Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the inventor of Bitcoin. To this day, we still don’t know the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, even though there’s many “candidates” that have been proposed by people researching this mystery. Due to the array of skills and knowledge that was required to invent Bitcoin, it’s unclear if Satoshi Nakamoto refers to a single person or a group of people.
Bitcoin’s market capitalization is now measured in the hundreds of billions or even trillions, institutional investors are getting involved in the space and cryptocurrency exchanges are prominently advertising their services during NBA games and Formula 1 races. Even though Bitcoin is a household name now and digital assets are a legitimate asset class, this wasn’t always the case.
The beginnings of Bitcoin are still shrouded in mystery even though it’s been well over a decade since the Bitcoin whitepaper was first published on October 31, 2008.
- Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the inventor of Bitcoin
- We still don’t know the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, and it’s unclear if the name represents one individual or a group of people
- Satoshi Nakamoto stopped all communications in 2011
- Satoshi Nakamoto likely mined more than 1 million BTC
- Journalists and researchers have identified numerous people as Satoshi Nakamoto candidates, but nobody has presented conclusive evidence so far
What do we know about Satoshi Nakamoto?
As far as details about his personal life, we don’t know very much about Satoshi Nakamoto—the inventor of Bitcoin kept his cards very close to his chest. Still, Satoshi wasn’t shy about discussing the technical aspects of Bitcoin with anyone who was interested, and even left some hints about his personal beliefs.
Famously, Satoshi Nakamoto included a message in the first block of the Bitcoin blockchain, which is often referred to as the “genesis block”. The message reads:
“The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.”
The message is pulled from the main headline that the British newspaper The Times ran on January 3, 2009, the same date when the first Bitcoin block was mined. The message is commonly interpreted as Satoshi Nakamoto criticizing the financial system, and offering Bitcoin as an alternative.
The January 3, 2009 cover of The Times.
The fact that Satoshi used a headline from a British newspaper, combined with his use of British English, has led some to speculate that he was from Great Britain or another country in the Commonwealth of Nations.
Even though Satoshi Nakamoto never disclosed his true identity, he was an active participant in the Bitcoin community during its early days. He discussed Bitcoin and related topics with other members on the Bitcoin Talk forum, which was one of the first online spaces dedicated to Bitcoin. He was also communicating with Bitcoin developers and enthusiasts via email. Satoshi introduced the Bitcoin whitepaper on The Cryptography Mailing List.
Satoshi Nakamoto registered his Bitcoin Talk account on November 19, 2009. He was active on the forum until December 13, 2010, making 575 posts during that time period. The last known communication from Satoshi Nakamoto came in April of 2011, when he replied to an email from early Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn. When Hearn asked him if he had plans to rejoin the Bitcoin community, Satoshi replied:
“I’ve moved on to other things. It’s in good hands with Gavin and everyone.”
The “Gavin” mentioned by Satoshi is Gavin Andresen, a United States-based software developer that served as the lead developer of the Bitcoin Core reference implementation. Andresen founded the Bitcoin Foundation in 2012.
How many Bitcoins does Satoshi Nakamoto have?
Experts estimate that Satoshi Nakamoto has more than 1 million Bitcoin, making his BTC treasure trove worth tens of billions of dollars. However, it’s unclear if Satoshi Nakamoto is still alive or if he still access to all of the BTC coins he mined.
When Bitcoin first launched, miners received 50 BTC as a reward for successfully adding a block to the Bitcoin blockchain (the rewards has since fallen to 6.25 after three Bitcoin halvings). Satoshi was likely the only person mining Bitcoin for a period of time, although other Bitcoin miners began joining the network over time. Since there wasn’t a lot of competition back when Satoshi was mining Bitcoin, he managed to accumulate an enormous amount of BTC.
Even though it’s impossible to say exactly how many BTC Satoshi was able to mine, researchers have been able to make educated guesses. Cryptocurrency and security researcher Sergio Demian Lerner conducted an analysis of early Bitcoin blocks and estimates that Satoshi mined close to 1.1 million BTC, which would now be worth tens of billions of dollars.
As an interesting aside, the Bitcoin wallet that received the 50 BTC block reward from the genesis block holds 68.53 BTC at the time of writing. The wallet is still periodically receiving BTC coins, presumably from users who are paying tribute to Bitcoin’s anonymous inventor. The wallet has made no outgoing BTC transactions.
Satoshi Nakamoto candidates
While an increasing number of people now recognize Bitcoin as a brilliant invention, the world’s first cryptocurrency didn’t exactly make a great first impression on the mainstream. Many people associated Bitcoin with crime, as the first cryptocurrency was adopted by dark web markets like Silk Road for the sale of illicit goods. Scandals like the collapse of the Mt.Gox cryptocurrency exchange also received mainstream coverage.
With Bitcoin receiving serious attention, the mystery of Bitcoin’s anonymous inventor became a very appealing subject for internet sleuths. One of the big reasons why Satoshi Nakamoto is such an intriguing topic is that Bitcoin’s rising price skyrocketed the value of Satoshi Nakamoto’s massive Bitcoin stash.
Over the years, both journalists and hobbyist researchers have claimed that they uncovered the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. So far, however, no one has managed to present conclusive evidence of his real identity.
There are dozens of other Satoshi Nakamoto “candidates”, but we’ll be focusing on those that have received the most attention.
Adam Back is a British cryptographer and computer scientist that is associated with the cypherpunk movement. Satoshi Nakamoto cited Adam Back in the Bitcoin whitepaper thanks to Back’s work on Hashcash, a proof-of-work system designed as a tool for combating spam email and denial-of-service attacks. Back was also in contact with Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and 2009, where the two discussed Hashcash.
Due to the citation in the Bitcoin whitepaper and his considerable knowledge of cryptography and computer science, Adam Back is commonly cited as a Satoshi Nakamoto candidate. However, Back has firmly denied that he is Satoshi Nakamoto.
Back is the CEO of Blockstream, one of the most prominent companies in the Bitcoin ecosystem. One of the company’s most fascinating products is Blockstream Satellite, which broadcasts the Bitcoin blockchain worldwide via satellite. The company also develops a Lightning Network implementation called Core Lightning, and a Bitcoin sidechain called Liquid Network.
Nick Szabo is an American computer scientist, legal scholar and cryptographer that’s known for coining the term “smart contracts”. In 1998, Szabo proposed “Bit gold”, which was one of the first concepts for a decentralized digital currency. Even though Bit gold was never implemented, it was an important predecessor of Bitcoin and served as an inspiration for Satoshi Nakamoto.
Nick Szabo is one of the most commonly cited people in discussions about Satoshi Nakamoto’s real identity. In a podcast appearance, even Elon Musk speculated in this direction:
“Obviously I don’t know who created bitcoin … it seems as though Nick Szabo is probably more than anyone else responsible for the evolution of those ideas. He claims not to be Nakamoto … but he seems to be the one more responsible for the ideas behind it than anyone else.”
Szabo has denied the speculation that he is Satoshi Nakamoto on multiple occasions.
Hal Finney was an American software developer that worked in the video game industry and later joined the PGP Corporation. Finney was likely the first person besides Satoshi Nakamoto to run the Bitcoin software, and was also the recipient of the first-ever Bitcoin transaction. In the transaction, Satoshi Nakamoto sent 10 BTC to Finney.
Finney was involved in cryptographic activism and was also associated with the cypherpunks movement. He was also an active poster on the Bitcoin Talk forum, and was the author of the first tweet referencing Bitcoin:
— halfin (@halfin) January 11, 2009
Hal Finney passed away in 2014 after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He denied that he was Satoshi.
A 2014 report by Newsweek claimed to have identified the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, and pointed to Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a man with an engineering background living in Temple City, California.
Following the release of the report, Dorian Nakamoto “unconditionally” denied that he was Satoshi Nakamoto, and said that he “did not create, invent or otherwise work on Bitcoin”. He also said that even though he had the ability to program, he had no knowledge of “cryptography, peer to peer systems, or alternative currencies”.
— Felix Salmon (@felixsalmon) March 17, 2014
Nowadays, not many people in the cryptocurrency community believe that Dorian Nakamoto is Satoshi Nakamoto. Still, pictures of him are one of the most common results when searching for “Satoshi Nakamoto” online.
Craig Wright is easily the most controversial Satoshi Nakamoto candidate. Unlike most other people who have been cited as Satoshi Nakamoto candidates, Wright openly claims that he is the person behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym.
Craig Wright is one of the most notable proponents of the Bitcoin SV project, which stands for Bitcoin Satoshi Vision. Bitcoin SV came into existence after a hard fork of the Bitcoin Cash blockchain, which is itself a fork of the original Bitcoin blockchain. Many Bitcoin SV supporters claim that Bitcoin SV achieves the goals laid out in Satoshi Nakamoto’s original Bitcoin whitepaper.
Outside of the community of Bitcoin SV supporters, however, Craig Wright’s claims of being Satoshi Nakamoto have been met with heavy skepticism. For example, Wright hasn’t been able to prove that he controls the private keys necessary to transact with Satoshi’s BTC.
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