Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the person or group of people who created bitcoin and published the bitcoin whitepaper in 2008. In addition to developing the original bitcoin code, Nakamoto was the first cryptocurrency miner and is estimated to have amassed nearly 1 million BTC in the early years of mining. The coins have never been moved from their original wallet.
Nakamoto's true identity remains in question to this day, and the last public post made under the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym occurred in December 2010. Many speculate the creator stepped away without revealing a true identity to avoid being targeted by governments, as bitcoin was originally used most prominently in black markets and became one of the only ways for WikiLeaks to get funding after they were denied service by credit card companies.
Nakamoto stated that work on writing the code for bitcoin began in 2007. On August 18, 2008, they or a colleague registered the domain name bitcoin.org and created a website at that address. On October 31 of that year, Nakamoto published a white paper titled "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System" on the cryptography mailing list at metzdowd.com, describing a digital cryptocurrency.
On January 9, 2009, Nakamoto released version 0.1 of the bitcoin software on SourceForge. They launched the network by defining the genesis block of bitcoin (block number 0), with a reward of fifty bitcoins. Embedded in the Coinbase transaction of this block is the text "The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks," citing a headline in the UK newspaper The Times published on that date. This note has been interpreted as both a timestamp and a derisive comment on the alleged instability caused by fractional-reserve banking.
Nakamoto continued to collaborate with other developers on the bitcoin software until mid-2010 and solely made all modifications to the source code. Nakamoto then gave control of the source code repository and network alert key to Gavin Andresen and transferred several related domains to various prominent members of the bitcoin community. The creator then stopped their recognized involvement in the project.
Nakamoto owns between 750,000 and 1,100,000 bitcoin. As of November 2021, that puts the creator's net worth at up to USD $73 billion, which would make them the fifteenth-richest person in the world (assuming it is one person).
Nakamoto has never revealed personal information when discussing technical matters, though at times has provided commentary on banking and fractional-reserve banking. On their P2P Foundation profile as of 2012, Nakamoto claimed to be a thirty-seven-year-old male who lived in Japan; however, it has been speculated they are unlikely to be Japanese due to their native-level use of English.
Some have considered that Nakamoto might be a group of people. Dan Kaminsky, a security researcher who read the bitcoin code, said that Nakamoto could either be a "team of people" or a "genius." Laszlo Hanyecz, a developer who has emailed Nakamoto, had the feeling the code was too well-designed for one person. Gavin Andresen has said of Nakamoto's code, "He was a brilliant coder, but it was quirky."
Nakamoto's use of British English in both source code comments and forum postings, such as the expressions and terms such as "bloody hard," "flat," and "maths," and the spellings "grey" and "colour," has led to speculation that Nakamoto, or at least one individual in a consortium claiming to be them, is of Commonwealth origin. The reference to London's The Times newspaper in the first bitcoin block mined by Nakamoto suggested to some a particular interest in the British government.
Stefan Thomas, a Swiss software engineer and active community member, graphed the timestamps for each of Nakamoto's bitcoin forum posts (more than 500); the chart showed a steep decline to almost no posts between the hours of 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time. This was between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Japan Standard Time, suggesting an unusual sleep pattern for someone supposedly living in Japan.
Speculations regarding Satoshi Nakamoto's identity have focused on various cryptography and computer science experts, mostly of non-Japanese descent.
Hal Finney (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014) was a pre-bitcoin cryptographic pioneer and the first person (other than Nakamoto) to use the software, file bug reports, and make improvements. He also lived a few blocks from a man named "Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto," according to Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg. Greenberg theorized that Finney may have been a Nakamoto ghostwriter, or that he used his neighbor's identity as a "drop" or cover to hide online exploits." Greenberg asked the writing analysis consultancy Juola & Associates to compare a sample of Finney's writing with Nakamoto's, and they found it to be the closest resemblance they had come across, including when compared with candidates suggested by Newsweek, Fast Company, The New Yorker, Ted Nelson, and Skye Grey.
However, Greenberg determined that Finney was telling the truth after meeting them and hearing his denial, seeing the emails between Finney and Nakamoto, and going over his bitcoin wallet's history. Also, Juola & Associates found Nakamoto's emails to Finney were more similar to Nakamoto's other writings than Finney's.
In a high-profile March 6, 2014 article in the magazine Newsweek, journalist Leah McGrath Goodman identified Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese American man living in California with the birth name is Satoshi Nakamoto, as the Nakamoto bitcoin founder. Besides his name, Goodman pointed to a number of facts that circumstantially suggested he was the bitcoin inventor. Trained as a physicist at Cal Poly University in Pomona, Nakamoto worked as a systems engineer on classified defense projects and computer engineer for technology and financial information services companies. Nakamoto was laid off twice in the early 1990s and turned libertarian according to his daughter, and encouraged her to start her own business "not under the government's thumb." In the article's seemingly biggest piece of evidence, Goodman wrote that when she asked him about bitcoin during a brief in-person interview, Nakamoto seemed to confirm his identity as the bitcoin founder by stating "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."
The article's publication led to a flurry of media interest, including reporters camping out near Dorian Nakamoto's house and subtly chasing him by car when he drove to do an interview. Later that day, the pseudonymous Nakamoto's P2P Foundation account posted its first message in five years, stating: "I am not Dorian Nakamoto." During the subsequent full-length interview, Dorian Nakamoto denied all connection to bitcoin, saying he had never heard of the currency and he had misinterpreted Goodman's question as being about his previous work for military contractors, much of which was classified. In a Reddit "ask-me-anything" interview, he claimed he had misinterpreted Goodman's question as being related to his work for Citibank. In September, the P2P Foundation account posted another message saying it had been hacked, raising questions over the authenticity of the message six months earlier.
In December 2013, blogger Skye Grey linked Nick Szabo to the bitcoin white paper using an approach he described as stylometric analysis. Szabo is a decentralized currency enthusiast and published a paper on "bit gold," one of the precursors of bitcoin. He is known to have been interested in using pseudonyms in the 1990s. In a May 2011 article, Szabo stated about the bitcoin creator: "Myself, Wei Dai, and Hal Finney were the only people I know of who liked the idea (or in Dai's case his related idea) enough to pursue it to any significant extent until Nakamoto (assuming Nakamoto is not really Finney or Dai)."
Financial author Dominic Frisby provides much circumstantial evidence but, as he admits, no proof that Nakamoto is Szabo. Szabo has denied being Nakamoto. In a July 2014 email to Frisby, he said: "Thanks for letting me know. I'm afraid you got it wrong doxing me as Satoshi, but I'm used to it." Nathaniel Popper wrote in The New York Times that "the most convincing evidence pointed to a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo."
On 8 December 2015, Wired wrote that Craig Steven Wright, an Australian academic, "either invented bitcoin or is a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did". Craig Wright took down his Twitter account and neither he nor his ex-wife responded to press inquiries. The same day, Gizmodo published a story with evidence supposedly obtained by a hacker who broke into Wright's email accounts, claiming that Satoshi Nakamoto was a joint pseudonym for Craig Steven Wright and computer forensics analyst David Kleiman, who died in 2013. Wright's claim was supported by Jon Matonis (former director of the Bitcoin Foundation) and bitcoin developer Gavin Andresen.
A number of prominent bitcoin promoters remained unconvinced by the reports. Subsequent reports also raised the possibility that the evidence provided was an elaborate hoax, which Wired acknowledged "cast doubt" on their suggestion that Wright was Nakamoto. Bitcoin developer Peter Todd said that Wright's blog post, which appeared to contain cryptographic proof, actually contained nothing of the sort. Bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik agreed that evidence publicly provided by Wright does not prove anything, and security researcher Dan Kaminsky concluded Wright's claim was "intentional scammery."
In May 2019, Wright started using English libel law to sue people who denied he was the inventor of bitcoin and who called him a fraud. In 2019, Wright registered a US copyright for the bitcoin white paper and the code for Bitcoin 0.1. Wright's team claimed this was "government agency recognition of Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto." The United States Copyright Office issued a press release clarifying that this was not the case (as they primarily determine whether a work is eligible for copyright, and do not investigate legal ownership, which, if disputed, is determined by the courts).
Dave Kleiman was an American computer forensics expert who became a Nakamoto candidate in 2015 when the website Gizmodo first reported that he and Craig Wright were the Satoshi Nakamoto team. Kleiman passed away in 2013 before he was ever publicly tied to the creation of bitcoin.
- In a 2011 article in The New Yorker, Joshua Davis claimed to have narrowed down the identity of Nakamoto to a number of possible individuals, including the Finnish economic sociologist Dr. Vili Lehdonvirta and Irish student Michael Clear, who was in 2008 an undergraduate student in cryptography at Trinity College Dublin. Clear strongly denied he was Nakamoto, as did Lehdonvirta.
- In October 2011, writing for Fast Company, investigative journalist Adam Penenberg cited circumstantial evidence suggesting Neal King, Vladimir Oksman, and Charles Bry could be Nakamoto. They jointly filed a patent application that contained the phrase "computationally impractical to reverse" in 2008, which was also used in the bitcoin white paper by Nakamoto. The domain name bitcoin.org was registered three days after the patent was filed. All three men denied being Nakamoto when contacted by Penenberg.
- In May 2013, Ted Nelson speculated that Nakamoto was Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki. Later, an article was published in The Age newspaper that claimed that Mochizuki denied these speculations, but without attributing a source for the denial.
- A 2013 article in Vice listed Gavin Andresen, Jed McCaleb, or a government agency as possible candidates to be Nakamoto.
- In 2013, two Israeli mathematicians, Dorit Ron and Adi Shamir, published a paper claiming a link between Nakamoto and Ross Ulbricht. The two based their suspicion on an analysis of the network of bitcoin transactions but later retracted their claim.
- In 2016, The Financial Times said that Nakamoto might have been a group of people, mentioning Hal Finney, Nick Szabo and Adam Back as potential members. In 2020, the YouTube channel Barely Sociable claimed that Adam Back, inventor of bitcoin predecessor Hashcash, is Nakamoto. Back subsequently denied this.
- Elon Musk denied he was Nakamoto in a tweet on November 28, 2017, responding to speculation the previous week in a medium.com post by a former SpaceX intern.
- In 2019, journalist Evan Ratliff claimed drug dealer Paul Le Roux could be Nakamoto.
- Len Sassaman, one of the original cypherpunks and an advocate for privacy, has been a Satoshi Nakamoto candidate who used to work with Hal Finney. Coincidentally, two months before Sassaman passed away, Satoshi Nakamoto left the community, saying “I’ve moved on to other things and probably won’t be around in the future.”
Bitcoin and me (Hal Finney)
Bitcoin Q&A: Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?
May 4th, 2017
Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System
Satoshi Nakamoto (@Satoshi_N_) | Twitter
March 6, 2014
This Australian Says He and His Dead Friend Invented Bitcoin
Sam Biddle and Andy Cush