One of the most enduring mysteries of Bitcoin is the identity of its founder, Satoshi Nakamoto. Little is known about this person or group, and their identity has never been confirmed.
In October 2008, a message signed by Satoshi Nakamoto titled "Bitcoin P2P e-cash paper" announced the creation of the cryptocurrency. For the next two years, Satoshi remained active in the community, communicating with others in the development of the blockchain. Satoshi's last message on the Bitcoin forums was posted in December 2010, though unverified private messages from April 2011 have surfaced.
- Satoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym used by the creator or creators of Bitcoin.
- The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is not publicly known.
- One of the first major public investigations ended with Dorian Nakamoto being identified as Bitcoin's creator, but he continues to decline the claim.
- Some believe Craig Wright is the founder, though critics believe he is using public attention for personal gain.
- Others think Nick Szabo, who created Bit Gold in 2008, is the real Nakamoto.
Who Is Satoshi Nakamoto?
Nakamoto is important to the bitcoin ecosystem beyond his status as a founder. The persona is a philosophical figurehead of sorts and is frequently invoked among cryptocurrency proponents debating the future of Bitcoin's development. For example, both sides in the contentious forking of Bitcoin Cash (itself a fork of the original Bitcoin blockchain) claimed to uphold Nakamoto’s original vision for the currency.
It's difficult to truly know how much bitcoin Nakamoto owns, as it is suspected Nakamoto might have used different addresses when mining early blocks. However, some estimate Bitcoin wallets thought to be associated with Nakamoto hold roughly 1.1 million BTC. Given that just 21 million Bitcoin will ever be mined, Nakamoto’s holdings represent 5% of all bitcoin to be created.
Despite numerous efforts to uncover Nakamoto's elusive identity, only a handful of individuals have been proposed—none have been proven to be Satoshi Nakamoto beyond a doubt. Here are three candidates.
This was perhaps the most high-profile attempt to reveal Bitcoin’s founder. In March 2014, Newsweek identified Dorian Nakamoto as the currency's creator.
Newsweek claimed several similarities between Satoshi Nakamoto and Dorian Nakamoto. For example, both supposedly held libertarian leanings and a Japanese heritage. Dorian graduated in physics from California Polytechnic and worked on classified defense projects. The article’s author also claimed Nakamoto said he was “no longer” involved with Bitcoin and that he had “turned it over” to other people.
The magazine’s biggest mistake was to publish a photograph of Nakamoto’s home. A cursory image search could easily reveal its location. While many did not believe Dorian Nakamoto was bitcoin’s founder, the crypto community was aghast that his privacy had been violated.
Dorian Nakamoto later denied the quote and claimed that he had misunderstood the question and had nothing to do with Bitcoin.
Still, the media circus was not without profit for Dorian Nakamoto. In March 2014, tech entrepreneur and crypto-enthusiast Andreas Antonopoulos launched a fundraiser to support Nakamoto. The crowdfunding campaign served as an apology for the damage and difficulty Nakamoto experienced during the ordeal. More than 2,100 supporters donated 102.23 bitcoin worth roughly $34,500 in 2014; in February 2023, it was worth about $2.86 million.
For the most part, individuals suspected of being Satoshi Nakamoto have denied the claim or remained silent. However, that has not been the case with Craig Wright, an Australian scientist.
In December 2015, Wired Magazine wrote a profile on Wright, claiming it had "obtained the strongest evidence yet of Satoshi Nakamoto’s true identity.” The article reported on Wright's appearance via Skype at that year's Bitcoin Investor’s Conference in Las Vegas. When asked about his credentials, Wright claimed he was “a bit of everything.” He listed his degrees, including a master’s in statistics and two doctorates. He also said: "I've been involved with all of this for a long time ... I try and keep my head down."
Wired's evidence consisted of references to a "cryptocurrency paper" on Wright's blog that appeared months before the bitcoin whitepaper began circulating. In addition, there were leaked emails and correspondence with Wright’s lawyer that referenced a “P2P distributed ledger." Furthermore, leaked transcripts of meetings with attorneys and tax officials quoted him as saying: “I did my best to try and hide the fact that I’ve been running Bitcoin since 2009. By the end of this, I think half the world is going to bloody know.”
Those claims were soon thrown into doubt. Wired followed up its report to note several inconsistencies in Wright's story. For example, the blog entries appeared to be backdated. Evidence also suggested that public encryption keys linked to Satoshi Nakamoto were also backdated. Even Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, who is otherwise reticent about politics in the cryptocurrency world, came out against Wright, publicly calling him a fraud.
Wright, unfazed by the criticism, has parlayed the media attention to carve out a prominent role within the crypto community. He led a contentious fork of Bitcoin Cash, forming Bitcoin SV. He is also the chief science officer at nChain, a blockchain solutions business that serves enterprise customers.
Wright remains embroiled in a series of legal entanglements that may eventually prove or disprove his claims, should evidence be presented in court.
The pronoun "we" is used throughout Nakamoto's Bitcoin white paper. Some suspect Nakamoto was a collection of individuals using a single anonymous identity.
Nick Szabo is a computer engineer and legal scholar. He is credited with pioneering the concept of smart contracts in a 1996 paper. In 2008, he conceptualized a decentralized currency he called Bit Gold, a precursor to bitcoin. He described Bit Gold as “a protocol whereby unforgeable costly bits could be created online with minimal dependence on trusted third parties.” This is similar to the bitcoin concept, whereby a series of bits created by a network of computers without a leader verify and validate transactions.
Author Dominic Frisby makes the case that Nick Szabo is Satoshi Nakamoto in his book Bitcoin: The Future of Money? Frisby consulted a stylometrics expert who concluded that Szabo’s writing style was similar to known writings from Satoshi. Another clue is that both Szabo and Satoshi reference economist Carl Menger. In addition, Frisby learned Szabo had worked for DigiCash, an early attempt to bring cryptography to digital payments. In the author's eyes, this strongly suggests Nick Szabo is Satoshi Nakamoto.
The identity behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto is not known, but Nakamoto is credited with developing blockchain in 2008. Nakamoto penned the Bitcoin white paper and is often credited with mining the first block of the blockchain.
The public identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is not known. It is also unknown whether Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonymous or real name, and some believe Satoshi Nakamoto is a collection of people instead of one individual.
It is not publicly known how many bitcoins Nakamoto possesses, as it is suspected that Nakamoto used different addresses to mine blocks. It is collectively believed that Satoshi owns roughly 1.1 million bitcoin.
The Bottom Line
There are many theories about who Satoshi Nakamoto really is. News organizations and other interested parties continue to investigate the persona, but the true identity of Nakamoto remains unknown.