The Satoshi Nakamoto Mystery: Everything We Know (and Don’t Know)

The Satoshi Nakamoto Mystery: Everything We Know (and Don't Know)You may have been hearing a lot lately about the Satoshi Nakamoto mystery and how he, she, they is/are writing a new book. If you’re new to cryptocurrency, you may be a bit confused about who that is. Well, join the club! Nakamoto is notoriously mysterious and seclusive and no one really knows anything about them. Satoshi Nakamoto isn’t even his or her real name.

There’s a lot of speculation on just who this mystery figure is, considering that at bitcoin’s peak they would have been worth $19.4 billion (from reportedly owning 980,000 bitcoins). To cut through all the false reports and create a reliable database on this icon of cryptocurrency, we thought we’d compile all the facts we have on them, as well as stories that turned out to be bogus.

Satoshi Nakamoto developed bitcoin and wrote the Bitcoin Whitepaper

This is one thing we know for sure about the Satoshi Nakamoto mystery is their definitive claim to fame. The name was first used as the author of the Bitcoin Whitepaper, published Oct. 31, 2008, and resurfacing a few months later on January 9, 2009, when they released the bitcoin software Version 0.1 on Sourceforge. In fact, it was Satoshi Nakamoto who mined the first ever block on the chain, known as the genesis block.

The use of P2P networks to solve the double-spending problem of digital currency was nothing short of revolutionary. The technology outlined in the Bitcoin Whitepaper has been adopted by other cryptocurrencies to follow, leading many people to consider Nakamoto as a “founding father” of the cryptocurrency movement.

Satoshi Nakamoto claims to be a 43-year-old Japanese man

On their profile page for the P2P Foundation, Satoshi Nakamoto claims to be a resident of Japan, born in 1975. However, there’s no real backing to these claims, or that it’s even the same founder of Bitcoin.

Other sources speculate their stated birthday, April 5, 1975, is just an elaborate easter egg befitting such a massive fan of cryptography. On April 5, 1933, U.S. President FDR passed laws forbidding the hoarding of gold, while 1975 was the year gold ownership was re-legalized in the States.

Most likely, these dates and the Japanese pseudonym are strategic misdirects… but really, we have no way of knowing.

The Satoshi Nakamoto mystery deepens.

Satoshi Nakamoto is NOT Dorian Prentice

In 2014, Newsweek claimed to have unmasked Satoshi Nakamoto as a Japanese-American computer engineer in their 60s named Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto. The article drew connections to the man’s technical training, birth name, and anti-government attitude.

Aside from Dorian denying all claims on record, comparing the two personalities seems that they’re not the same person. Dorian made numerous posts online about his model train hobby, and the English he used was nowhere near the same level as the whitepaper or Nakamoto’s bitcoin forum posts.

Also, if the goal was to remain anonymous, why use your real name?

Satoshi Nakamoto was “paranoid” and “kind of weird.”

One of the few reliable sources on Satoshi Nakamoto is Laszlo Hanyecz, one of the early bitcoin developers who had regular conversations with Nakamoto, although only through email. You may remember Hanyecz as the man behind Bitcoin Pizza Day – he made the first ever real-world bitcoin purchase in 2010 for two pizzas.

In an interview with Business Insider, Hanyecz said that their interactions were always “kind of weird.” The developer had reached out to Nakamoto in 2010 because he wanted to help the new technology progress. Although the only payment he received came from mining, he said that Nakamoto often bossed him around and treated him like an employee, giving him tasks indiscriminately.

Hanyecz said that Nakamoto was often overly-protective of the early code, but understandably so. “There were a few times when I got messages that seemed off-base… He seemed very paranoid about people breaking the software. He kept calling it ‘prerelease,’ and I was helping him get it to release.”

Furthermore, whenever Hanyecz asked about anything personal, Nakamoto seemed to dodge the questions.

Linguistic analysis targets two main suspects

There are no secrets on the internet. By analyzing the public and private writings of Satoshi Nakamoto and comparing them to the works of other cryptocurrency writers, data scientist Michael Chon seems to have narrowed down the list of suspects to two.

(The NSA may have also used linguistic analysis to finger Nakamoto, but the source is sketchy, and even if they did, they’re not releasing their discoveries to the public.)

To try and solve the Satoshi Nakamoto mystery, Chon used stylometric analysis on Nakamoto’s writings to create sort of a linguistic signature of how the author writes. He then compared that to the pool of writing from the cryptocurrency community and arrived at two primary matches:

  • Computer Scientist Nick Szabo was linked most closely to the writing style of the Bitcoin whitepaper. This coincides with an earlier 2013 stylometric analysis that came to the same conclusion. Szabo, who denies the claim, also designed a precursor to bitcoin called “bit gold” in 1998.
  • Ian Grigg, a financial cryptographer, known for his work with triple-entry accounting, was linked most closely to Nakamoto’s email writing.

Although other candidates were named, the data ultimately concluded that these two men were the most likely contenders.

But another stylometric analysis named Gavin Andresen…

The thing about stylometry is that it’s not an exact science. Different algorithms prioritize different criteria, and at the end of the day, there’s no single “correct” method. That’s how ZyCrypto’s stylometric search produced an entirely new candidate, software developer Gavin Andresen.

However, rather than supporting a claim that Andresen is the real Nakamoto, all this study accomplishes is undermining the efforts of other stylometric analyses by revealing their shortcomings.

Andresen is best known as a bitcoin developer, namely the lead developer in Bitcoin Core. The bitcoin personality had previously stated that he thought the answer to the Satoshi Nakamoto mystery was Craig Wright, but there are some problems with this claim…

Craig Wright wants to be Satoshi Nakamoto but can’t prove it

Australian computer scientist, Craig Wright, flat-out said he was Satoshi Nakamoto and backed the claimed by showing his private key to be identical to the bitcoin pioneer. But there are too many inconsistencies in his story to take it at face value. For one thing, his personality is incongruent with the descriptions made by Hanyecz. But more damning is that his verification script was proven to contain a deception.

The world is probably better off if Craig Wright is not the powerful figure he claims to be. His demeanor leaves much to be desired, looking at his public feud with Jack Liao, founder of Bitcoin Gold, at a Taipei conference on May 23, 2018 – which caused him to be forcibly escorted off the premises. We would hope the real Satoshi Nakamoto would behave with more dignity.

The Satoshi Nakamoto Mystery: A Team Effort?

Perhaps the trouble with finding Satoshi Nakamoto is that everyone is looking for a single person. Considering the breadth of what Nakamoto accomplished, maybe it’s more reasonable to think that the name covers a group of people rather than one exceptionally talented individual.

Chon’s data that Nakamoto’s writing style varies from whitepaper, forum posts, and emails supports this theory, as do claims from Hanyecz saying, “I always got the impression it almost wasn’t a real person… Bitcoin seems awfully well designed for one person to crank out.”

Interesting, one of Chon’s candidates, Ian Grigg said something similar:

Firstly, Satoshi Nakamoto is not one human being. It is or was a team. Craig Wright named one person in his recent communications, being the late Dave Kleinman. Craig did not name others, nor should I. While he was the quintessential genius who had the original idea for bitcoin and wrote the lion’s share of the code, Craig could not have done it alone. Satoshi Nakamoto was a team effort.

Still, another more far-fetched theory posits that Satoshi Nakamoto is actually a composite pseudonym from a group of corporations they represent:

  • SAmsung
  • TOSHIba
  • NAKAmichi
  • MOTOrola

Perhaps the new book will shed some light on the Satoshi Nakamoto mystery. But then again, maybe we’re better off not knowing. What better mascot for the world of anonymous, encrypted commerce than someone whose true identity is a mystery.

Freelance writer specializing in business and marketing. I’ve been creating online content for more than ten years, and I love writing about cryptocurrency for the same reasons you like reading about it.