dorian nakamoto

Ten years ago, on October 31st, 2008, Bitcoin quietly emerged on an obscure cryptography mailing list.

A user known simply as Satoshi Nakamoto wrote:

“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party.”

Satoshi Nakamoto followed it with a link to the now-famous Bitcoin White Paper.

Bitcoin was born.

But Satoshi Nakamoto kept his identity fiercely secret. To this day, no-one truly knows who he/she is. We don’t even know if it’s a single person or a group.

So who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

We’ve put together 24 clues or bits of information that we do know about Satoshi Nakamoto, the elusive creator of Bitcoin.

1. Satoshi Nakamoto writes in British English

The first strange clue is that Nakamoto uses British English spellings. In his forum posts, he uses words like “colour,” “organise,” “defence,” and “analyse.” He also posted: “writing a description of Bitcoin for general audiences is bloody hard.” The phrase “bloody hard” is a very British way of speaking.

2. He almost never made a spelling mistake

We know that Satoshi Nakamoto was incredibly detailed and thorough, but that also extended to his writing. You can count on one hand the number of spelling mistakes he made in his forum posts, suggesting that he thought very carefully about everything he posted.

In other words, if he wanted us to believe he was British, he may have done it on purpose.

3. He was part of an obscure cryptography mailing list

The Bitcoin White Paper was first posted on a cryptography mailing list originally called metzdowd. You can see a preserved version of Nakamoto’s post here. The niche nature of the mailing list means there are only a small handful of cryptography pioneers that could realistically be Satoshi Nakamoto.

satoshi bitcoin cryptography mailing list

4. He claims to be a 43-year-old Japanese man

According to his P2P Foundation profile, Satoshi is Japanese and born in 1975.

5. But he probably doesn’t live in Japan…

Satoshi Nakamoto almost never communicated between 2pm-8pm Japanese time. One Swiss coder, Stefan Thomas, who was active in the early bitcoin development, looked through all Nakamoto’s posts to come up with this information. It suggests he doesn’t live in Japan or he slept very strange hours (not completely unreasonable in the developer world).

6. He codes in C++ language

Some people have tried to identify Satoshi Nakamoto by analyzing his coding style. Just like a writing style, every coder has their own flair and style. Nakamoto coded Bitcoin in C++, which isn’t unusual, but it does dismiss a number of potential candidates who code in C or other languages.

7. He was suspicious of the banking system

On January 3rd, 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto mined the very first Bitcoin block, known as the “genesis block.” Written into the code was a secret message:

“03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”

It could be argued that he included the message as a simple timestamp. This was the headline of The Times newspaper on the 3rd January. However, it’s no coincidence that Bitcoin emerged in the fallout of the banking crisis. The message is not-so-subtle dig at the banking system.

As a further clue, the message refers to a British newspaper.

Times bitcoin genesis block

8. He owns more than one million BTC

As a prolific early miner, Satoshi Nakamoto amassed more than one million bitcoins. At today’s price, that’s more than $6 billion. At the peak of bitcoin’s popularity in December 2017, it made Nakamoto the 44th richest person on the planet.

9. He hasn’t moved the bitcoins since…

Other than a few small transactions to prove bitcoin’s functionality, Satoshi Nakamoto has never moved his bitcoins. All one million remain in his wallet.

Further reading: What is Bitcoin? Absolutely Everything You Need To Know (Beginner’s Guide)

10. Satoshi Nakamoto was weird, paranoid, and bossy

Laszlo Hanyecz was one of the early developers who worked on Bitcoin with Nakamoto. You might also know him as the man who ordered two pizzas with bitcoin (at a cost of 10,000 BTC, or $7 million at today’s prices). 

Hanyecz has since described Nakamoto as weird, paranoid, and bossy. Although Hanyecz worked on bitcoin on a voluntary basis, he claimed that Nakamoto treated him like an employee.

Laszlo Hanyecz
Laszlo Hanyecz and this first pizzas bought with bitcoin

11. “He” could actually be a group of people

Although Satoshi Nakamoto is usually referred to as a man, there’s no proof that’s the case. In fact, it could be a pseudonym for a group of developers. As Laszlo Hanyecz explained, “Bitcoin seems awfully well designed for one person to crank out.”

12. Or a group of companies…

One (admittedly far-fetched) conspiracy theory claims that Satoshi Nakamoto is actually a group of four major technology companies: Samsung, Toshiba, Nakamichi, and Motorola.

If you look closely, their letters spell out Satoshi Nakamoto:

Samsung

Toshiba

Nakamichi

Motorola

13. Or the CIA…

An even more bizarre conspiracy claims that bitcoin was actually created by the CIA. The theory posits that Satoshi Nakamoto’s name translates to “Central Intelligent.” Motherboard journalist Daniel Oberhaus even filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA for documents about Satoshi Nakamoto. The CIA replied saying they could “neither confirm nor deny” the documents existed.

14. It *might* be Nick Szabo

Of all the wild theories and sensible guesses, this one is generally considered closest to the mark. Nick Szabo has been involved in the cryptography community for over a decade. He invented the “smart contract,” which is now the defining feature of Ethereum.

Is Nick Szabo Satoshi Nakamoto?
Credit: 101Blockchains

Perhaps most important though, Szabo invented BitGold, a form of digital currency that came before bitcoin. BitGold shared a lot of technology with Bitcoin and the ideas were shared among the same community.

Lastly, Szabo’s writing style is very similar to Satoshi Nakamoto’s. “It’s uncanny,” said researcher Jack Grieve.

Nick Szabo has always denied the claim.

15. It’s definitely not Dorian Nakamoto

The most high-profile hunt for Satoshi’s identity came from Newsweek. After months of investigation, Newsweek announced they had found the real Satoshi: an elderly Japanese man named Dorian Nakamoto.

For proof, Newsweek pointed to his true birth name (Satoshi Nakamoto) and his background as a computer engineer. The media descended on Dorian Nakamoto’s home, but it all unraveled from there. Nakamoto said he’d never heard of it, and reportedly referred to it as “Bitcom.”

dorian nakamoto
Credit: Business Insider

16. It’s probably not Hal Finney

Another good theory points to Hal Finney. Finney worked on the early development of Bitcoin and shared many emails with Satoshi Nakamoto. He was also on the same mailing list as Nakamoto and even has a similar writing style.

Finney was so influential to Bitcoin’s development that the community now refers to a small denomination of BTC as a “Finney.”

However, the biggest evidence against Hal Finney is that he coded in C, a different language to Nakamoto’s C++.

17. It’s not Craig Wright

Craig Wright is one of the few candidates to publicly “out himself” as Satoshi Nakamoto. He said he was part of a team that created Bitcoin and was the true Satoshi.

Wired and Gizmodo both reported the story, but Wright eventually admitted it was not him.

18. It’s probably not Shinichi Mochizuki

Other have pointed to Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki. The evidence is only circumstantial (that Mochizuki is capable of creating bitcoin).

19. Is it Gavin Anderson?

Gavin Anderson took over Bitcoin development when Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared in 2011. At least one source has named him at Satoshi based on stylistic programming similarities.

20. Or Jed McCaleb?

Jed McCaleb is a serial crypto entrepreneur. He was among the co-founders of Ripple before moving on to Stellar. He was also the founder of the infamous Mt. Gox exchange (he left well before the hack and subsequent bankruptcy).

21. What about Dustin Trammel?

Dustin Trammel is a security researcher who exchanged a number of emails with Satoshi Nakamoto in the early days of Bitcoin. He reportedly fixed bugs and made suggestions about the system. However, he publicly denied the claim on his blog.

22. Ross Ulbricht?

Ross Ulbricht is the man behind the infamous Silk Road – a dark-web, black marketplace used to sell drugs and weapons using bitcoin.

Researched believe they have found a transaction made from the earliest days of bitcoin (January 2009) to Ross Ulbricht, fueling speculation that he was actually Satoshi Nakamoto. But the exact identity of that early bitcoin account has never been proven. Ross Ulbricht is currently in prison on charges related to the Silk Road.

ross ulbricht

23. No, it’s probably not Elon Musk

People often point to Elon Musk (without any real evidence) as the Bitcoin creator. Musk has denied the claim and says he actually lost any cryptocurrency he had.

24. Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared in 2011

Satoshi Nakamoto was last seen or heard seven years ago. His final email read: “I’ve moved on to other things. It’s in good hands with Gavin [Anderson] and everyone.”

Conclusion

We may never discover Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity, and maybe that’s a good thing. Nakamoto gifted us one of the most powerful, controversial, and talked-about technologies in history. And it’s only ten years old. Here’s to the next ten!

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woman holding lots of gold bitcoin units

With one bitcoin currently worth more than $6,000, we need smaller bitcoin units and denominations to make it work as a day-to-day currency. We explain the units, from one bitcoin down to one “satoshi” (or 1 hundred millionth of a bitcoin).

Let’s picture a future where you walk into Starbucks and buy a coffee with bitcoin. You can’t exactly pay with one full bitcoin. It would be like paying with a $10,000 note or handing over a gold bar.

For bitcoin to become a viable cash system, we need to break it down into smaller units and denominations.

Those denominations already exist, but they’re not yet widely used. Here’s how it breaks down, at a glance:

Bitcoin – 1 BTC
DeciBit – 0.1 BTC
CentiBit – 0.01 BTC
MilliBit – 0.001 BTC
MicroBit – 0.000001 BTC
“Finney” – 0.0000001 BTC
“Satoshi” – 0.00000001 BTC

A “Satoshi” is 1 Hundred Millionth of a Bitcoin

The smallest bitcoin unit is called a Satoshi (or a “Sat,” for short). It’s named after Bitcoin’s mysterious founder, Satoshi Nakamoto. At the time of writing, 160 satoshis are worth about one cent.

But why would such a tiny denomination exist?

Well, it gives you a sense of how big the bitcoin community expects the cryptocurrency to grow. One satoshi is expected to be a usable form of currency one day, perhaps similar to a penny.

Only 21 Million Bitcoins Will Ever Exist

We also need to break bitcoins into tiny units because there will only ever be 21 million of them.

Compare that to the 10 trillion dollars in existence and you start to see why bitcoin needs many denominations.

There simply aren’t enough full bitcoins for each person to own 1 BTC. (In fact, there are more people living in Shanghai than there are bitcoins).

In other words, if bitcoin becomes a true global currency, only a very small group of people will own a full bitcoin. The rest will own and spend much smaller units and denominations.

The “Finney” is a Nod to Hal Finney

Hal Finney was one of the first people to work on Bitcoin besides Satoshi Nakamoto. In fact, many have claimed that Hal Finney is Satoshi Nakamoto, but he has always denied the claim.

Although the finney is not an official denomination, it’s often used by the community as a nod to his work on the project.

Should We Stop Using the Term Bitcoin?

Some have argued that “one bitcoin” is an intimidating way to introduce new people to the cryptocurrency.

Buying one bitcoin at more than $6,000 sounds pretty overwhelming to most people.

At the same time, pricing a coffee at 0.001 BTC (roughly the cost right now) is ridiculous. Instead, you might say that one coffee costs a milliBit, or colloquially an “emBit”.

Or you might feel more comfortable investing in a deciBit (about $600) or even a centiBit ($60).

How Much is Each Bitcoin Unit Worth?

At today’s price, the denominations are worth the following:

Bitcoin – $6,340
DeciBit – $634
CentiBit – $63.40
MilliBit – $6.34
MicroBit – $0.06
“Finney”  ~ half a penny
“Satoshi” ~ 160 satoshis to a penny.

Prices correct at September 19th, 2018.