Satoshi Nakamoto: What Do We Know About Him?

Last Updated September 30th 2019
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10 years later and Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity is still a complete mystery and we are still unable to create a full picture about who he might be.

Everything we know about him comes from the Bitcoin white paper, forums and emails, much of which can still be seen online. No one he worked with met him in person.

Nakamoto disappeared in 2011 and stopped posting on forums and writing emails and nothing more was heard from him.

But does Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity matter?

Yes, Nakamoto is estimated to have 1 million bitcoins, which is quite a lot, especially when you consider that there will only ever be 21 million in circulation.

At the time of writing, this would make Satoshi Nakamoto’s 2019 net worth approximately $10.5 billion.

What’s more, if Nakamoto suddenly sold his entire supply, the value of Bitcoin could drop to an unbelievable low.

That’s why Bitcoin has been accused of being a Ponzi scheme because the creator and founder owns such a significant share.

However, it should be mentioned that so far, this Bitcoin has not moved since Nakamoto disappeared.

So, what do we know about Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity?

Satoshi Nakamoto never completed Bitcoin

satoshi nakamoto and bitcoin

It is believed by some experts that Bitcoin was never really finished and may have been released too early.

They claim that the Bitcoin white paper and much of Nakamoto’s writing online gives the impression that Bitcoin was an experiment or a prototype to a better version.

This is also backed up by the fact that Nakamoto was still making many changes to Bitcoin and suggested many others after Bitcoin’s launch.

Nakamoto made a lot of changes to the source code himself and rarely gave a reason why according to sources that worked closely with him, which doesn’t help in unmasking him.

Perhaps the final piece of evidence that Nakamoto never finished Bitcoin is that it was never supposed to be used by so many people and that it struggles with scaling. 

It is very possible that as a prototype it was only supposed to be tested amongst a small group of people.

Bitcoin split

After Nakamoto’s disappearance, fractures in the Bitcoin community started to emerge as the community tried to overcome problems with the network related to speed, security and the dreaded issue of scaling.

The two primary factors that led to disagreements about how Bitcoin should proceed without Nakamoto were SegWitx2 (Segregated Witness) and the Lightning Network.

As Bitcoin changed, people argued if it really still was Bitcoin because it had changed so much from the original vision by Nakamoto.

This led to the split of Bitcoin into Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which had blocks eight times larger. This way Bitcoin Cash could process more transactions in one block, speeding up transaction times.

This was something Nakamoto had mentioned numerous times before as a viable way to continue scaling Bitcoin.

Bitcoin Cash’s success was great enough to even convert Roger Ver, commonly referred to as Bitcoin Jesus, to get involved and he is now one of the primary faces in Bitcoin Cash’s promotion.

So far, the change has worked. Bitcoin Cash is now able to process 61 transactions per second, which is considerably faster than Bitcoins 7. However, people have cited concerns over Bitcoin Cash’s security.

The changes didn’t stop there. Bitcoin Cash, like Bitcoin before it, continued to change and adopt features such as smart contracts. 

Critics were unhappy with this, again saying that Bitcoin Cash had changed too much. This then led to a further split and the creation of Bitcoin SV (Satoshi Vision).

What do we know about Nakamoto’s identity?

satoshi nalamoto identity

Nakamoto claimed to be from Japan and was born on the 5th April 1975, which would make him 44 years old as of 2019.

Despite the Japanese name, many believe that he was of another background due to his perfect English and that none of his documents, including the white paper, were written in Japanese.

Another theory is that he was possibly Japanese American as was supposedly assumed by Hal Finney, one of the first individuals involved in Bitcoin.

Some have noted that Nakamoto sometimes used British English and that this may mean that he was from a commonwealth country.

He even used British phrases such as ‘bloody hard’, which many saw as an indication that he was not American.

It is also widely believed that his background must have come from the cypherpunk movement which was very involved in concepts related to privacy.

Further to that, most people believe that Satoshi Nakamoto was a pseudonym, which would fit into the idea that he originated from the cypherpunks movement.

Some have suggested that the name Satoshi Nakamoto comes from the companies Samsung, Toshiba, Nakamichi, and Motorola.

Using the first parts of Samsung and Toshiba you can make Satoshi, and with the first parts of Nakamichi and Motorola, you can make Nakamoto.

Nakamoto also used anonymous email services and used Tor to register the domain Bitcoin.org,  further emphasising the fact that privacy was very important to him.

Why did Satoshi Nakamoto disappear?

This may have something to do with the nature of Nakamoto possibly coming from the cypherpunks movement who were very interested in Internet privacy and it may just simply be that Nakamoto wanted to live a private life.

However, some believe that Nakamoto disappeared on purpose to make Bitcoin more decentralised.

By removing himself he removed the central entity most people related to when there were issues that had to be dealt with. He could let Bitcoin become its own thing developed by the people.

However, a less flattering hypothesis is that he wanted to keep his privacy and saw Bitcoin taking off, effectively running off with his 1 million Bitcoins.

See also: 5 People Who Became Millionaires from Bitcoin

Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? The top four possible identities

There are several possible identities of Satoshi Nakamoto. However, none of them can be proven.

Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto

Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto

Dorian is a Japanese-American whose birth name is Satoshi Nakamoto and who worked with the US government as a systems engineer on classified defence projects and was also trained as a physicist.

However, Dorian aggressively denies that he is Nakamoto and claims to have never heard of Bitcoin until he was questioned about being the inventor.

Interestingly though, Dorian lived approximately 1.6 miles from Hal Finney who was heavily involved in the creation of Bitcoin.

That said, it is widely believed that Dorian’s name is purely a coincidence or that he was perhaps a patsy, used to distract attention from the real Nakamoto.

Dorian also has no background in the cypherpunk movement.

Hal Finney

hal finney

Hal Finney was a cryptographer who worked on an early prototype of a cryptocurrency. He was involved in the cypherpunk movement and was very interested in Bitcoin from the beginning.

He became heavily involved with Nakamoto in creating Bitcoin and was perhaps one of the biggest contributors to it, aside from Nakamoto himself. 

Finney was even the first receiver of the first Bitcoin in a transaction from Nakamoto after the network went live.

In 2009, Finney was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Then in 2014, Finney died. Some people believe that Finney’s death and deteriorating health may be linked to Nakamoto’s disappearance.

There is also a theory that Nakamoto was Nick Szabo, but Finney did all the coding work. However, it should be mentioned that Finney wrote in C and Bitcoin was coded in C++.

It is also possible that the name Satoshi Nakamoto was chosen because Dorian Nakamoto lived nearby and if anybody looked for him, they would find Dorian, not Finney.

Craig Steven Wright claims to be Satoshi Nakamoto

Craig Steven Wright

Originally Wired and Gizmodo outed Craig Steven Wright as Nakamoto and he initially denied it. However, within a few months, he claimed that it was him.

The belief is that Wright created Bitcoin with computer forensics analyst David Kleiman, but critics have pointed out that this field has nothing to do with cryptocurrency.

Interestingly, it is believed that Wright does own approximately 1.1 million Bitcoins and at one point it is believed to have been as much as 10% of the total supply.

The number is similar to what is believed to have been owned by Nakamoto. However, the amount owned by Wright is believed to have come from the mining company that he co-owned with Kleiman.

Wright is also Australian and as mentioned above, Nakamoto was known to sometimes use British English when writing. Australian English does incorporate British and American elements, which could explain this.

In an interview with the BBC, Wright said that he could prove that he was Nakamoto, however, he has not been able to produce any evidence to support this since.

Wright’s claim to be Nakamoto was previously believed to be a hoax but as of 2019, Wright has tried to patent Bitcoin in his name in the USA and is suing people for libel in the UK who claim he is not Nakamoto.

Wright is also now involved in the Bitcoin SV project.

Nick Szabo

Nick Szabo

Szabo is a computer scientist, legal scholar, cryptographer and well-known for creating the concept of smart contracts.

Around the time Bitcoin was being developed, Szabo was working on a very similar project called BitGold and even published an article on BitGold a week before Bitcoin went live in 2009.

BitGold is a very similar project to Bitcoin. Here are just a few of the similarities:

  • Use a Proof of Work algorithm;
  • Peer to peer electronic system;
  • Doesn’t require a third party;
  • Consensus is required before the next block can be started;
  • Cryptographic puzzles need to be solved to receive coins;
  • New coins are time stamped.

It is also very interesting that of all the projects that were mentioned in Nakamoto’s white paper, BitGold was not mentioned, despite all the vast similarities.

Szabo is also a well-known user of pseudonyms and his initials N S are the same. It may be possible that he wanted to choose a pseudonym similar to his own.

However, Nick Szabo is not known to be able to write in C++, Bitcoin’s coding language. 

Despite this, some believe that Szabo may have been the brain behind the idea, and he worked with someone else, potentially Hal Finney who coded it.

By using stylometry, which is the study of how people formulate written language, similarities in how Nakamoto and Szabo write and use English have been found. 

Some of the similarities include:

  • Putting two spaces at the beginning of a sentence;
  • Start sentences with “It should be noted”;
  • “A level of” followed by a noun;
  • Use the phrase “of course” without isolating commas;
  • The phrase “can be characterized”;
  • “Timestamp” used as a verb.

However, it should be said that someone may have imitated his writing style.

It may even be possible that Satoshi Nakamoto ripped off much of Nick Szabo’s work, hence why the writing style is similar and why such a similar project was not mentioned in the white paper.

Szabo is also one of the only persons who communicated with Nakamoto not to have released his emails and some have noted that his online presence virtually disappeared when Bitcoin was released.

John McAfee claims to know Nakamoto’s identity

John McAfee is the controversial figure behind the McAfee software security company.

He has been very vocal on Twitter in claiming that he knows the true identity of Nakamoto, effectively saying that unless Nakamoto reveals his identity, McAfee will.

McAfee believes Satoshi Nakamoto is a collection of people, however, the author of the Bitcoin white paper was written by one man who lives in the USA.

He also says it’s important to know who Nakamoto is because people such as Craig Wright can falsely claim that it’s him and this can be dangerous.

In his tweets, McAfee has also seemed to suggest that the team of people behind Bitcoin were Indian in an email he uploaded when communicating with someone claiming to be Nakamoto.

However, many people don’t believe that McAfee knows who Nakamoto is and that he just likes the attention.

A group of people

satoshi nakamoto is a group of people

It is very possible that Satoshi Nakamoto wasn’t just one person but a group of people. In fact, some have claimed that the coding work on Bitcoin was so good it likely wasn’t done by just one person.

This could also explain why his use of English sometimes sways from US to UK.

Could Satoshi Nakamoto be deceased?

It is very possible that Nakamoto simply died and that is why he disappeared.

This is possible in two circumstances; firstly in regards to Hal Finney and potentially in regards to Dave Kleiman who worked alongside Craig Wright and died in 2013.

Do we really need to know Nakamoto’s identity?

People, such as John McAfee, believe that the world should know who he is, and he may have a good point in regards to people pretending to be Nakamoto.

It may also be important to find out who Nakamoto is to prevent them from offloading the 1 million Bitcoins they possess and sinking Bitcoin prices.

The case may be that if such an event happens, it will only make it more relevant to find out who they are.

If Nakamoto’s identity was revealed though, there may be threats on his life or he may face arrest by tax authorities or other organisations due to crimes that have taken place such as the purchase of illegal items on the Internet with Bitcoin.

Key points

If you remember anything from this article, make it these key points.

  • Satoshi Nakamoto owns approximately 1 million Bitcoins. If this Bitcoin was sold, it would devastate the price.
  • Several individuals could be Nakamoto. None of which can be proven thus far.
  • Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV splintered off Bitcoin to keep in line with Nakamoto’s ideas. The importance of this is debatable.
  • It is highly likely that Satoshi Nakamoto was a group of people. This could explain a few things about his personality.

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