Satoshi Nakamoto is the creator of bitcoin. That much we know, as he published his creation in Cryptography Mailing List in 2008. The actual identity of Nakamoto is unknown however. This does not mean there are not several candidates or suspicions about the identity of the unknown programmer who created the crypto currency sensation known as bitcoin.
The Name is Japanese so Satoshi Nakamoto Must be As Well, Right?
This is a presumption about the man that has no real basis in reality. In fact, we have no idea if Nakamoto is a man at all, he could be a she. The word itself can be broken down, with Naka meaning “inside, or relationship”, Satoshi meaning “Quick witted, wise”, and Moto meaning “foundation or origin.” These words could all be used to describe the meaning or principles of bitcoin, so the name itself could just be a clever way of describing the creation. Either way, it is unlikely that the name being Japanese means that the programmer is.
Who Knows the Identity of Satoshi Nakamoto?
The short answer is no one does. Nakamoto has chosen to remain anonymous, and has a lot of incentive to do so. The publicity and fame would be enormous and filled with pressure. Bitcoin has risen to become one of the most excited new technological inventions of the internet age. Every day it does hundreds of thousands of transactions between individual parties and businesses. Wall Street finances are being impacted as well with the creation of bitcoin investment vehicles, like $COIN, an ETF that focuses on bitcoin value.When you include the tens of millions worth of bitcoin traded on exchanges everyday, the financial implications of bitcoin have been enormous.
As the creator of bitcoin, Nakamoto has a financial stake in the crypto currency that would make him an extremely wealthy individual. At this time, the wallet holding the original coins held by Nakamoto has over 1 million coins in it. At current prices, that is around $450 million dollars. When bitcoin prices reached their all time high of a little over $1100 per coin, Nakamoto’s personal stash was worth over $1 billion dollars. That is an insane amount of money, enough to basically ensure that he would be hounded for money by everyone who got access to him. Even more intriguing, the wallet and the coins remain untouched, never having been cashed out into traditional currency. If Nakamoto values his privacy and sanity, and it certainly appears he does, he has no motive to reveal himself. Monetarily, he appears to have no need to either.
Who could Nakamoto Be?
The thing with the internet, is that nothing really goes away forever. Nakamoto himself left a trail of clues that cyber detectives have been trying to put together. In fact there are over 80,000 words in Nakamoto’s online writings, which have been analyzed repeatedly to attempt to decipher who they belong to.
Joshua Davis of The New Yorker Mazagine attempted to analyze the writings of Nakamoto, concluding that he was Michael Clear, who was a graduate cryptography student in Dublin. Clear denied publicly that he was Nakamoto at the 2013 Web Summit.
Many have speculated that Nakamoto might be a Finnish developer named Martii Malmi. Malmi is an intriguing suspect, because of his early involvement in bitcoin and the fact that he developed bitcoin’s user interface. This is significant because it belays and understanding of the coin that far exceeded most users early in bitcoin’s existence. Malmi is a seclusive person, preferring to be in front of a computer coding or gaming in lieu of the normal pursuits of a college student. He contacted Nakamoto in May of 2009, saying “I would like to help with bitcoin”. Malmi proved himself worthwhile to Nakamoto, and was quickly given access to bitcoin.org to revamp the site. This close proximity to Nakamoto, and the good relationship the two enjoyed, could point to Malmi actually being Nakamoto. There is no real evidence for this however, and Malmi has denied the claim.
Reporter Leah McGrath Goodman released an article in Newsweek early in 2014, claiming that she had found the real Satoshi Nakamoto. She named Dorian S Nakamoto the creator of bitcoin, a 64 year old Japanese American who looked nothing of the part. While Dorian admitted that he had been a part of the bitcoin project, he eventually hired a lawyer to protect himself from the backlash of the Newsweek article, and released a public statement denying that he was Satoshi Nakamoto.
The linguistics of Nakamoto, or how he wrote in his public postings, has been used to try to figure out his identity. Adam Penenberg of Fast Company argued that Nakamoto was in reality three different people. He claimed that Vladimir Oksman, Neal King, and Charles Bry were the the most likely suspects. His evidence came by means of analyzing particular or unique phrases used in the public Nakamoto writings. Phrases like “computationally impractical to reverse” are not likely to appear often, and Penenberg’s search revealed that Oksman, King, and Bry had filed a patent application using this exact phrase a mere three days before Bitcoin.org was registered. The three had filed this patent in order to update and distribute encryption keys. Encryption and anonymity being some of the main fixtures of bitcoin, this was somewhat damning evidence. Oksman, King, and Bry all denied that they were Nakamoto however, and bitcoin.org was registered in Japan using a Japanese ISP. This was 3 years prior to the registration being moved to Finland, diminishing the prospect of Penenberg’s theory being correct.
Is Craig Steven Wright the Real Satoshi Nakamoto?
Perhaps the most compelling theory names Australian Craig Steven Wright as the identity behind Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright was a little known 45 year old who was vaulted from obscurity when a wired article from 2015 claimed that he was most likely Nakamoto. The debate around Wright centers on some compelling evidence, but has significant questions that challenge the authenticity of that evidence.
A series of blog posts in 2008, posted on Wrights blog, contain some specific language that points towards him being Nakamoto. Several months prior to bitcoin being released to the general public, Wright wrote that he was intending to release a “cryptocurrency paper,” and referenced “triple entry accounting.” These phrases are indicative of intimate knowledge of bitcoin, because it was a ground breaking innovation in 2008, yet to be released to the public. Further pointing to Wright’s identity was the PGP key he requested people use when they contacted him. The encrypted PGP key belonging to Wright was associated with the email address email@example.com. The email address that Nakamoto used to send the introduction to bitcoin was firstname.lastname@example.org. The nearly identical addresses add to suspicions that Wright is in fact the creator of bitcoin.
On January 10th, 2009, Wright posted a blog entry that stated : “The Beta of Bitcoin is live tomorrow. This is decentralized… We try until it works.” That post was later edited and in it’s stead was a note that is somewhat confusing. “Bitcoin – AKA bloody nosey you be… It does always surprise me how at times the best place to hide is right in the open.” That post too, was deleted years later. This piece of evidence points to Wright as Nakamoto, but is strikingly direct if Wright really is Nakamoto. Why would Wright be so forthecoming about hiding right out in the open. He is essentially calling himself Nakamoto at this point, complaining about privacy, but doing so in a public blog post. Surely he had to realize that this would be used a clue later, but the post remained on his blog until late in 2015.
The evidence is compelling and there is a lot of it. Emails from Wright to his attorney in June of 2008 reference the bitcoin block chain, calling it a “P2P distributed ledger.” Later in the email Wright describes a paper he is going to release called “Electronic Cash Without a Trusted Third Party.” Emails to his now deceased friend David Kleiman contain discussions about a paper they were currently working on, which could very well be the bitcoin paper that was released in early 2009. Perhaps the most steadfast piece of evidence is a PDF that Kleiman agreed to take control of the “Tulip Trust”, a bitcoin wallet address holding over 1.1 million coins. Since the PDF was signed with Kleimans PGP signature, there is no way it could have been altered. The Tulip Trust is the largest hoard of bitcoins in the world, making this compelling evidence that someone closely associated with Wright was somehow the person selected to take control of the bitcoin hoard believed to be controlled by Nakamoto himself.
Wright however, has denied that he is Nakamoto. Most of the blog posts and other evidence that he is, has been edited and altered at suspicious times, leading most to assume that Wright is just a hoaxer attempting to gain notoriety. For now at least, the mystery is yet to be solved.