Bitcoin wouldn’t be the virtual currency we know of and love today had it not been for Satoshi Nakamoto. But it seems the mysterious entity is as controversial as the cryptocurrency.
From whispers about Nakamoto’s real gender, to rumors that the NSA already knows who ‘he’ is, the world is definitely stopping at nothing to uncover the truth behind bitcoin’s creator.
But why the unrelenting fervor over the search for his identity? What does it mean to find who Satoshi Nakamoto really is? Would it impact the bitcoin community, if at all? If so, in what ways?
Satoshi Nakamoto and Bitcoin’s Beginnings
In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto wrote a white paper on what is to become the first virtual currency on a cryptography mailing list. The paper was titled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’. It’s aim: To become an ‘independent currency free of any central authority, with the convenience of instant electronic transfers anywhere around the globe, and with little to no transaction fees’.
It’s said that work on the project began in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the first bitcoin software was released. It was a bold project that challenged financial sectors all over the world. The technology relied on blockchain – a system of complex mathematical formulae that would allow a network of users to view and verify every single transaction made on a sort of public ledger.
As it’s open source, anybody can dive in. Bitcoin even allows mining – a process that lets users gain bitcoin by validating transactions in the blockchain. On January 3rd, 2009, the first block (or genesis block) of bitcoin was mined by Nakamoto. There are other developers who helped him fine tune the software, but he vanished from the scene in 2010.
He didn’t leave empty-handed though. Aside from the genesis block – and succeeding bitcoins that was awarded to him as the first and early miner – Satoshi Nakamoto owns more or less 1 million bitcoins.
What makes finding Satoshi Nakamoto a challenge?
Satoshi Nakamoto is a pseudonym. Until today, no one truly knows who he is – or even his true gender (is Nakamoto male or female?). Many people in the bitcoin universe guess that it’s not just one person but in fact, a group of highly talented programmers. Still some speculate it’s the work of a single genius.
But what makes the search for the real Satoshi Nakamoto a challenge is the anonymity that the Web presents. Unlike letters with return addresses or clues in handwriting, clues on the Web – such as emails – are not only difficult to analyze, but also tough to track (unless you’re the NSA).
There have been multitude attempts to try and find the person (or people) behind the bitcoin craze. Some tracked his online activities from when he was active in forum discussions. Others pooled possible candidates based on their enthusiasm, ability, and knowledge to craft the software for bitcoin.
Over the years, there have been a handful of people who were dragged into the search, including computer scientist and bit gold creator Nick Szabo; Hal Finney, who was the first person to receive a bitcoin transaction from Nakamoto; Dorian Nakamoto, an engineer living in California; and even Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Not only was there insufficient evidence for previous Nakamoto candidates, but they also denied being the bitcoin billionaire (with the exemption of Craig Steven Wright who claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto in 2016, but later changed his statement and took down his blog posts).
What It Means for the World of Cryptocurrency
You might be wondering: why is the world going nuts over finding out the true identity of the elusive bitcoin founder? There are a couple of implications, but the first being that well, Nakamoto owns about a million bitcoins.
Based on current exchange rates, that stash would be worth around $5 billion. This makes him one of the richest people on earth. While it’s understandable that folks worth that much would want privacy, that hasn’t stopped journalists – and the government – from trying to uncover his true face.
If you’re not interested in a person (or group of people) worth $5 billion, then maybe you’d like to know what it means should that million bitcoins suddenly flood the market.
According to cryptocurrency professor at Johns Hopkins University, Matt Green, Nakamoto’s share is significant enough that should he decide to sell them, this could cause an influx of the digital currency. As there’s suddenly more supply, values could drop.
But what about the government? Why the interest in the bitcoin founder? Aside from the paranoia that he could be funding some sort of espionage or terrorism activity, it’s no secret that Nakamoto holds some form of influence over the bitcoin community.
While the Bitcoin Foundation and the rest of the users in the network do a pretty good job of making the rules, it’s not sustainable. As bitcoin grows, the more it needs a central figure. A voice, if you must. Users will ultimately be influenced by Nakamoto – whether they choose to listen to him or not.
So, who is Satoshi Nakamoto?
NSA claims that they already know who he is. Others remain convinced that we might never know the man – or people – behind the brilliant virtual currency. But one thing is sure: thanks to him, we now have a better, more open, currency for future.