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Who is Satoshi Nakamoto Really? All Clues and Candidates

September 1, 2022

10 min

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto Really? All Clues and Candidates

Satoshi Nakamoto is the creator of Bitcoin, which was launched in 2008. However, this is only a nickname: the identity of the first digital currency’s inventor is unknown, and it is not known whether more than one person wrote the Bitcoin whitepaper. Many have put forward various theories as to who Satoshi Nakamoto might really be.  Let’s take a look at the possible candidates. 

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto?

The identity of Bitcoin’s inventor remains a mystery to this day. What we do know is that, in August 2008, someone anonymously registered the domain bitcoin.org. In October of the same year, an author nicknamed Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper, ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ on metzdowd.com. This is a site for cryptography enthusiasts, in which the creator of Bitcoin explained how the digital currency would work. 

In January 2009, the same person mined the first Bitcoin, giving birth to the network. Today, the blockchain consists of more than 680,000 blocks, but the so-called “genesis block” bears a warning from Satoshi Nakamoto, perhaps linked to his motive for concealing his identity: “The Times 3 January 2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks”. 

The sentence refers to the title of an article published by The Times on 3 January 2009. At the time, the world was in the midst of a financial crisis, and perhaps Satoshi Nakamoto was suggesting his reasons for creating Bitcoin. 

The anonymous developer is therefore defying the banks, showing that decentralisation is not only possible but also desired by many people. In this sense, we can see how anonymity played a key role in maintaining Satoshi Nakamoto’s ultimate goal. 

The ideas and philosophies of Bitcoin’s creator are made clear in The Complete Satoshi – “What is needed is an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party.”

Satoshi Nakamoto’s last communication

For almost ten years, Satoshi Nakamoto was the only miner, mining more than a million Bitcoins over time. The first transaction, however, took place with Hal Finney, a cryptography expert. The event was reported by Nakamoto on bitcointalk.org, an industry forum where he was active from November 2009 to December 2010. Many users have followed the trail left by this clue to try and reveal the Bitcoin’s creator true identity. Nakamoto himself made it clear that he and Hal Finney are two different people.

Since then there has been little news from Satoshi Nakamoto. In 2010 he handed over the Bitcoin’s source code to Gavin Andresen, a developer, and made his motives clear the following year. In an email dated 23 April, he said: ‘I have moved on to other things. It’s all in good hands with Gavin and everyone”.His activity has stopped since that email. Bitcoin wallets linked to him have not been spent or touched since mid-2009 and it seemed that the creator of the first digital currency would never speak again. In 2014, however, his P2P Foundation account briefly reactivated to refute a Newsweek article identifying Dorian Nakamoto as Bitcoi’s inventor. “I am not Dorian Nakamoto,” he wrote, and then remained silent to this day.

Following Satoshi Nakamoto’s trail

The first question many cryptocurrency enthusiasts ask about Satoshi Nakamoto is whether there is a single individual or a group of people behind this nickname. The other big question is whether he is Japanese. Despite efforts, no one has ever been able to answer these questions. There have also been several theories about the nickname itself. Does Satoshi Nakamoto mean something in Japanese? Is it an anagram?

The cryptography expert never wrote his name using Japanese kanji characters, so it is impossible to make a reliable translation. However, some attempts have led to the terms ‘logic, reason or justice’, ‘basic’, ‘clear, witty, wise thinking’ and ‘central origin’. Other people think the nickname might be a fusion of different company names, such as Samsung and Toshiba, which together make Satoshi, or Nakamichi and Motorola, which become Nakamoto. None of these suppositions have ever been confirmed.

As for where he is originally from, although his P2P profile suggests he is a 37-year-old man living in Japan, there are some indications that the Bitcoin inventor might not be Japanese at all. Indeed, in the past he has used some distinctly British terms and quoted The Times in the Bitcoin genesis block, which has given rise to the idea that Satoshi Nakamoto is in fact of British origin. 

The possible identities behind Satoshi’s name

Over the years, various IT specialists and cypherpunks have been identified as possibily being Satoshi Nakamoto. 

Hal Finney was the first to exchange Bitcoin with Satoshi Nakamoto, and regularly interacted with him on the bitcointalk.org forum. Although Bitcoin’s creator has stated that the two were separate individuals,many believe that Satoshi and Hal Finney are the same person. In addition, Finney passed away in 2014, a fact which for some would explain why Satoshi’s Bitcoin hoard is still intact. 

Gavin Andresen received Bitcoin’s source code from Satoshi Nakamoto himself, and created the first Bitcoin faucet, a site for distributing bitcoin via a kind of airdrop

Nick Szabo is an American IT specialist who created the ‘Bit Gold’ system before Bitcoin, and also invented the term ‘smart contract’. Moreover, there are two other clues that suggest that Nick Szabo might be Satoshi Nakamoto – their writing styles are similar, according to linguistic analysis, and Satoshi Nakamoto’s initials are the reverse of Nick Szabo’s – a coincidence that is revealing to many. 

Adam Back was identified as one of the possible candidates behind Satoshi by the Financial Times in 2016. He is a cypherpunk and cryptographer and was one of the first recipients of an email from Satoshi Nakamoto. 

Len Sassaman worked with Hal Finney and was an expert in cryptography. He was on the cypherpunk mailing list where Satoshi first announced Bitcoin, but he took his own life in 2011.

Craig Steven Wright is an Australian entrepreneur who has claimed the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. Numerous media outlets have believed his claims, not least the BBC, but he is a mystery. Notably, Wright filed a claim of authorship for the Bitcoin whitepaper with the US Copyright Office, thus sinking into a long court battle. This was based on his ability to access cryptographic addresses allegedly belonging to Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright has repeatedly claimed that Satoshi Nakamoto was a pseudonym used by himself and his IT specialist friend David Kleiman, and that they were the inventors of the first cryptocurrency. However, the supporting evidence is very weak.

‍Dorian Nakamoto is the face that appears most frequently if you Google ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ for images. This appears to be the result of a misunderstanding. Dorian is an engineer and physicist who bears the real name “Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto”. Perhaps this is why Newsweek claimed in 2014 that the Japanese-American man was the founder of Bitcoin. However, he strongly denied any connection to the cryptocurrency.  At the time, Satoshi’s P2P Foundation account briefly became active again to confirm that “I am not Dorian Nakamoto”. 

Elon Musk is Tesla and SpaceX famous CEO. He was also briefly part of the Satoshi candidate list. In fact, a former employee of SpaceX claimed in 2017 that Musk was Bitcoin’s creator. Musk replied via Twitter: “Not true”.

Why choose anonymity?

Satoshi Nakamoto is not the only creator of a cryptocurrency to have chosen to remain anonymous and silent until now. SushiSwap founders and developers are also anonymous, and use the alisases Chef Nomi and 0xMaki. The same for the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection, who have adopted the nicknames Gargamel and Gordon Goner  to conceal their identity.

It is a matter of consistency. According to the most strenuous advocates of decentralisation, the goal must be to guarantee a decentralised system, and the fact that the creator of a project is known automatically makes them more important in the eyes of public opinion, even if only on a subconscious level. Their influence would be too excessive and would end up conditioning the actions of users, as well as dismantling the very foundations of decentralised exchanges, which are based not on trust, but on cryptographic codes. 

A user’s statement on the Bitcoin forum is exemplary in this respect. He advocates the return of Satoshi Nakamoto because “Satoshi’s opinion would help the community decide, not because he is more competent than the current core developers, not because he is an authority figure, but because he would assuage the traders’ confidence”. 

Another theory for Nakamoto’s anonymity is linked to the notion that a successful cryptocurrency like Bitcoin would soon make many powerful enemies. If it had been misunderstood or considered dangerous, the authorities might have prosecuted the IT specialist as they did with Bernard von NotHaus, who was convicted of creating, owning and selling his own private currency, the Liberty Dollar. 

An open-ended mystery

The identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, therefore, remains a secret. Whatever it might be, the reason for the Bitcoin creator to remain in the shadows has probably helped their project to succeed. Many also believe that there is more than one person behind the Japanese name. 

It is indeed quite extraordinary that one person on their own was able to create a blockchain and a cryptocurrency now worth billions of dollars without leaving a single trace. Once again, however, these are mere ideas that have never been confirmed. Perhaps one day Satoshi Nakamoto will reveal their true identity, or maybe the enigma will remain such forever – as he said, he’s already working on something else.