal cases. Wright was purported to be Nakamoto when Wired Magazine released a profile on him in December 2015. This was based on the ‘evidence’ of a white paper about cryptocurrency that was supposedly published on Wright’s blog a few months before Nakamoto’s now-famous Bitcoin white paper’s release.
Additional emails and correspondence regarding a “P2P distributed ledger” were also ‘leaked’ to the publication along with transcripts from tax officials and lawyers containing statements from Wright about his involvement in creating Bitcoin.
According to Wired, however, the blog entries and the supposed public encryption keys linked to Nakamoto appeared to have been backdated, casting strong scepticism over Wright being Nakamoto. The controversy over this claim led Wired to later recant its assertion that Wright was Nakamoto.
While many in the media label Wright “the self-proclaimed inventor of Bitcoin” and dispute his role in the cryptocurrency’s creation, there are others who believe Dr Wright is Satoshi Nakamoto. This is primarily based on his ability to consistently explain elements that are peculiar to Bitcoin such as the double hash, script workings, Secp256k1 and more. There is also court findings of a lawsuit initiated by the brother of one of Bitcoin’s early contributors, Dave Kleinman, who was Wright’s colleague.
Wright has been involved in many law suits which have disputed his identity as Satoshi Nakamoto and as the inventor of Bitcoin. These have gone against Dr Wright.
Elon Musk and Satoshi Nakamoto: The Intriguing Connection
Over the years, several names have been associated with Satoshi Nakamoto, but one name continues to resurface: Elon Musk.
A former SpaceX intern, Sahil Gupta, ignited the discussion with a compelling case supporting the notion of Musk’s potential dual role. Gupta says that Musk possesses a history of coding, having written software for companies like Zip2 and X.com, which specialise in peer-to-peer payments. Remarkably, the source code for X.com was written in C++, mirroring the monolithic nature of Bitcoin’s codebase.
Gupta also points out striking linguistic similarities between Nakamoto’s forum posts and Musk’s expressions, such as the use of phrases like “bloody hard” and “order of magnitude.”
Furthermore, Gupta notes an uncanny connection between Nakamoto’s alleged leak of a Bitcoin-related IP address in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, and Musk’s frequent visits to the area due to the proximity of SpaceX to Van Nuys. While these are circumstantial observations, they form a compelling story.
While there is no direct evidence to definitively establish Musk as Nakamoto, the convergence of geographical location, technical expertise, writing style, and philosophical inclinations creates a compelling case, inviting contemplation on whether Musk could indeed be the mind behind Bitcoin’s genesis.
Musk has denied being Nakamoto, however his interest in cryptocurrencies does align with the idea that he could be the creator of Bitcoin.
The original mission of PayPal, co-founded by Musk, and the vision behind Bitcoin are hugely similar. PayPal sought to create a global currency, independent of interference from powerful banking institutions and governments that often devalue traditional currencies.
Additionally, the use of British English in Nakamoto’s communications, along with American spellings later on fits Musk too. Having grown up in South Africa, a former British colony, and then relocating to Canada and the United States, he could have plausibly adopted both linguistic styles over time.
The importance of Satoshi Nakamoto’s anonymity
Experts in cryptocurrency suggest that anonymity was possibly the only option for the creator of Bitcoin. If the individual identity or group of inventors was known, there is great risk in having constant scrutiny and attention thrust upon them and possible danger from criminal elements or hackers targeting their family, associates and business.
Analysis of Bitcoin’s blockchain since its inception in 2008 has helped to deduce that Satoshi Nakamoto has around one million Bitcoins, which is significant. Given that the maximum possible number of Bitcoins generated is 21 million, Nakamoto’s stake of 5% of Bitcoin’s total number has considerable market power.
Owning a multi-billion-dollar fortune not only makes personal security a compelling concern, but Bitcoin’s potential to challenge sovereign fiat currencies and its ongoing challenges to governments of their frameworks could place Nakamoto at risk of government legal action or sanctions.
Identifying who is holding this much Bitcoin would also lead to constant pressure about their role in the cryptocurrency’s future. Anonymity ensures that no individual or group can exert undue influence or control over Bitcoin.
Why finding Satoshi Nakamoto remains so addictive
Who created Bitcoin? Will we ever know? Satoshi Nakamoto’s impact and legacy are undisputed in the cryptocurrency world. His genius for decentralisation, his blockchain concepts and his creation of Bitcoin have fundamentally disrupted the world’s traditional wealth distribution by introducing a new system of currency.
The irony of Satoshi Nakamoto is that his identity remains such a mystery in a structure that is based on transparency, thanks to his creation. Importantly, Bitcoin’s technology works and continues to evolve without his ongoing involvement.
While many would love to know who Satoshi Nakamoto is, there is incredible practicality and power in keeping him anonymous. By doing so, the focus of Bitcoin can remain on its decentralised and revolutionary technology, rather than be distracted by the identity or motivations of its creator.
Who created Bitcoin? It might be better that we never know.