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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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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