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Posted Aug 5, 2022 by Romain - team

    Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

    That is the question. It’s already been 15 years since Bitcoin’s whitepaper has been authored by this pseudonymous entity and still, no one knows who is the individual behind the world’s first cryptocurrency. In fact, no one even knows if this pseudonym represents an individual or a group. But what do we factually know?

    Facts initially assumed to be true

    Satoshi Nakamoto was initially assumed to be a Japanese man born on the 5th of April 1975. However, many elements soon contradicted this theory. First, there is no trace or use of Japanese language in Bitcoin documentation. Furthermore, Satoshi’s mastering of Shakespeare’s language in his various Bitcointalk forum posts would rather indicate that he is originated from one of the Commonwealth countries. Also, the first ever Bitcoin block produced contained the phrase “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”, a reference to the 2009 banking crisis and a hint to the main philosophy of Bitcoin: use digital assets to give people full control of their money and avoid public funds being used to bailout private companies - banks. This sentence also suggests a London or UK origin for Satoshi.

    In fact, the only verifiable informations are Satoshi’s interactions with the Bitcoin project. He released the Bitcoin whitepaper in 2008 and published the first P2P software of Bitcoin in 2009. He actively participated to the Bitcoin project with other fellow developers until 2010. From this date onwards, Bitcoin’s source code repository keys were handed over to Gavin Andresen until his retirement from Bitcoin core in 2016. Gavin Andresen went on to actually state that Satoshi Nakamoto could well be an individual named Craig Wright, before reversing his statement after a community backlash and a lack of proof. Since then, speculation is ongoing, but to this day, Satoshi’s true identity remains a mystery.

    Speculation times

    Numerous names have been cited as potential Satoshi Nakamoto impersonas.

    As we saw previously, one of these is Craig Wright. This Australian software developer and entrepreneur declared in 2015 that he was the founder of Bitcoin. Inquiries were soon launched by Gizmodo and Wired but did not produce any potent result. In an attempt to assess his statement, the crypto community asked the would-be Satoshi to provide proofs of his claims by producing cryptographic signatures analog to Sastoshi’s. However, Wright’s replies to this simple query were soon recognized to be falsified and his credibility sunk. However, a civil trial in Florida between Craig Wright and the family of one of Bitcoin’s co-creators over more than 1M Bitcoin ended in a success for the former. Would that indicate that the 52 year old Australian man is, in fact, Satoshi Nakamoto? The Bitcoin community is actually far from convinced. The ultimate proof would be a Bitcoin transfer from Satoshi’s antique wallet to any other Bitcoin wallet: that would show that Wright actually possesses Satoshi’s private keys, and would seriously hint at him being Satoshi. But this has never happened as of today.

    Another name that has been put forward is Nick Szabo. This American software developer and cryptographer is specialized in smart contracts and crypto currencies. In 1998 he designed a currency named “Bit Gold”, but the project stopped due to a lack of support. Bit Gold is considered to be the precursor of Bitcoin: it layed out the principles of a blockchain and the proof of work consensus protocol. However, Nick Szabo has always denied being Satoshi Nakamoto. There are ongoing doubts though, underlined by Elon Musk’s statement in 2022 that Szabo is the ideal candidate to be Bitcoin’s creator.

    Finally, the last potential and credible would-be Satoshi is Adam Back. This British cryptographer invented hashcash, a proof of work system used to fight against spam and very similar to the one used by Bitcoin and other crypto currencies. A number of people in the Bitcoin community think that Back is Satoshi, but he has always denied being Bitcoin’s creator.

    Can this mystery be beneficial to Bitcoin?

    Today, it’s still difficult to say with any certainty who is behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym. A number of options have been weighed in by the community, but none have been convincing. Can this ongoing mystery be, in fact, an asset to the project? Bitcoin was designed to be decentralized and independent from any authority. Keeping its creator anonymous could be a means to avoid pressures from the traditional banking system and other Bitcoin adversaries. Doesn’t this mystery remove an attack vector that could potentially weaken Bitcoin and its core philosohpy, and, by a domino effect, all other crypto currencies as well? To be continued…