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Who’s the Inventor of Bitcoin?

8 Minute Read

Bitcoin’s emergence from a worthless virtual asset to the world’s largest digital currency has seen over a decade of rollercoaster events. But who is the inventor of Bitcoin? Where did Bitcoin come from? What does it mean for the future? These are some of the many questions that still linger. Let’s start with what we do know about Bitcoin and its creator.

Who invented Bitcoin?

Satoshi Nakomoto invented Bitcoin. However, the name Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonym, and the individual (or individuals) behind it are credited as Bitcoin's inventor (or inventors). To this day, Nakamoto's true identity remains a mystery, although plenty of evidence points us to various individuals who could be holders of the infamous moniker.

Before identifying these individuals, however, let’s get to know Satoshi (as best as possible) and the legacy they’ve left behind. 

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

Again, no one knows for sure who Nakamoto really is. Is it a man, a woman, or a group of several people acting under one name? Given the ambiguity, we’ll refer to Nakamoto as “they.” On January 3, 2009, an individual(s) by the name of "Satoshi Nakamoto" mined the first Bitcoin (BTC). Since then, the creator(s) of Bitcoin and the anonymous person(s) whose innovation has changed the financial landscape are now known by the moniker Satoshi Nakamoto.

Before Bitcoin blew up, developers, hackers, and crypto enthusiasts were already acquainted with Nakamoto’s name. An individual under the same pseudonym had written on online Bitcoin forums and exchanged emails with other developers years earlier. It's commonly believed that the individual(s) who used the name was also responsible for those conversations. However, this remains unsubstantiated.

Satoshi Nakamoto wrote a whitepaper on October 31, 2008, and described Bitcoin's ecosystem as a decentralized, peer-to-peer network that used cryptography to stay secure. The whitepaper mentioned Bitcoin would enable users to make direct internet transactions without going through an intermediary such as a bank or any government institution. Three years after releasing the iconic Bitcoin whitepaper, Nakamoto bid a final farewell message on April 26, 2011, and hasn’t been heard from since.

Bitcoin didn’t come to life through some form of revolutionary coding. Nakamoto was not the best developer or coder at the time. Instead, the combination of mathematics, cryptography, philosophy, economics, computer science, and the concept of decentralization made Bitcoin what it is. The true identity and whereabouts of Bitcoin’s creator Nakamoto, however, remain a mystery to this day.

Why is having no founder important to Bitcoin?

Other cryptocurrencies have cult-like leaders who garner massive followings. For example, Vitalik Buterin with Ethereum, Charles Hoskinson with Cardano, and Justin Sun with Tron; the list could go on and on! These leaders exert significant power over their systems and take away from their decentralized nature.

Bitcoin’s beginnings are more pure. Bitcoin is meant to be for the people; it isn’t meant to be ruled over by any central authority and doesn’t have a founder. Many people accused of being Nakomoto have even stated if they were, they wouldn’t reveal because it would taint their legacy. 

How much is Satoshi Nakamoto worth?

Nakamoto holds more than 1 million bitcoins, which accounts for nearly 5% of all Bitcoin ever mined, making them a billionaire. Due to Bitcoin’s volatile nature, it’s difficult to put a net worth on Nakamoto’s name. As of December 2021, his net worth was approximately $48 billion. However, Nakamoto’s net worth is estimated to be around $22 billion at the time of writing.

Nakamoto's crypto wallets remain intact and haven't been active for over a decade, leading some to believe that Nakamoto is dead. Nonetheless, Bitcoin’s value puts Nakamoto well into the billionaire club as one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet.

Possible identities of Satoshi Nakamoto

Again, no one really knows whether Nakamoto is even a real name or if Nakamoto is one person or a group of people. However, there are several online theories about who they could be.

Dorian Nakamoto

In 2014, Newsweek journalist Leah Goodman wrote an article titled “The Face Behind Bitcoin.” Goodman claimed Dorian Nakamoto as the enigmatic Bitcoin founder. According to Goodman, both Nakamotos have many similar characteristics, including mathematical prowess, personality, Japanese ancestry, and political inclinations. When Goodman contacted Dorian, he was 64 years old and living in Temple, California. According to Goodman, Dorian has held positions on sensitive defense programs and computer engineering.

Dorian denied having any connection to Bitcoin. In his opinion, any statements that Goodman published were simply taken out of context by the reporter. Dorian said Goodman misinterpreted his remarks and that he had been discussing engineering instead of Bitcoin.

Craig Wright

Unlike Dorian Nakamoto, who refuted claims that he was Bitcoin's creator, Craig Wright, an Australian computer scientist, claimed he was the individual who invented the cryptocurrency after Wired Magazine published a feature on him in December 2015. Wright claimed Bitcoin’s ownership the following year.

The so-called proof was a paper on cryptocurrencies purportedly posted on Wright's website a few months before the publication of the iconic Bitcoin whitepaper. Along with interview transcripts with tax officials and attorneys where Wright discussed his role in developing Bitcoin, email leaks and communications about a "P2P distributed ledger" appeared to support Wright's claim. However, the truth eventually came to light. The posts on Wright's website were revealed to be backdated, raising suspicion from the crypto community. After receiving many public complaints, Wright finally withdrew his claim.

Nick Szabo

In 2015, the internet identified another potential Nakamoto in crypto specialist Nick Szabo due to parallels in Szabo's writing. The media also highlighted Szabo's substantial role in creating Bitcoin: Nick Szabo worked as a computer engineer, with papers loosely relevant to Nakamoto's interests. For instance, Szabo and Nakamoto cite economist Carl Menger in their research.

Additionally, Szabo was both a cryptographer and scholar. For example, in a 1996 study titled “Smart Contracts: Building Blocks for Digital Markets,” Szabo conceived the idea of smart contracts. In 2008, Szabo developed "Bit Gold," a decentralized currency similar to Bitcoin. Szabo also held positions at DigiCash, a cryptographic-based digital payment system. Szabo has denied all claims and similarities indicating his assumed identity as Satoshi Nakamoto.

Hal Finney

Hal Finney was an American developer, programmer, and cryptography enthusiast. In 2014, after living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for five years, Finney passed away at the age of 58.

Finney is said to have been the first individual besides Nakamoto to work on troubleshooting and enhancing Bitcoin's open-source code. In 2009, Nakamoto himself sent Finney the very first Bitcoin transaction. Interestingly, Finney was neighbors with Dorian Nakamoto. Andy Greenberg, a journalist at Forbes, found this suspicious and analyzed writing samples from Finney and Nakamoto. Greenberg first speculated that Finney might have been Nakamoto's ghostwriter based on parallels in their writing styles. He further suggested that Finney may have concealed his identity by using Dorian Nakamoto as cover.

However, Finney refuted these allegations and offered proof claiming he was not Satoshi Nakamoto. Finney showed Greenberg his Bitcoin wallet history and the emails he had exchanged with Nakamoto.

Adam Back

In 2020, the popular YouTube channel Barely Sociable began uploading analysis videos with evidence claiming Adam Back was Satoshi Nakamoto. Barely Sociable disclosed that Adam Back had proposed blockchain technology a decade before Bitcoin's release. Interestingly, the 2008 whitepaper on Bitcoin parallels Back's research. Before Bitcoin launched, Back vanished for two years (2009 and 2010), which also happened to be the nascent years of Bitcoin. Furthermore, Nakamoto's sudden disappearance from bitcointalk.org's forum coincided with Back's return.

Another video from Barely Sociable explains how each compiler, in essence, generates a distinct footprint dependent on a computer's settings and hardware setup. A compiler is a software that converts complex source code into a sequence of commands that a CPU can comprehend. Barely Sociable's video shows evidence of Bitcoin's code and Back's Hashcash technology being created on the same computer.

Additionally, Back and Nakamoto have similar writing styles. For example, both used double spaces after periods and wrote in British English.

Back has supported Bitcoin wholeheartedly since its inception. He is a Bitcoin enthusiast and has often predicted huge price movements. He predicted that BTC will most likely reach $300,000 by 2025, even in the absence of institutional investors. Back also thinks that if governments continue to print money, the public will discover that Bitcoin aids as an inflation hedge. Back refutes any claims of being Nakamoto and denies any allegations that state his participation in creating Bitcoin.

Wrapping up

Bitcoin today is the world's largest cryptocurrency. In 2140, who knows what position Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will be in once all Bitcoin is mined? Will there be an independent body to make decisions on the future of Bitcoin? Will another Satoshi Nakamoto resurface? No one knows.

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