Satoshi Nakamoto, the inventor of Bitcoin, is also great at hiding.
Back in 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published a white paper online that laid the foundations of a peer-to-peer electronic cash system that allowed people to transact directly without the need of a third-party services or a financial institute. Whether this was for the better or the worse, this remarkable invention has single-handedly transformed our concept of economy and trade.
But, who is this Satoshi Nakamoto we should venerate / despise?
Satoshi Nakamoto’s modus correspondence was emails and mailing lists. Even though he did collaborate with other people online, he took care never to reveal anything personal about himself. The last the crypto-community had heard of him was the spring of 2011, when he mentioned that he had “moved on to other things.”
As of now, the identity of Satoshi is one the biggest mysteries surrounding the crypto-sphere, and individuals are rife with curious speculations and wild guesses.
What does he look like? Is he of Japanese origin? Is he even a ‘he?’ Unanswered questions are all that plague the crypto-enthusiasts.
The name ‘Satoshi’ translates to ‘clear thinking, quick-witted, wise.’ ‘Naka’ may mean ‘medium, inside, or relationship’ while ‘Moto’ could stand for ‘origin or foundation.’ Accordingly, the name Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonym. The creator of the digital currency could very well be a man, a woman, or even a group of people.
Some even wonder whether his eloquent writing style with use of flawless British English, and his comments surfacing after normal business hours end in the UK, could indicate him to be a British instead.
After analyzing Satoshi’s words to look for particular linguistic clues, The New Yorker’s Joshua Davis’s hunt for the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin yielded two names. Michael Clear, a graduate in cryptography from Dublin’s Trinity College, and former games developer, Vili Lehdonvirta. However, both have denied the claim.
Adam Penenberg at FastCompany Googled unique phrases from Satoshi’s white paper and came across a patent for updating and distributing encryption keys, which belonged to Neal King, Vladimir Oksman, and Charles Bry. Adam’s hypothesis was further strengthened when it was found out that the domain for bitcoin.org was registered three days after the filing of this particular patent application. Surprisingly, one of the patent authors had also visited Finland- The place where the domain was registered. However, all of them reject this assertion. Furthermore, the domain had used an anonymous Japanese registration service, and it was onlytransferred to Finland.
From Martii Malmi, a developer who worked on Bitcoin since its beginning, Jed McCaleb, who created the Mt. Gox exchange, as well as cryptocurrencies Ripple and Stellar, Donal O’Mahony and Michael Peirce who co-authored a paper about digital payments, to Professor Shinichi Mochizuki, a Japanese mathematician- To date, the list of potential Satoshis is very long.
There are also reports that the National Security Agency has identified Satoshi’s identity using stylometry, which is the analysis of linguistic styles for authorship attribution. The information regarding Satoshi’s identity has not been shared.
But perhaps, one of the best Satoshi stories we’ve heard so far involves these four prime suspects.
Nick Szabo a computer scientist, blogger, law professor, and an expert in fields of digital currency and contracts, is popularly known for his research on BitGold and coining the word ‘smart contracts.’ One of the first suggestions, he was linked to be Bitcoin’s creator after a number people, including Skye Grey (a researcher), a team of linguistic researchers from Aston University, and Dominic Frisby (a comedian and a writer), performed analysis of the white paper for linguistic traits and reached the same conclusion individually: Nick Szabo could have authored the whitepaper, although there is the possibility there were several authors. But, as much as the evidence does point in his direction, Szabo has since long refuted any connection to being Satoshi.
February 2014 saw Newsweek’s Leah McGrath Goodman having supposedly found the “real” Satoshi Nakamoto- a Japanese American residing in California going by the name Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto. Unfortunately, this was another dead-end as he also negated the allegation. Later, in an email, the original Satoshi wrote: “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
Hal Finney, an ALS patient, was thought to be another potential candidate. A cryptographic pioneer, being one of the earliest users of the Bitcoin software and improving upon it after Satoshi himself, was also the recipient of the first bitcoin test transaction. Hal had also corresponded with Nick Szabo, and lived only blocks away from Dorian S. Nakamoto. But, as such, the evidence was only circumstantial. In addition to this, Hal provided proof of communication with Satoshi, so the idea of faking conversations with himself was preposterous- This was enough to weaken the theory.
Rumors about another Satoshi replica surfaced on Wired and Gizmodo who identified Australian computer scientist and businessman, Craig Wright, after receiving a cache of emails, transcripts and other incriminating documents from an anonymous source. Craig vanished from social media, until May 2016 when he publicized himself to be creator of Bitcoin and promised proof to back up his claims. He privately demonstrated it to Gavin Andresen (one of the earliest programmers of Bitcoin) who did seem to be convinced. However, when it came to share the proof with the public, Craig backed down with an apology on his website stating that he did not have the courage to do so.
But, why is it important to find someone who doesn’t want to be found?
Satoshi is believed to possess about 5% of the entire digital currency, which numbers around a million of unspent bitcoins (some criticize this as being dead bitcoins). This stash is worth billions of dollars. Hence, Satoshi Nakamoto could be one of the richest people in the world.
Unveiling of Satoshi’s mask (either by himself or the world) could also have an immense impact in the internal workings of bitcoin.
If Satoshi were to allegedly sell his bitcoins, it could lead to flooding the market which would mean even more levels of volatility for Bitcoin. Furthermore, the Bitcoin community is caught up in a number of heated debates, particularly over issues of scalability. Although such problems are sorted through consensus between miners, investors and developers, the process is invariably slow. Hence, Satoshi Nakamoto’s influence and involvement could lead to more certainty in the development, and a sneak peek into the outlook of Bitcoin.
For the time being, like other enigmas in the world, the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto will keep many curiously wondering and waiting.