Satoshi Nakamoto

Dorian Nakamoto

Satoshi Nakamoto is the person or group that created the Bitcoin protocol and reference software, Bitcoin-Qt. It is not known whether the name is real or a pseudonym. In 2008, Nakamoto published a paper on ‘The Cryptography Mailing’ list at describing his digital currency. In 2009, he released the first Bitcoin software that launched the network and the first units 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, chief scientist at the Bitcoin Foundation (a non-profit founded in 2012 to promote Bitcoin). Also around this same time, he handed over control of the 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.

On his P2P Foundation profile, Nakamoto claimed to be an individual male at the age of 37 who lived in Japan, while others speculated he was unlikely to be Japanese due to his use of English and his Bitcoin software not being documented nor labelled in Japanese. 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 timestamps 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.

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. It has been suggested that Satoshi Nakamoto is a combination of the names of the multinational companies Samsung, Toshiba, Nakamichi, and Motorola, the implication being that it is possibly these companies working together that could have developed bitcoin.

Many articles have been written about possible identities of Nakamoto. 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 which contained the phrase ‘computationally impractical to reverse’ in 2008, which was also used in the Bitcoin white paper by Nakamoto. The domain name was registered three days after the patent was filed. All three men denied being Nakamoto when contacted by Penenberg.

In 2013, Ted Nelson speculated that Nakamoto is really Japanese mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki. Later, an article was published in ‘The Age’ newspaper which 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 December 2013, Nick Szabo was implicated using reverse textual analysis. Szabo is a decentralized currency enthusiast and published a paper on ‘bit gold,’ which is considered a precursor to bitcoin. In a 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 ‘Newsweek,’ where journalist Leah McGrath Goodman identified Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese American man living in California, whose birth name is Satoshi Nakamoto, the Nakamoto in question. Besides his name, Goodman pointed to a number of facts that circumstantially suggested he was the Bitcoin inventor. Goodman wrote that when she asked him about Bitcoin during a brief in-person interview, Dorian 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.’


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