The Bitcoin maker: 5 people who could be Satoshi Nakamoto
There is no denying that Bitcoin is one of the greatest inventions in the financial industry for this turn of the century. It reshaped the financial sector as we know it and introduced people to a decentralized platform where they can transact digitally without intermediaries. Needless to say, Bitcoin became the solution to people’s problems with fiat currency. It is fast, cheaper and eliminates the possibility of double-spending.
Despite being a revolutionary invention in the financial world, Bitcoin didn’t immediately gain traction. It started small with basically no value in 2009 but now, as of the time of writing, in September 2021, a single Bitcoin has a value of $46,627.33.
Some countries have even become open to accepting Bitcoin when processing transactions. In fact, Bitcoin is legal tender in El Salvador since September 7, 2021. The country became the first to consider Bitcoin as a legal currency and even went as far as promoting crypto by offering US$30 in Bitcoin to users who will sign up to the national digital wallet.
When you think about how much Bitcoin changed the world and the financial industry and helped pave the way for a new generation of crypto royalty, you can’t help but be curious about the identity of the genius behind this technology. Of course, everyone knows that it was Satoshi Nakamoto who pioneered the idea of cryptocurrency and made Bitcoin possible. However, the identity behind the pseudonym of Bitcoin maker still remains undisclosed to the public.
Crypto users even speculate that Satoshi isn’t alone and that Satoshi Nakamoto is a name used by a group of individuals who worked on Bitcoin. Let’s do some investigating to find out who he (or they) might be.
History of Bitcoin and the mystery of the Bitcoin maker
The history of Bitcoin began shortly after the financial crisis in 2008 where it was proven that fiat is failing to keep the economy afloat, especially with the intermediaries involved.
The mark of a beginning
The famous whitepaper titled ‘Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system’ was shared by Satoshi Nakamoto on a cryptography mailing list on October 31, 2008. It proposed Bitcoin, the world's first cryptocurrency which aims to solve the shortcomings of the traditional financial system by combining cryptography and blockchain technology.
Through these, it made faster processing of transactions, safer trades and cheaper exchange rates possible all while removing third parties from the picture and keeping the transaction data untouchable.
The first link to the chain
A few days after the whitepaper was published, the Bitcoin maker registered the project to an open-source code platform called SourceForge. Later on, the genesis block, which is the first Bitcoin block, was mined on January 3, 2009. This became the first 50 Bitcoins mined out of the 21 million Bitcoins planned to be created.
Inside the genesis block, Satoshi left a message which read ‘The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks’. This quickly became the headline of the London Times and many people interpreted it as an assessment of the current monetary system while others think of it merely as a timestamp for Nakamoto.
Making history, one transaction at a time
The first transaction using Bitcoin occurred on January 12, 2009, wherein 10 BTC was sent to a developer named Hal Finney who was later on speculated to be the Bitcoin maker, Satoshi Nakamoto himself. However, this was later proven false when Finney himself posted in March 2013 on a Bitcoin forum called BitcoinTalk that he is essentially paralyzed so he couldn’t be the Satoshi Nakamoto that the people are looking for.
In 2011, Satoshi Nakamoto sent a farewell message to his fellow developers saying that he ‘moved on to other things’ and that he left Bitcoin’s future in ‘good hands’. No one ever heard of him again after that as if he just disappeared in thin air.
Now, you might be wondering why the Bitcoin maker hid their identity. You'd expect someone who created world-changing technology to be out in the public, telling people about their creation. With Satoshi, this isn’t the case at all and this might have something to do with the basic idea behind Bitcoin.
Why did the Bitcoin maker hide behind a pseudonym?
The first sentence written in Bitcoin’s whitepaper reads ‘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.’ From this sentence, it is clear that Satoshi Nakamoto wants Bitcoin to be a purely decentralized system of transactions. For this to happen, there can be no central form of authority responsible for the whole system. If people can identify the creator of Bitcoin, they will look at the Bitcoin maker as the central figure of crypto thereby defeating the purpose of Bitcoin’s decentralized nature. From this angle, leaving to ensure Bitcoin’s decentralization sounds like the most plausible reason for Satoshi to disappear.
Another speculated event could be that Satoshi Nakamoto is proving to everyone the safety and anonymity of his program by leaving only his sender address code from the first Bitcoin transaction, demonstrating how untouchable you can be when using Bitcoin.
The last reason could be because Satoshi Nakamoto is afraid of getting in trouble with the authorities since people who experiment with currencies tend to clash with the government. This is not limited to manipulating government-issued tenders since even digital currencies are not spared! One instance is when the federal government filed a case against e-Gold, which is a company responsible for selling digital currencies that are redeemable for gold in 2007.
The search continues!
The disappearance of Satoshi Nakamoto only made people more curious and desperate in trying to pin an identity to the Bitcoin maker. There were even linguistic and behavioural studies conducted to help identify who Satoshi Nakamoto is.
These studies led people to believe that Satoshi resides in the United Kingdom since he tends to favour British English more than American English and he is known to use typical British phrases. There is also the distinct way in which he uses a double space after every period. The posting pattern also suggested that Satoshi Nakamoto lives in the Eastern or Central time zones.
A group or an individual?
An American computer security researcher named Dan Kaminsky and Stuart Haber, a director of the International Association for Cryptologic Research even speculate that Satoshi Nakamoto isn’t alone and could possibly be representing a group since their level of expertise in multiple fields is simply astounding as seen in how they created Bitcoin and its blockchain.
Haber’s work and researches about cryptography were referenced by Satoshi in his nine-page technical paper explaining how Bitcoin works exactly three times. Haber himself claimed that whoever Satoshi is, they took time to read the academic papers and combine the concepts in his research.
Satoshi displayed mastery of economics, psychology, computer science and cryptography, which explains why it is hard to believe that Satoshi Nakamoto is alone in creating the Bitcoin project. However, there's also the possibility that Nakamoto is simply a genius who is knowledgeable enough in all fields mentioned. Sadly, no one can confirm which between the two is the truth.
Unmasking the Bitcoin maker: Who could they be?
If there is one thing more controversial than the decentralized nature of Bitcoin, it is the identity of its creator who disappeared shortly after establishing Bitcoin. There have been countless speculations on who Satoshi Nakamoto could be. Take a look at the top 5 individuals who could be the Bitcoin maker below:
Michael Clear is one of the individuals who raise the most brows when it comes to the topic of who the Bitcoin maker could be. Clear is a twenty-three-year-old, talented graduate of Trinity College in Dublin. He took up cryptography, had been programming since he was ten years old and could use a variety of languages including C++, which is the language of Bitcoin. However, he is notably an extremely private person. Other students from Trinity College posted pictures and personal information on their research but Clear only posts his e-mail address.
He was suspected to be Satoshi Nakamoto for the sole reason that he has all the qualities of the elusive Bitcoin maker. In 2011, a journalist by the name of Joshua Davis was researching the individuals who could be Satoshi Nakamoto. He figured that since Satoshi displayed great knowledge in cryptography, he would be one of the attendees in the biggest crypto event in 2011.
Davis researched the background of the attendees and found out that there are only nine individuals from the UK and Ireland including Michael Clear. Six of the individuals are dismissive of Bitcoin while the other two, aside from Clear, had no history with large software projects leaving him to be the only possible candidate as Satoshi Nakamoto.
It is worth noting that Clear was the top computer science undergraduate of Trinity College in 2008. In the year 2009, he was hired by the Allied Irish Banks to help improve their currency-trading software. Along with this, he co-wrote research about peer-to-peer technology.
To experts reading the paper, it is clear that Michael is well versed in cryptography, peer-to-peer networks and economics. Not to mention that he also used British English in his papers. All the qualities seem to match Satoshi Nakamoto.
The elusive genius
In an interview with Davis, Michael Clear admitted that he likes to keep a low profile and he was impressed that he was found. Davis then discussed how Clear’s research on peer-to-peer technology helped him gain a unique insight into Bitcoin. Refusing to let Davos beat around the bush, Clear shut him down by saying that he is currently focused on homomorphic encryption and he hasn’t been following Bitcoin as of late.
Given that Clear is working for Allied Irish Banks, he was asked by Davis what he felt about the economic crisis at that time since it is speculated that Bitcoin was created in response to the crisis. Clear flatly answered that the crisis could have been averted. When asked whether Bitcoin could prevent future banking crises, Clear answered that Bitcoin needs to prove itself first.
Finally, Davis asked Clear whether he is the Bitcoin maker. Clear only laughed but denied nothing. He, however, offered to help review Bitcoin’s design but didn’t ask for the link for the code saying that he can find it himself. He was the one who pointed a finger at the next possible person behind Satoshi Nakamoto, which is Vili Lehdonvita.
The Finnish professor at Helsinki Institute of Information Technology, Vili Lehdonvirta is one of the first people to be speculated as Satoshi Nakamoto, at least according to Michael Clear. Clear deemed Vili as a worthy fit for Satoshi Nakamoto based on his skills in information technology.
Joshua Davis, a journalist at the New Yorker, quickly jumped on the opportunity to interview Vili Lehdonvirta at the Crypto 2011 Conference. It was discovered that Vili used to be a game developer who then moved on to study virtual currencies. His knowledge in programming is what landed him on this list.
However, Vili laughingly denied the speculation saying that he would love to claim the identity of Satoshi because he thinks Bitcoin is a ‘clever’ idea, but he doesn’t have the cryptography and C++ programming skills required to make Bitcoin possible. He mentioned that to create Bitcoin, one must be a crypto expert and he isn’t one of those.
A worrying use of Bitcoin
Lehdonvirta studied Bitcoin as a virtual currency and he expressed his worries about Bitcoin possibly being used by criminals since the only people who need cash in large denominations are those who want to get under the government’s nose. He followed it up by saying that Bitcoin removed the obstacles that hinder moving and storing money and allowed people to preserve the anonymity of cash.
As part of the advisory board in Electronic Frontier Finland, Lehdonvirta said that Bitcoin took privacy ‘too far’ and mentioned that the only ones who crave absolute and unbreakable financial privacy are the anarchists. He said that there needs to be a backdoor in Bitcoin that will allow law enforcement to intercede if needed.
Lehdonvirta then admitted in the interview with Joshua Davis that part of what attracts the users of Bitcoin is the mythical background of Satoshi Nakamoto. Vili even suggested that it is a marketing trick.
When Satoshi Nakamoto departed in 2011, they handed the reins to Gavin Andresen, leading people to speculate whether Gavin is Satoshi Nakamoto himself. If they are the same person, this would be an effective way for Satoshi to take attention away from him while also not leaving Bitcoin completely.
More evidence from a stylometry study by Zy Crypto, an interactive crypto website, suggest that Gavin’s writing is the one that most closely resembles Satoshi’s writing than any other candidate.
The only thing that takes the suspicion away from Gavin is the fact that he was the first to be hoodwinked when Craig Wright claimed to be the Bitcoin maker, saying that Wright’s claims seem plausible. However, this might just be a ploy to keep further distance between him and the speculations as Satoshi Nakamoto.
Among the theorized candidates who could be Satoshi Nakamoto, it is Hal Finney that is the most convincing. The reason for this is because he is the first respondent to Satoshi’s announcement of Bitcoin as well as the first person involved in the Bitcoin transaction. More than any other candidate, he is the one that epitomizes Bitcoin the most.
He saw the potential of Bitcoin when no one did. To add to the evidence, his writing also matched Nakamoto’s according to Juola and Associates, an internationally noted text analyst.
To substantiate the claims even more, Hal Finney’s residence was identified to be only two blocks away from the house of a Japanese man named Dorian Nakamoto, who was born as Satoshi Nakamoto. While some initially think that Dorian is the Bitcoin maker himself, people started speculating that Dorian might have just influenced Finney’s nom de plume since Dorian’s home has been foreclosed by a bank. He took his name as a symbol of those who are victims of the traditional financial system.
As to why Dorian himself couldn’t be Satoshi Nakamoto, Dorian said so himself that he never heard of Bitcoin before. Hal Finney denied the claims as well, however, people are still speculative.
When you search about the Bitcoin maker’s identity online, the first name that you will see would be Nick Szabo. He was suspected to be Satoshi due to their similar styles in writing. Aside from that, Szabo created 'bit gold', one of the closest forerunners to Bitcoin. In terms of skills, he is highly capable, if his development of bit gold has anything to say.
It was also revealed that in 2008, Szabo shared in his blog that he was planning to create a live version of bit gold. A few months after Szabo said this, Bitcoin appeared and took the world by storm. The blog posts that Szabo posted in 2008 all have the hallmark of Satoshi Nakamoto, from the preference to British English down to the tone and seemingly perfect grammar with little to no mistakes. However, the most telling evidence would be Satoshi Nakamoto’s decision not to cite Szabo’s work on bit gold.
As you can see, there are many possible individuals who could be Satoshi Nakamoto. Most of the individuals on the list denied involvement with Satoshi, but we can never know. If Satoshi decided to remain faceless, they most certainly won’t admit their identity when asked. All that’s left is to speculate or live with the fact that Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity will forever remain a mystery.
How to prove the identity of the Bitcoin maker
There are many people who claim to be Satoshi Nakamoto and even more individuals who are rumoured to be the Bitcoin maker. However, unless they have the following, then everyone is in a Schrodinger’s cat position where they are either Satoshi or just another individual who claims to be him.
Access key to Genesis block
According to Matthew Green, a cryptographer from John Hopkins University, one of the few ways that a candidate can prove their identity as Satoshi Nakamoto is to possess the access key to the first block in the blockchain where the first 50 Bitcoins were mined.
The data from the blocks are controlled by a collection of private keys with cryptographic codes that only the Bitcoin maker has in theory. If anyone who claims to be Satoshi can move any of the 50 Bitcoins (which have never been transferred) to a different address, that would be a tip-off that they are indeed the Bitcoin maker.
Transact from the same address
The first crypto transaction in history occurred on January 12, 2009, where Satoshi Nakamoto himself sent 10 BTC to Hal Finney. If those who claim to be Satoshi can send Bitcoin using the same address that sent the first BTC, Satoshi’s identity could be verified since the private key is one of a kind.
Fun facts about the Bitcoin maker!
There isn’t much known about the Bitcoin maker, but they did leave behind a few clues that might tickle your curious mind. Take a look at the fun facts about Satoshi Nakamoto below:
- Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin address (12cbQLTFMXRnSzktFkuoG3eHoMeFtpTu3S) is extracted from when he first transacted with Hal Finney. It is said that anyone whose transaction can be traced to this address is the one and only Satoshi Nakamoto himself/herself or themselves!
- The smallest fraction of Bitcoin is named after Satoshi Nakamoto. It is called Satoshi (sat) which has the value of 0.00000001 BTC or one hundred millionth of a Bitcoin. The name was proposed in 2008 by a Bitcoin developer who calls himself Reebok.
- Sergio Demian Lerner, a developer and programmer who knows Bitcoin inside-out, claims that a user that is presumably Satoshi Nakamoto had only spent 500 Bitcoins!
- In 2015, Satoshi Nakamoto was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences by a professor of finances at UCLA, named Bhagwan Chowdhry.
Will the mystery ever end?
Sadly enough, we will never know how this mystery ends. Maybe Satoshi Nakamoto will reveal himself, maybe he won’t. The Bitcoin maker could be waiting for the perfect opportunity to come out, but until then, all that is left is to enjoy the beauty of what Satoshi Nakamoto had created and invest in the ever-growing industry of crypto.
Whether the Bitcoin maker will lift the mask and reveal his secrets is entirely up to them, but if they hid for this long, we only have reason to believe that he won’t be coming out of the shadows any time soon. Regardless, they left behind a revolutionary technology that shaped the financial world!
Words by: Ana Gabrielle Gundran