In 2008, a 9-page whitepaper was published by a mysterious individual named Satoshi Nakamoto. This whitepaper proposed created a decentralized peer-to-peer banking system named Bitcoin. A decade later, Bitcoin has become the world's leading cryptocurrency... but its mysterious founder remains an enigma...
"A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution. Digital signatures provide part of the solutin, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted third party is still required to prevent double-spending. We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network."
Those are the opening lines of a nine-page whitepaper, published in November of 2008. The whitepaper was written by an unknown individual - named Satoshi Nakamoto - who emerged onto the world stage with this proposal.
The title of the report was "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System," and it was a thorough approach to a divisive topic. You see, this was the first time that the word "bitcoin" would enter the public vernacular; it was also a well-documented proposal, full of sources for its gradiose claims, and claimed to have a comprehensive plan to do what many believed was the impossible.
For years - decades, even - cypherpunk enthusiasts and libertarian-minded progammers had been yearning for a digital-based currency: cryptocurrency, if you will. And there had been repeated attempts to fill this niche, such as B-Money, HashCash, and Bit Gold. However, unfortunately, all of these reached a dead end in their pursuit of a decentralized banking system. They had neither the scope nor the security to grow into their idealized goals; with their failures, the idea of cryptocurrency had become something of a fantasy.
But this whitepaper - which debuted online in November of 2008 - seemed poised to change all of that. And it would, with the proposal leading to the birth of Bitcoin - a cryptocurrency that is now synonymous with the word.
However, at the time, skeptics were turned off by the proposal. Not only was it trying to do the impossible, but the person behind it was an unknown. They had no web profile. No known backing. No identity.
To this day, many still wonder what led to the creation of Bitcoin... and who the person behind it actually was. A person who would now be one of the richest people on the planet, but whose identity has never been discovered.
This is the story of Satoshi Nakamoto.
In 2005, a profile was created on the website of P2P Foundation - an organization which studies the impact of peer-to-peer technology, especially in regards to societal effects.
The profile belonged to Satoshi Nakamoto. Supposedly, Satoshi - as he would later be known among crypto communities online - claimed to be from Japan.
His birthday was listed as April 5th, 1975, which seemed innocuous at first. However, many have tried to find meaning in the date, pointing out that April 5th happened to be the day in which U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed two executive orders, back in 1933. The first of which created the Civilian Conversation Corps, and the second of which forbade the hoarding of gold coin, bullion, and certificates by private citizens.
Then, the year - 1975 - happened to be the year in which gold ownership was relegalized for U.S. citizens.
It's possible that these dates are just misnomers, but I find them worth mentioning.
Others have also tried to decipher the meaning of the name: Satoshi Nakamoto. Many think that it's a jumbling together of large Japanese/American companies - Samsung, Toshiba, Nakayama, and Motorola. Take the first few letters of each, and you end up with... Satoshi Nakamoto.
Others point to the liberal translations of the names: Satoshi roughly meaning "wise" in Japanese, and the Nakamoto family surname meaning "central origin"... or something like it.
I know that this is all a bit of a stretch, but I'd feel remiss not mentioning any of this before we get into any of the theories later on. Many people have tried to find meaning in everything said or done by this mysterious figure, and they point to these original building blocks as providing a lot of structure for Satoshi's later actions.
Years after the creation of the profile on P2PFoundation - in which nothing of note was posted or accomplished by the enigmatic figure - something began stirring behind the scenes.
On August 18th, 2008 - three years later - the domain name "bitcoin.org" was registered through an Japanese registry service. The service, which kept names anonymous, was used by a Japanese internet service provider to register the domain.
This is the first time that anything to do with the word "bitcoin" appeared in the public realm. It had not appeared on any other documents or registries up until this point, but would be joined just months later by a significant publication.
On November 1st, 2008, the nine-page whitepaper I told you about in the introduction was published. Titled "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System," the paper was well-documented and articulate, and seemed to address many of the problems that critics and skeptics had had in the past with prior digital currencies.
The author of the article was listed as "Satoshi Nakamoto," and an email address - listed just below that author's name - came from an anonymous German email service.
The whitepaper addresses all manner of flaws with cryptocurrency: how it all starts with an idea, but often lacks in security and encryption, and - eventually - gets bogged down in either trying to prevent outside attacks or trying to subert outside influence. His solution was a decentralized approach: one that put its fate not in the hands of one individual - i.e. a bank or another authority figure - but, rather, everyone involved.
If you're familiar at all with peer-to-peer networking, then you know that it is an effective way to spread information. It is the type of system used by the anonymous TOR browser, and torrenters throughout the world. It was using this technology that Satoshi Nakamoto proposed taking the power away from a central authority.
"The root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that's required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust. 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."
At around the time that Satoshi Nakamoto and his thorough, nine-page analysis began floating around the internet, the world economy was in a very precarious spot.
The tail end of 2007 saw a sharp decline in economic growth, and the following February, U.S. President George W. Bush signed the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 into law. The next several months saw the collapse of financial juggernauts Bear Stearns, IndyMac, and Lehman Brothers... establishments that, just a year before, had been regarded as "too big to fail."
So, as this climate escalated - along with the unemployment rates and record levels of debt - an enigmatic figure began making plans for a decentralized system.
In 2009, the first blocks of Bitcoin were created by Satoshi Nakamoto.
In the notes of this code - identified as the "Genesis Block" by Bitcoin users - the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto left a permanent record of the day's volatile climate. In the "Genesis Block," Satoshi preserved the day's news headline.
He quoted the January 3rd, 2009 headline of the London-based newspaper The Times, which read: "Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks." It seemed to be making a political point, pointing out the flaws of the current capitalistic banking system, which led to increased taxes for the users and bailouts for the banks that mishandled the money.
In addition, this also seemed to serve as a document for the date; like what you'd imagine from someone taking a hostage photo. It provided indisputable proof that the "Genesis Block" was created on January 3rd, 2009, at approximately 18:15, Greenwich Mean Time.
It was about a week later - on January 9th, 2009 - that Bitcoin was finally released to the public. Version 0.1 was released on Sourceforge, a website where users can create and promote open-source software.
The code for the program was written in C++, indicating that the user was likely up-to-date with modern computer languages. Perhaps the creator was even on the young side. Others pointed out that the notation-style of the software's code was similar to that of someone around the age of 50, but it's impossible to tell from the code alone.
The total build of Bitcoin 0.1 was around 31,000 lines, but those 31,000 lines would end up changing the world.
Bitcoin drew major influences from prior cryptocurrency attempts, but was remarkably different, in very interesting and profound ways.
The major selling point of Bitcoin, off the bat, was that it was decentralized. It was a digital currency that could be sent to and received at an account address, and the owner of the currency would have a digital key to unlock it. This key was kept privately, and could be stored on a CD or a flash drive... anything with storage, really.
But, from the beginning, it was apparent that Bitcoin fixed one of the major flaws people had with digital currency. Often times, a digital-type of currency led to double-spending. That is when you have a digital coin, for example, and you simply make a copy of it. In prior cryptocurrencies, people who copy the currency once or twice over, and then keep spending the copies. It'd be like you being able to photocopy a dollar bill; it devalues the currency.
To fix this, and become prominent on a global stage, Bitcoin needed to stand apart. This is where peer-to-peer networking came in.
Peer-to-peer networking became the main attraction for Bitcoin, because it created type of public ledger known as the blockchain. The blockchain is constantly being updated, with transactions being added to the blockchain, and the system using a peer-to-peer network to constantly update it.
Essentially, the system operates with no central figure. There's no server, where all of the money is stored. It's stored privately, but each transaction is a public record, and added to the endless blockchain. From there, the peer-to-peer network - every computer connected to the network - keeps the blockchain updated through a process known as "mining."
Bitcoin mining is a system that adds transactions to the blockchain, but also incentivizes users of Bitcoin to remain active. Those that support the blockchain are rewarded in Bitcoin, which is given out for every block added to the chain.
I know that some of you may be somewhat overwhelmed right now, and trust me - you're not alone. I'm a total newbie when it comes to cryptocurrencies, so this is very confusing for me, as well. However, all you really need to know is that Bitcoin was a currency created to cut out the middleman: it made every transaction public, and kept power in the hands of those that participated in the system.
Essentially, it took the "bank's" role from the banking system, and made it an open-source, peer-to-peer network.
Satoshi Nakamoto seemed to be aware that Bitcoin would remain worthless if a cap wasn't established on Bitcoin, so the system was launched with an end goal in-mind. The system was created to reward a grand total of 21 million Bitcoin, when all was said and done, but that will - hopefully - not be for many, many years. Each single bitcoin can be reduced in millions of parts, and the most basic units - 100,000,000 units for every Bitcoin - have since become identified as "Satoshi," named after the currency's founder.
Bitcoin miners - those that participate in the system - can earn bitcoin by mining, but early users were the most well-rewarded. For every 210,000 additions to the blockchain - the public ledger that keeps transactions open-sourced - the reward for miners gets cut in half, and that will continue until all 21 million Bitcoins have eventually been "mined."
It's a very complicated system, and it's one that I hope makes sense for those of you that are as inexperienced as I am. However, it was thoroughly analyzed by the founder of Bitcoin, and seems poised to remain prominent for some time.
In the early days of Bitcoin, there were very few users. The program launched in January of 2009 to very little fanfare - after all, it was an open-sourced cryptocurrency launched by a complete unknown, so it's no surprise that there weren't many early adopters.
The first few days consisted of the mysterious founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, being the only person to contribute. Because of this, Satoshi earned nearly a million Bitcoin by the system's rewarding program, which gave him credit for being one of the only people to mine early on.
For reference, a million Bitcoin is nearly 5% of the unit's total amount. Like I said, Bitcoin was created to deplete after 21 million units. So being able to obtain - and hoard, nearly a million Bitcoin is now seen as an impossibility. It's nearly 5% of Bitcoin's total value, and it was earned in the first few months of the program's usage.
Satoshi Nakamoto seemed to reach out to early adopters of the system, and was receptive to suggestions for future fixes. Crypto-legend Hal Finney became one of Bitcoin's earliest users; in fact, he was the second person to use Bitcoin, after the founder. He received a small payment from the mysterious Satoshi, becoming the only other user of the currency.
A coder named Martii Malmi - who went by the username of "Sirius" - became one of Bitcoin's earliest users. He began contributing to the project, and became the second known person to work on the project itself, after Satoshi.
When Bitcoin version 0.2 was released later that year - in December of 2009 - the project had been overhauled by much of Malmi's code. This included Linux support, which Malmi had made possible.
Throughout 2009, the project continued to grow and prepare for a more scaled usage. It was still very rough around the edges, but as Martii Malmi and others began to contribute to the project, it became a much more idealized version of a cryptocurrency.
Throughout 2009, the program continued to grow. By the end of the year, when version 0.2 was released, the program began to spread rapidly through cypher and crypto circles.
In 2010, a couple of contributors began working on the project. Over the next several years, they would become integral to the growth of Bitcoin, and would become permanently tied to the currency's history.
Gavin Andresen, formerly known as Gavin Bell, was a former Silicon Valley software developer, who described himself as "mostly libertarian." He discovered Bitcoin in 2010, and it appealed to his political and personal principles. He then made the decision to reach out to Bitcoin's founder, Satoshi, and began working on the code and offering up potential fixes throughout the year.
When Satoshi began taking a backseat in the growth of Bitcoin, it was Andresen that would become the de-facto guide for Bitcoin's continued growth.
Another prominent member of this rag-tag group of coders and designers was a programmer named Laszlo Hanyecz, who had become an early user of Bitcoin. He offered to help out, and sent an email to Satoshi, offering his assistance.
"I thought bitcoin was awesome, and I wanted to be involved, but I had a regular developing job. Nakamoto would send me emails like, 'Hey, can you fix this bug?' 'Hey, can you do this?'
"He'd say, 'Hey, the west side's down,' or 'We have these bugs - we need to fix this.' I'd be like, we? We're not a team. I thought that it was approval from him, that maybe he accepted me as a member. But I didn't want the responsibility. I didn't really understand all of the forces that were going on at the time.
"I'd say, 'Hey, you're not my boss.' I didn't take it too seriously though."
On May 22nd, 2010, Bitcoin was used for its first ever actual transaction, when Laszlo Hanyecz used Bitcoin to buy two pizzas. He sent the Bitcoin - 10,000 in total - to someone in England, who - in return - used their credit card to pay for pizzas. This would become a holiday in cryptocurrency circles in the coming years, with May 22nd being venerated as "Bitcoin Pizza" day.
Despite those 10,000 Bitcoins now being worth tens of millions of actual dollars, Laszlo says that he's not bitter about it.
As Bitcoin began to grow in digital circles, many wondered what its intention was.
It's founder, the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, remained pretty tight-lipped about why they had created the cryptocurrency. However, through some of his online correspondence, we have been able to decipher some potential inspirations.
In February of 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto wrote in an internet forum:
"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. We have to trust them with our privacy, trust them not to let identity thieves drain our accounts. Their massive overhead costs make micropayments impossible."
It had seemed, from the origins of the Genesis Block - when Satoshi inserted a link to a news article about a bank bailout - that Satoshi was upset about the way capitalism had inspired "too big to fail" banking. And the creation of Bitcoin seemed to be a circumvention of that system.
In 2010, programmer Laszlo Henyecz - the originator of the Pizza Day meme - asked Satoshi how long he had been working on the design for Bitcoin.
"Since 2007. At some point I became convinced there was a way to do this without any trust required at all and couldn't resist to keep thinking about it. Much more of the work was designing than coding. Fortunately, so far all the issues raised have been things I previously considered and planned for."
Laszlo seemed to be the one who got the closest to learning about Satoshi's true identity and intentions, but even those were held pretty guarded. Throughout their conversations - which mostly dealt with bugs in Bitcoin's code - Laszlo learned that Satoshi only ever responded at the end of the week. Often times, he'd email Bitcoin's founder throughout the week, but would receive all of his responses in one fell swoop on the weekends.
"I just assumed he was busy working on other stuff."
Laszlo tried to asking personal questions about Satoshi, but the enigmatic founder always avoided them.
"He or she or whoever it was never told me anything personal. I asked a few questions, but he always dodged them. Those questions never got answered."
Laszlo says that this was a little annoying, because he wanted to learn about the person he was working with. However, he says it wasn't really important.
"It's exciting because people love a man of mystery, but I try to steer people towards the fact that it doesn't matter who made it; he could be a psycho killer. People like to identify with heroes or villains, but in the cryptosphere, your code has to speak for itself. Charisma and being an interesting person only gets you so far when you're a developer. Ultimately, you'll be judged on the quality of your code and your idea."
Throughout 2010, as Bitcoin began to emerge as the leading candidate to the world's cryptocurrency conundrum, Satoshi Nakamoto became a spiritual leader to cypherpunks everywhere.
In fact, I've told you that Bitcoin itself can be reduced into many thousands of parts. The most basic of these units - the Bitcoin equivalent of a penny - have now been nicknamed "Satoshi," in honor of the mysterious originator.
Coders and software enthusiasts throughout the globe followed his or her posts religiously. Many began to try and decipher the posts for any signs of a hidden code, and the language from the posts was analyzed, in the hopes of identifying the person behind them. In this analysis, many things were learned.
It was observed that Satoshi Nakamoto seemed to have a great grasp of the English language. This was definitely not a foreigner trying to mimic English, as they had a seemingly-perfect understanding of grammar and punctuation.
Satoshi's earliest posts seemed to indicate that they were American, based on the phrases and wording that they used. However, in a short period of time, they transitioned into more and more UK-based jargon. They began to use the English spellings of certain words over the Americanized versions, adding the "u's" to words like "favour" and "colour." They also used the spelling of "grey" that had an "e," and used an "s" instead of a "z" in words like "optimise" and "modernise."
In various online posts, they even used the word "flat" to describe an apartment, "maths" instead of "math," and described something as "bloody hard." All of which, of course, indicated that the user was from the UK.
A Swiss coder named Stefan Thomas created a graph of the time stamps in which Satoshi was active online, putting together all of their forum and blog posts. This graph visually highlighted that Satoshi was inactive between the hours of 5:00 to 11:00 AM in Greenwich Mean Time. Translated to the East Coast of the US, this was between the hours of midnight to 6:00 AM.
Based on this, it became publicly theorized that whoever Satoshi Nakamoto was, they likely lived on the east coast of the United States, and had adopted some UK jargon to throw off their true identity.
In December of 2010, drama began stirring up some potential trouble in the Bitcoin community.
As I've stated: throughout the year, the digital currency had become popular in internet circles, but had yet to really break through into the mainstream. That began to chance towards the end of the year, when Bitcoin made it into international news headlines.
Wikileaks - the organization that became prominent for releasing government secrets via the internet - announced their intention to begin accepting donations via Bitcoin. After all, most banks and financial institutions were refusing to work with Wikileaks, and their Paypal accounts had been shut down by various government entities, so they were looking for a more open-sourced alternative. Hence: Bitcoin, the emerging cryptocurrency, becoming the obvious choice.
Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, was not too pleased with this decision. They had been working for over a year now to continue building up Bitcoin, and were hoping for it to grow into a legitimate avenue for payment; they were hoping that it would grow into a commonly-accepted currency, and was worried that an association with Wikileaks would damage its integrity. At the very least, it would attract unwanted attention and scrutiny from international figures, such as the US government.
One user on a Bitcoin forum stated, about an article published in PC World on December 11th:
"The article implies that Bitcoin was invented as a RESULT of Wikileak troubles... as sort of an alternative SOLUTION to Wikileaks donation funding troubles."
In response, Satoshi responded to the article - and the various comments - with what would become one of their last public remarks:
"It would have been nice to get this attention in any other context. WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet's nest, and the swarm is headed towards us."
About a week later - on December 19th, 2010 - software developer Gavin Andresen announced that he was taking a more active role in the leadership of Bitcoin moving forward.
"With Satoshi's blessing, and with great reluctance, I'm going to start doing more active management for bitcoin."
It was unknown at the time, but the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto already had one foot out the door. They were in the middle of their disappearing act, which wouldn't become public knowledge until April of the following year.
In April of 2011, Satoshi Nakamoto officially vanished.
In an email sent to a bitcoin developer, Satoshi stated that they had:
"... moved on to other things."
As such, Satoshi was no longer involved in the development or the growth of Bitcoin.
Satoshi's last forum message came in December of 2010, and that is when they seemed to stop all contributions to Bitcoin or the emerging community. Their Bitcoin forum account remains active, and it's last login date was just a few days after the news regarding Wikileaks: December 13th.
Satoshi Nakamoto ended up disappearing with close to one million Bitcoins. This fortune, which has been held in a single address - or wallet - has grown into a fortune in the years since. As Bitcoin has continued to grow in popularity, so has that fortune, figuring now in the billions of dollars. In that time, it has gone untouched.
Many have speculated as to why Satoshi Nakamoto decided to leave at the time in which he, she, or they did.
The most obvious choice is that Satoshi - whoever they were - saw the writing on the walls. They had done an outstanding job covering up their identity in the creation of Bitcoin, but realized that Bitcoin's involvement with Wikileaks would only lead to oversight, regulation, and perhaps even punishment for creating an unregulated currency.
Satoshi had made public pleas for Wikileaks to not pursue Bitcoin as a donation service, insisting that doing so would only harm the value of Bitcoin and result in Wikileaks getting "pocket change." Wikileaks seemed to hold off for a time, but ended up incorporating a Bitcoin donation address in July of 2011.
Another theory, at the time, is that software developer Gavin Andresen had possibly spooked Satoshi, during their communications in the fall and winter of 2010.
As I've stated, Andresen became the public face of Bitcoin following Satoshi's departure and disappearance. However, during emails exchanged between the two, Gavin Andresen told Satoshi that he was going to meet with the CIA - due to questions they wanted to ask him about his involvement with Bitcoin - and this seemed to predate Satoshi's departure by mere weeks.
Other Bitcoin enthusiasts began to wonder if Satoshi Nakamoto - the psuedonym used by the mysterious Bitcoin founder - had simply vanished because his or her job was done. Perhaps the founder had realized that Bitcoin needed to be created by a mysterious third party, and could be handed off to others after it showed that it could stand up on its own. Gavin Andresen seemed to lend credence to these theories when he announced on April 26th, 2011:
"Satoshi did suggest this morning that I should try to de-emphasize the whole 'mysterious founder' thing when talking publicly about bitcoin."
Many continued to ask questions about the departure of Satoshi Nakamoto, and the meaning of it.
Was Satoshi forced out of Bitcoin, for some undetermined reason? Did they leave voluntarily? Were they afraid for their life? Had they become so confident in Bitcoin, that they knew that for the currency to grow, it needed to stand on its own - with no central authority?
It was - and still is - impossible to tell. But approximately two years after the first release of Bitcoin, its mysterious founder was gone, leaving it in the hands of the earliest adopters, who continued implementing changes in the code and the future design of the software.
Many credit Satoshi for creating the program, but say that the software itself was very rough around the edges. Effective, yes, but sluggish.
Mike Hearn, an ex-Google software engineer that contributed to the code, said about Satoshi:
"He released Bitcoin to prove his ideas could work. It wasn't written to be a long-term sustainable product."
Hearn credits Gavin Andresen and the other programmers that took over for Bitcoin for revamping the system, and giving it legs for long-term growth. He says that Satoshi was brilliant, but described the code itself as "quirky."
Dan Kaminsky, one of the world's foremost internet-security researchers, examined the code and the product himself in the early 2010s. He believed that he would be able to crack the system quite easily... but was surprised to find that wasn't the case.
"When I first looked at the code, I was sure I was going to be able to break it. The way the whole thing was formatted was insane. Only the most paranoid, painstaking coder in the world could avoid making mistakes."
Kaminsky tried to orchestrate multiple types of attacks against Bitcoin's security, but all of these attacks were thwarted in one way or another. Kaminsky said about Satoshi and the system they created:
"He's a world-class programmer, with a deep understanding of the C++ programming language. He understands economics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking.
"Either there's a team of people who worked on this... or this guy is a genius."
This thought was shared by Stuart Haber, a researcher for H.P. Labs in Princeton that also served as the director of the International Association for Cryptologic Research.
"Whoever this this had a deep understanding of cryptography. They've read the academic papers, they have a keen intelligence, and they're combining the concepts in a genuinely new way."
Bitcoin continued to scale in the following years, growing more and more popular. Satoshi Nakamoto had always dreamed of it being accepted as an online currency that was widely accepted, and that became more idealized as multiple vendors began to implement it in payment portals. This included Microsoft, Steam, Paypal, Newegg, and many more.
As Bitcoin continued to grow, many more became curious about its mysterious creator... and where they had disappeared off to. After all, Bitcoin continued to grow in value, turning their one million bitcoin wallet into a small fortune. When they had disappeared, bitcoins were worth just pennies. But as the bitcoins grew past a dollar, it became apparent that the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto had created an open-source computer program that increased their own wealth.
Many thought that Satoshi Nakamoto was none other than Gavin Andresen - the heir apparent to the Bitcoin organization, who became the public face of the currency following Satoshi's disappearance. However, Andresen provided his own correspondence with Satoshi up for any skeptics, and emphatically addressed the rumors in multiple statements:
"I am not Satoshi Nakamoto; I have never met him; I have had many e-mail conversations with him. Nobody knows who he is, I think."
In March of 2014, an article in Newsweek claimed to have learned the true identity of the founder of Bitcoin.
The person in-question was a Japanese-American man named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, who lived in Temple City, California - a suburb of Los Angeles. He was an ex-engineer and programmer that was in his early-to-mid sixties, and who had raised a family in the area. Some of his children were identified in the Newsweek article, published by author Leah McGrath Goodman.
The article itself explored Dorian Nakamoto's past, including his career in system engineering for classified defense projects, and working as a computer engineer for several financial information companies.
In the article, journalist Leah McGrath Goodman says that when asked about his involvement in Bitcoin, Dorian Nakamoto responded by saying:
"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it. It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
After this publication, in March of 2014, Dorian Nakamoto would claim that this was all a huge misunderstanding. He said that he had misheard the question, and believed it was related to some prior work he had done for Citibank.
However, at this point, the damage was done. Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto was outed to the world as the founder of Bitcoin, and journalists and investigators began rummaging through his past. It was discovered that he had been laid off twice in the mid-1990s, resulting in him becoming a staunch libertarian. It was also discovered that Dorian Nakamoto had insisted that his children start businesses of their own which were, in his words, "not under the government's thumb."
The next several months saw an escalation in the hunt for the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, with many thinking that Dorian Nakamoto fit the bill. After all, he had a history of working as an engineer for classified defense projects and financial institutions, had political ideals very similar to that of the Bitcoin founder, and the usage of the name alone raised some suspicions.
But, funnily enough, an account belonging to THE Satoshi Nakamoto became active again on March 7th, 2014 - roughly three years after falling silent. The account posted just one comment online:
"I am not Dorian Nakamoto."
The account has not been active again, and many wonder where it was actually Satoshi Nakamoto who made the comment, or someone who gained access to the account.
It remained undetermined whether or not Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto had any involvement in Bitcoin, but he would attempt to defend himself against allegations in the coming years.
Over the next year or two, Dorian would receive threats against his life, and had to seriously consider sending his family away for their own safety. Some that believed him to be the mysterious Bitcoin founder began trying to extort and blackmail him; a scare tactic that would become commonplace for those associated with Bitcoin.
Those in the Bitcoin community tried to make it right with Dorian Nakamoto, who had his life nearly ruined after claims of his involvement reached the press. In response, Bitcoin enthusiasts set up an account address for Dorian Nakamoto, and began sending in Bitcoin as a sort of-apology. Andreas Antonopolous, the CSO for blockchain.org, explained this in an interview:
"If this person is not Satoshi, then these funds will serve as a 'sorry for what happened to you.' It serves to soften the damage caused by irresponsible journalism and to demonstrate the generosity and empathy of the community."
It has not been proven whether or not Dorian Nakamoto had any involvement in the creation of Bitcoin, but he would eventually sell his Bitcoin in December of 2017 - after the price had reached what was its high point. It is estimated that he made upwards of $270,000 from the Bitcoin received in the aftermath of the Newsweek publication.
Another candidate that lived in Southern California was none other than Hal Finney.
Finney was a cryptographic and cryptocurrency pioneer, who had spent decades working on encryption projects. He had been involved with several incarnations of cryptocurrency, and was regarded as a genius in the field.
Hal Finney, who lived just a few blocks away from Dorian Nakamoto, was the second person to use Bitcoin - after only its mysterious founder. He had received some Bitcoin from the mysterious "Satoshi" as a part of some early test transactions.
In a 2014 forum post, Hal Finney described his involvement with Bitcoin:
"When Satoshi announced the first release of the software, I grabbed it right away. I think I was the first person besides Satoshi to run bitcoin. I mined block 70-something, and I was the recipient of the first bitcoin transaction, when Satoshi sent ten coins to me as a test. I carried on an email conversation with Satoshi over the next few days, mostly me reporting bugs and him fixing them.
"Today Satoshi's true identity has become a mystery. But at the time, I thought I was dealing with a young man of Japanese ancestry who was very smart and sincere. I've had the good fortune to know many brilliant people over the course of my life, so I recognize the signs."
Hal Finney says that he remained slightly-involved in the coding effort over the next several months, suggesting fixes to the blockchain system, but eventually became overwhelmed with his own personal demons. You see, Finney had been diagnosed with ALS in 2009, and knew that the disease carried with it a shortened life expectancy.
"The next I heard of Bitcoin was late 2010, when I was surprised to find that it was not only still going, bitcoins actually had monetary value. I dusted off my old wallet, and was relieved to discover that my bitcoins were still there. As the price climbed up to real money, I transferred the coins into an offline wallet, where hopefully they'll be worth something to my heirs."
At the time of this blog post - in March of 2014 - Finney's ALS had worsened. He was fully paralyzed at this point, and lacked motor function to perform basic tasks without assistance.
Finney's name was raised by some journalists as a possible candidate for the Bitcoin founder, especially when it was discovered that he lived just blocks away from Dorian Nakamoto. Both had lived in Temple City, California for over a decade, and had essentially been living parallel lives.
A writing analysis of Hal Finney's online postings also revealed that his writing style was very similar to that of Satoshi Nakamoto's; in fact, out of all of the Bitcoin candidates that would emerge over the last decade or so, Hal Finney's writing remains the most similar, as confirmed by Juolo & Associates, a highly-regarded firm that performed the analysis.
Unfortunately, Hal Finney passed away in August of 2014. It remains unknown whether he had more involvement in Bitcoin that he confessed, and due to his experience with cryptography and encryption, it is unlikely that he has any secrets to be discovered.
In 2015 and 2016, one of the more divisive Satoshi Nakamoto candidates emerged, in the form of an Australian businessman and computer scientist named Craig Steven Wright.
In December of 2015, Wired and Gizmodo ran articles detailing the potential involvement of Craig Wright in the creation of Bitcoin. They wrote that they had been contacted by an anonymous source, who claimed to have hacked the email account of Craig Wright. There, inside his email account, they said that they had found definitive proof that Wright had used the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto to create the world's leading cryptocurrency.
According to both Wired and Gizmodo, Craig Wright had created Bitcoin alongside his friend and business partner, Dave Kleiman. Wright was an Australian businessman who had worked for several alternative currency funds, and had worked to establish Bitcoin banks in the preceding years. Kleiman, on the other hand, was a former detective-turned-forensic computer scientist, who had been permanently disabled following a 1995 motorcycle accident.
Kleiman had died in April of 2013, and - allegedly - held the private keys for the accounts owned by Satoshi Nakamoto. Following his death, those keys remained hidden and untouched.
Immediately following this publication, the home belonging to Craig Wright was raided by Australian authorities; a raid that he claims was related to an audit of one of his multiple businesses.
Wright spent the next several days scrubbing his internet presence, but would publicly surface about six months later. He claimed to be the creator of Bitcoin, saying that he was the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. In an interview with the BBC, in May of 2016, he provided proof in the form of a digital key.
This digital key, provided by Craig Wright, seemed to be good enough proof for many in the Bitcoin community. This included Gavin Andresen, the public face of Bitcoin, who said as much a short time later.
Craig Steven Wright claimed that he would publicly provide proof that he was the founder of Bitcoin, but that claim went unfounded. Whatever evidence he felt confident enough disclosing behind closed doors remained confidential, and - eventually - Wright said that he wouldn't "keep jumping through hoops" to prove his identity.
In the years since, many have pointed to Craig Wright's history of backtracking and out-right fabricating parts of his life. On his LinkedIn profile, it became public knowledge that many of his academic qualifications, as well as sections of his work history and his customers, were lies. As you heard in that audio clip, he has also remained very hostile towards skeptics, who want him to take simple steps to prove his identity as Satoshi Nakamoto.
On CNN, economic expert Bruce Fenton was asked about what Craig Wright would need to do to prove his identity, and claimed that it wasn't anything drastic. It could be as simple as moving one Bitcoin out of an account tied to Satoshi Nakamoto.
It is possible that Craig Wright was one of the main creators of Bitcoin. Even skeptics have remained optimistic that he can prove his identity in one way or another, but they often point to his relationship with Dave Kleiman as a potential roadblock.
Dave Kleiman was Wright's alleged business partner, who he corresponded with throughout the 2000's. It is believed that the two worked together to create Bitcoin, as Wright has openly admitted that the two worked together on the 2008 Bitcoin whitepaper, under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto.
Perhaps Kleiman held many of the digital keys needed to access the accounts owned by Satoshi, and that is why Craig Wright remains unable to access those funds.
Dave Kleiman passed away in April of 2013, and since then, his estate has filed a lawsuit against Craig Wright. The lawsuit, which was for a sum upwards of $5 billion, alleges that the two worked together to create bitcoin, but that Wright left Kleiman destitute and broke in his last days. Only time will tell what happens as a result of that lawsuit, but it will hopefully shed some light on the true nature of Craig Wright's claims.
To this day, many still believe that his involvement is nothing more than a well-orchestrated hoax.
Another possible candidate for creating Bitcoin is a private San Franscisco businessman and computer scientist named Nick Szabo.
Considered the "Godfather of Cryptocurrency," Szabo created a proposal for a cryptocurrency named "Bit gold" in the late 1990's. Bit gold, often considered the direct precursor to Bitcoin, shared many similarities with the later product; albeit, in a much more antiquated sense.
Szabo had used pseudonyms in the past, and has been well-known for remaining off-the-grid. Even though he is a wealthy investor and creator, not much is publicly known about him.
Throughout 2007, Szabo kept a blog, in which he talked about theoretical changes he would make to Bit gold to make it more effective. He even spoke about reviving his cryptocurrency dream, which had ended years prior. This timeline roughly fit in to when Satoshi Nakamoto claimed to have begun work on Bitcoin.
Nick Szabo posted on his blog on December 27th, 2008, saying that he was looking for programmers and others interested in working on a cryptocurrency software.
"Anyone want to help me code one up?"
As we now know, the Genesis Block of Bitcoin was created just a week or so later - on January 3rd, 2009.
At around the same time that Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared - in the first half of 2011 - Szabo appeared to stop posting on his blog as frequently, and many consider this behavior similar to that of the Bitcoin founder.
Szabo has continued to remain one of the prime candidates for Satoshi, with financial author Dominic Frisby stating that Szabo is the only person in the world who has the knowledge and experience to create Bitcoin. New York Times journalist and "Digital Gold" author Nathaniel Popper also stated that:
"... the most convincing evidence pointed to a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo."
Szabo doesn't speak publicly that often, but has denied being Satoshi Nakamoto on numerous occasions.
"As I've stated many times before, all this speculation is flattering, but wrong - I am not Satoshi."
One theory that I haven't really touched on yet is the possibility that Bitcoin was created as part of a group effort: belonging to not just one individual, but several.
This theory can be traced back to the earliest days of Bitcoin, when Dan Kaminsky publicly floated this theory after examining Bitcoin's code. He noted that the program seemed to be meticulously created, with plans for every possibility. With over 31,000 lines of code, this was a pretty improbable task for a single individual; especially, one that no one knew anything about.
Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever they were, had created a nearly-impervious program, and managed to keep their presence a complete secret from the world's best hackers and programmers.
To Dan Kaminsky, this indicated a group effort, which put breadcrumbs out there leading in a thousand different directions, but left nothing incriminating behind.
"I suspect Satoshi is a small team at a financial institution. I just get that feeling. He's a quant who may have worked with some of his friends."
One group in particular has been singled out as possibly creating Bitcoin under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto. This is a trio of men, named Neal King, Vladimir Oksman, and Charles Bry.
On August 15th, 2008 - just months before the release of Bitcoin, and three days before the domain "bitcoin.org" was registered - they filed a patent for an encryption key. This patent was very similar to the key system used by Bitcoin, and was filed as patent #20100042841.
These three men - King, Oksman, and Bry - worked together and filed several patents over the years. These were generally related to encryption, nodes, and networking, but each have established patents individually; under their own names.
It is also worth noting that the language from the patent they filed together, just days before the first emergence of "bitcoin" on the internet, shares much of the language from the 2008 Bitcoin whitepaper. In fact, some of the phrases are exact replicas.
All three have denied being associated at all with Bitcoin, and deny being Satoshi Nakamoto. However, many think that the likelihood between the creation of bitcoin and the technology they innovated together is too great to be mere coincidence.
In 2017, Bitcoin reached its highest high yet.
The price of Bitcoin reached $20,000 in November and December, earning the cryptocurrency air time on almost every news broadcast and causing a major rush to collect and sell bitcoins before the bottom dropped out.
At this point, Wall Street itself started taking an interest in bitcoin. Now, major companies and investment firms have begun investing in bitcoin, and are trying to cash in on the cryptocurrency craze. Almost every financial institution has associates that are in charge of monitoring the digital currency market, which Bitcoin has emerged as the undisputed leader of. This includes firms such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, who have implemented digital currency trading desks into their investment systems.
It was in this time period that Dorian Nakamoto - the former engineer that lived in Temple City, California - sold the Bitcoin that had been sent to him after the alleged 2014 hoax. He is estimated to have earned upwards of $300,000 by selling his bitcoins during this time period.
The first half of 2018 saw Bitcoin drop dramatically in price, dipping below $10,000 per. However, the price has maintained itself relatively high, with the current price of a Bitcoin settling somewhere between $6,000 and $8,000.
It is estimated that Satoshi Nakamoto, who holds nearly a million bitcoin in his or her accounts, would become one of the richest individuals in the entire world if they were to offload their bitcoin. If we use a modern conservative estimate to evaluate bitcoin, at roughly $6,000 per, then Satoshi - who owns 980,000 bitcoins - would be worth nearly $6 billion.
In the summer of 2018 - just a few weeks ago, in fact - a curious story broke, regarding the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto.
A handful of news articles stated that a book was planned for the near-future, written by the mysterious Bitcoin creator. The book would detail the creation of the digital currency, and would reveal some of the world's first details about the person behind the veil.
A 21-page excerpt, titled "Duality," was published on a website called nakamotofamilyfoundation.org - a domain that was purchased just three days before, through Amazon's domain registrar. An excerpt read:
"I'm going to take a moment here to explain something. I know that some of you might be reading this or hearing about it for the first time, might not know, so I should state it publicly, although by now it is assumed, but has never been publicly stated before, so I shall make it official.
"Satoshi Nakamoto is not a real name. Specifically, not a legal name.
"It is primarily the essence of thoughts and reason.
"I wanted the most common name, which I knew no one outside of Japan had any recollection that Satoshi Nakamoto, was the equivalent of 'John Smith.'
"It took time for the public to come to this conclusion, but most with direct access to me had figured it out long ago.
The excerpt goes on to detail the alleged early days of Bitcoin, going into some of the technology used, and the program's creation. However, it also includes personal details of the writer. The person behind this excerpt explains that they were a university researcher in the early days of Bitcoin; that they likely lived on the east coast of the United States; that their mother was an author, and their grandmother had started a small publishing "company" many years before. The word "company" is used in quotation marks, so take that as you will.
The author of this excerpt says that Bitcoin only succeeded because it:
"... arose out of the many failed attempts by many groups, and the only reason it succeeded was because it was at the right place, at the right time."
Despite many of these facts seeming to correlate with what we know about the early days of Bitcoin - and its creator - it hasn't been proven that this book is anything more than an elaborate hoax.
The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remains a highly divisive debate among cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
Many believe that Satoshi chose not to reveal their identity to the world, and that we should all respect their wishes. Similarly, others think that publicly outing Satoshi Nakamoto - as a mere mortal - will only damage the integrity of bitcoin, and invalidate the appeal of the digital currency. After all, it was created to be devoid of any central authority; and wouldn't a messianic figure go against that?
It has been stated that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has figured out the identity of Satoshi. In 2017, Journalist Alexander Muse wrote that the DHS had used Nakamoto's writings to pinpoint the creator, after plugging them into a database that compiled trillions of writingsfrom around the globe. This included books, online postings, emails obtained, and many other writing samples.
Alexander Muse, in his article, wrote that the federal administration desperately needed to figure out the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, as they feared that the creator of Bitcoin might be some kind of state actor. The Obama administration, according to Muse, feared that Bitcoin might eventually be weaponized, and used against the United States current system of currency.
To many, this remains one of the most tangible fears of Bitcoin... and its creator. It's possible that there was no one man behind the creation of Bitcoin. After all, it has been used to transfer money - anonymously - between various figures around the globe. It has been used by anti-government organizations, such as Wikileaks; as well as by illegal operations, such as the Silk Road. At one point or another, figures involved with these operations have been tentatively tied to the creation of Bitcoin, but nothing definitive has been linked.
Some think that a powerful government might be behind the creation of Bitcoin: perhaps Russia, China, or even the United States government itself. Theories float around these world powers, with some speculating that these government entities saw the writing on the wall, and wanted to corner the cryptocurrency market before anyone else.
And before you call me a conspiracy theorist for thinking that, it's worth noting that large-scale projects like that do have a root in government programs. After all, both onion-routing and the internet itself spawned from government projects; with the idea for onion-routing spawning from employees in the US Naval Research Lab just years before bitcoin was created. This eventually spawned the Tor project, now known as the Tor network.
It's possible that some government saw the practical uses of crypto, and decided to corner the market before some radical party cropped up.
However, on the flip side, it's very possible that Satoshi Nakamoto - whoever they were - was actually a radical party: someone who didn't have any faith in the current banking system, and wanted to establish an alternative. In the process, they might have wanted to destabilize the system, for either good or bad intentions.
This leads us to two differing theories: each of which are pretty easy to identify.
There is the "Good Satoshi" hypothesis, which believes that the founder of Bitcoin had good intentions. They wanted to provide a valuable cryptocurrency, which would allow for anonymous transfers of money, and grow to provide a plus for the world's economy. In this situation, Satoshi simply worked to bring Bitcoin to fruition - following the 2008 economic recession - and then decided to take a step back.
In this scenario, Satoshi Nakamoto wanted to take the power away from the bankers, and give it back to the people.
Then... there is the "Bad Satoshi" theory. This scenario states that Satoshi was interested in creating a cryptocurrency for some kind of nefarious purpose. Perhaps they wanted to accumulate wealth, selfishly, and wanted to build up a system to cut-and-run with a million bitcoins. Perhaps, they even wanted to destabilize the current economic system, taking away wealth from our established currency.
In this scenario, Satoshi could be anyone: it could be a government entity, conspiring to change the world's economy; or it could be like a character from "Mr. Robot," hellbent on bringing Wall Street to a screeching halt.
The mysterious creator of Bitcoin has left behind quite the legacy.
In less than a decade, Satoshi Nakamoto has changed the economic landscape. Before 2009, cryptocurrencies were just a pipe dream: a fantasy for cypherpunks and computer nerds. Now, they are a reality... a reality worth tens of billions of dollars.
Several journalistic entities have tried to figure out the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. The New Yorker, Fast Company, Wired, Forbes, the Washington Post, the New York Times... countless newspapers and online sources have conducted investigations, large and small, to figure out the enigmatic figure at the forefront of the crypto revolution. All have come up empty.
I have proposed a lot of interesting candidates, but there remains one easy method for anyone to prove their identity. Satoshi Nakamoto continues to hold 980,000 Bitcoins, in addresses that are regularly monitored by Bitcoin enthusiasts. The real Satoshi Nakamoto - wherever they are - needs to only move ONE in order to prove their identity to the rest of the world.
Many don't want Satoshi Nakamoto to be revealed; not only because doing so would undermine his purpose, to serve as an anonymous figure for an encrypted currency system, but because it would open up Satoshi to all kinds of attacks. Not only physical - from those that have called in "swatting" and extortion attempts against cryptocurrency pioneers and stakeholders - but geopolitical.
After all, Bitcoin has become an international powerhouse, worth billions of dollars. It is the cutting edge of digital currencies, and every world government would love to have Bitcoin - and its creator - at their whim. What wouldn't stop a hostile nation from taking advantage of that, and using the wealth of Bitcoin to their advantage?
As of this episode's recording, the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto remains unidentified, and the story of Bitcoin and its creator remains unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Originally published on August 12th, 2018
Other original music created and composed by Ailsa Traves