|Fields||digital currencies, computer science, cryptography|
|Known for||inventing Bitcoin|
Satoshi Nakamoto (中本 哲史 Nakamoto Satoshi?) is a person or group of people who created the Bitcoin protocol and reference software, Bitcoin Core. In 2008, Nakamoto published a paper on The Cryptography Mailing list at metzdowd.com describing the Bitcoin digital currency. In 2009, he released the first Bitcoin software that launched the network and the first units of the Bitcoin currency, called bitcoins.
Nakamoto is said to have continued to contribute to his Bitcoin software release with other developers until contact with his team and the community gradually began to fade in mid-2010. Near this time, he handed over control of the source code repository and alert key functions of the software to Gavin Andresen. Also around this same time, he handed over control of the Bitcoin.org domain and several other domains to various prominent members of the Bitcoin community.
Nakamoto is believed to be in possession of roughly one million bitcoins. At one point in December 2013, this was the equivalent of US$1.1 billion. Nakamoto's true identity remains unknown, and has been the subject of much speculation. It is not known whether the name "Satoshi Nakamoto" is real or a pseudonym, or whether the name represents one person or a group of people.
On his P2P Foundation profile, Nakamoto claimed to be a 37-year-old male who lived in Japan, while others speculated he was unlikely to be Japanese due to his use of perfect English and his Bitcoin software not being documented nor labelled in Japanese.
Some considered Nakamoto might be a team 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 former Bitcoin core developer who had emailed Nakamoto, had the feeling the code was too well designed for one person.
Occasional British English spelling and terminology (such as the phrase "bloody hard") in both source code comments and forum postings work led to speculation that Nakamoto, or at least one individual in the consortium claiming to be him, was of Commonwealth origin.
Stefan Thomas, a Swiss coder and active community member, graphed the time stamps for each of Nakamoto's bitcoin forum posts (more than 500); the resulting chart showed a steep decline to almost no posts between the hours of 5 am and 11 am Greenwich Mean Time. Because this pattern held true even on Saturdays and Sundays, it suggested that Nakamoto was asleep at this time. If Nakamoto is a single individual with conventional sleeping habits, it suggests he resided in a region using the UTC−05:00 or UTC−06:00 time offset. This includes the parts of North America that fall within the Eastern Time Zone and Central Time Zone, as well as parts of Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
Notable suggested identities
Many articles have been written about possible identities of Nakamoto. Some notable speculations about his identity include:
- 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, then a graduate 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 is really 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. Dustin D. Trammell, a Texan security researcher, was suggested as Nakamoto, but he publicly denied it.
- In 2013, two Israeli mathematicians, Dorit Ron and Adi Shamir, published a paper claiming a link between Nakamoto and Ross William Ulbricht, alleged by the FBI to be the owner of the Silk Road online black market. The two based their suspicion on an analysis of the network of Bitcoin transactions, but later retracted their claim.
In December 2013, a blogger named Skye Grey linked Nick Szabo to the Bitcoin's whitepaper using a stylometric analysis. Szabo is a decentralized currency enthusiast and published a paper on "bit gold", which is considered a precursor to 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)."
The most high-profile speculation to date came in a March 6, 2014, article in the magazine Newsweek, when journalist Leah McGrath Goodman identified Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese American man living in California, whose birth name is Satoshi Nakamoto, as the Nakamoto in question. Besides his name, Goodman pointed to a number of facts that circumstantially suggested he was the Bitcoin inventor. Trained as a physicist, Nakamoto worked as a systems engineer on classified defense projects and computer engineer for technology and financial information services companies. According to his daughter, Nakamoto was laid off twice in the early 1990s and turned libertarian, encouraging her to start her own business and "not be 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." (This quote was later confirmed by deputies at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department who were present at the time.)
The article's publication led to a flurry of media interest, including reporters camping out near Dorian Nakamoto's house and briefly chasing him by car when he drove to an interview. However, during the subsequent full-length interview, Dorian Nakamoto denied all connection to Bitcoin, saying he had never heard of the currency before, and that he had misinterpreted Goodman's question as being about his previous work for military contractors, much of which was classified. Later that day, the pseudonymous Nakamoto's P2P Foundation account posted its first message in five years, stating: "I am not Dorian Nakamoto."
Hal Finney (May 4, 1956 – August 28, 2014) was a pre-Bitcoin cryptographic pioneer and the first person (other than Satoshi himself) to use the software, file bug reports and make improvements. Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg asked the writing analysis consultancy Juola & Associates to compare a sample of Finney's writing to Satoshi Nakamoto's, and they found that it was the closest resemblance they had yet come across (including the candidates suggested by Newsweek, Fast Company, The New Yorker, Ted Nelson and Skye Grey). Greenberg theorized that Finney may have been a ghostwriter on behalf of Nakamoto, or that he simply used his neighbor's identity as a "drop" or "patsy whose personal information is used to hide online exploits". However, after meeting Finney, seeing the emails between him and Satoshi, his Bitcoin wallet's history including the very first Bitcoin transaction (from Satoshi to him, which he forgot to pay back) and hearing his denial, Greenberg concluded Finney was telling the truth. Juola & Associates also found that Satoshi's emails to Finney more closely resemble Satoshi's other writings than Finney's do. Finney's fellow extropian and sometimes co-blogger Robin Hanson assigned a subjective probability of "at least" 15% that "Hal was more involved than he’s said", before further evidence suggested that was not the case.
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- Davis, Joshua. "The Crypto-Currency: Bitcoin and its mysterious inventor.". The New Yorker.
- Penenberg, Adam. "The Bitcoin Crypto-Currency Mystery Reopened". Fast Company. "A New Yorker writer implies he found Bitcoin's mysterious creator. We think he got the wrong man, and offer far more compelling evidence that points to someone else entirely."
- Bosker, Bianca. "Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin Architect: Meet The Man Bringing You Bitcoin (And Getting Paid In It)". HuffPostTech.
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- Wallace, Benjamin. "The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin". Wired. "It seemed doubtful that Nakamoto was even Japanese. His English had the flawless, idiomatic ring of a native speaker."
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- Andy Greenberg. "Bitcoin Community Responds To Satoshi Nakamoto's Outing With Disbelief, Anger, Fascination". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
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