In 2008, an unknown person(s) published a whitepaper that described “Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system”. To the untrained eye, this might not have seemed like anything significant at the time, but Satoshi Nakamoto was about to start a revolution.
Satoshi Nakamoto is the unidentified person(s) that founded, wrote the white paper and developed Bitcoin’s original implementation. The name ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ is thought to be a pseudonym so that Satoshi’s real identity is never revealed.
Satoshi will be referred to as ‘he’ for the remainder of the article, for ease of reading.
Satoshi stated in an email that he started working on the concept in mid-2007 and by the time January 2009 rolled around, Bitcoin was ready for its initial release. Satoshi launched the network and mined the genesis block on 3rd January 2009, whilst embedding “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” into the coinbase. This sentence is thought to be a reference to the instability caused by fractional-reserve banking and quoted the main headline from UK based ‘The Times’ newspaper. This fact causes many people to believe that Satoshi was based in Great Britain.
As stated on his P2P Foundation profile, Satoshi is a male, born on 5th April 1975 in Japan. Although chances are, this is a red herring, designed to throw off the scent when looking for his real identity.
A popular theory behind choosing 5th April 1975 as his birthday has been pinned to two reasons. Firstly, 5th April is the date of the signing of Executive Order 6102 by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Which forbid any United States citizen to hoard gold. Secondly, the year 1975 is closely related to the above reason, in that it was the year gold was legalised again in the United States.
Many argue this theory is likely, given Satoshi’s link to hiding easter eggs and his obsession with staying anonymous. We’ve already talked about his hiding of the Times headline in the genesis block.
Satoshi made his last post on the bitcointalk forum in December 2010 and last logged onto the site just a day later.
He then became completely silent, not just in the industry, but universally for four years, until he came back to make one last post on p2pfoundation. This was to signify that he is not in fact Dorian Nakamoto (see below). The comment was in response to his release of Bitcoin v0.1, in February 2009.
No further public correspondence has been made by Satoshi.
There are several theories as to the possible identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. These are purely theories and I’m not including all profiles.
In June 2014, a man from Los Angeles, California named ‘Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto’ was outed by “Newsweek” journalist Leah Goodman as being the Satoshi Nakamoto that started the Bitcoin movement.
Dorian Nakamoto was a systems engineer that had a background in computer science and the finance industry, however, he strongly denies ever being involved in Bitcoin and had never even heard of it before Goodmans interview.
Hal Finney was a cypherpunk and game/cryptography developer from the United States. Hal unfortunately passed away in 2014 from ALS, but his legacy and contributions to PGP software will live on forever.
Hal first started developing for Bitcoin very early on. In fact Hal was involved in Bitcoin so early, he was the first recipient of a Bitcoin transaction.
In 2014, Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg requested a sample of Hal Finney's handwriting to be compared to a known sample of Satoshi from writing analysis consultancy Juola. The test came back and found that the two samples had the closest resemblance that had been examined so far (they also compared to other potential Satoshi candidates). Juola also noted that Satoshi’s emails to Hal were worded more like the white-paper that Satoshi released than Hal’s responses.
It is interesting to note that Hal Finney’s neighbour was Dorian Nakamoto.
Dr. Adam Back is a British businessman and cypherpunk. He is well known for founding and developing HashCash, which was well documented as being an inspiration to Satoshi when developing Bitcoin.
Back is the founder of Blocksteam, a company focused on developing several Bitcoin based technologies.
People consider Dr Back to be Satoshi because he seemingly disappeared from public eye in 2009 and 2010, which coincided with Satoshi Nakamoto’s most active period. When Satoshi then disappeared from the Bitcoin community, Adam Back became much more vocal.
Satoshi used the creation of HashCash heavily during his research, and used Dr Back’s concept behind proof of work in his own work, which is a key aspect of Bitcoin.
Nick Szabo is a computer scientist from the United States, who developed the initial concept behind BitGold, an early-days Cryptocurrency from the late 90s. A researcher named Skye Grey published a paper in December 2013, detailing his conspiracy that Nick Szabo was Satoshi Nakamoto.
Grey searched for vocabulary patterns and unusual turns of phrase “in particular places which you would expect a cryptography researcher to contribute to” and “evaluated the fitness of each match found by running textual similarity metrics on several pages of their writing”.
Anybody could argue that half the world could potentially be Satoshi Nakamoto, due to XYZ reason. I kept the list short for this very reason, otherwise I would spend weeks listing people that could ‘potentially’ be Satoshi.
Personally I like to keep my opinions on the potential identity of Satoshi Nakamoto to myself. This post was aimed to inform about the anonymity and disappearance of Satoshi and the possible characters that could either be behind or know Satoshi’s real identity.
There have been several cases of people harassing and falsely accusing individuals of being Satoshi Nakamoto. This goes against everything Bitcoin stands for and it can be an invasion of privacy. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of who Satoshi might be, but that opinion should remain within the community, and not get out of hand.
The shroud of mystery surrounding Satoshi Nakamoto seems like it could forever remain just that, a mystery.