As you might have heard, Satoshi Nakamoto is the anonymous creator of Bitcoin. Satoshi’s name first appeared in the now famous Bitcoin whitepaper in October 2008.
Yup, the Bitcoin whitepaper was published just as the world was dealing with one of the worst financial crisis. An anonymous figure called Satoshi Nakamoto released a proposal for a decentralized digital currency that would shake the world forever.
Here we prepared a deep dive into his or her history, origin, assumed net worth, identity theories and much more. Welcome!
This guide covers the following topics:
Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity has never been revealed. Nobody knows who he or she is, where she came from and even whether she is still alive.
Throughout the next 3 years, Satoshi developed the Bitcoin software and exchanged more than 1000 emails and posts with other early Bitcoin enthusiasts. You can find most of his code, emails and posts here.
Satoshi vanished from the internet in the late 2010 and last exchanged a few emails with one of the early Bitcoin developers Mike Hearn in early 2011. We will most likely never find out his or her real identity.
Bitcoin was first mentioned in the now famous Bitcoin whitepaper that was released on 31st October 2008. The whitepaper was published on the cryptography mailing list. Interestingly, most experienced cryptographers initially dismissed it.
Just a bit more than 2 months later, Satoshi published the first working version of Bitcoin software written in C++. Bitcoin was released as a completely open-source project - everyone can check the code, inspect it and even try to contribute to it. You can see and download the code here.
Bitcoin started to slowly gain popularity among the experienced cryptography and cypherpunk crowd. Several developers started to help Satoshi with active code development: Martti Malmi, Laszlo Haynecz, Gavin Andresen, Chris Moore, Pieter Wuille, Jeff Garzik, Wladimir J. van der Laan, Greg Maxwell, Adam Back and many others.
Satoshi mostly stopped active development of Bitcoin towards the end of 2010. At that point, Bitcoin already had a strong early development community that took care of the further additions on its own.
If Satoshi is alive, he or she is most likely extremely rich. A billionaire. At least on paper.
Satoshi was the first and original Bitcoin miner, accumulating vast amounts of early bitcoins. By some estimates, Satoshi currently holds keys to more than 1M bitcoins, which puts his current net worth at $4.13b.
Find more about Satoshi's net worth here.
Over time, several people have been associated, called out or even self-proclaimed as Satoshi. It's kind of like the scene below 👇
Jokes aside, there are a few key people that are the main "suspects" behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Let's check them one by one.
Hal Finney is one of the most likely persons behind the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Hal was a computer scientist, committed cryptography and encryption enthusiast. He suffered from ALS and died as a result of it in 2014.
Bitcoin grabbed his attention from the early beginning, just when Satoshi published it on the cryptography mailing list.
It’s a well-known fact that Hal was the second person to ever run Bitcoin software and the one who received the first-ever Bitcoin transaction from Satoshi.
So a plausible theory is that Satoshi and Hal are the same person. That Hal simply “invented” Satoshi, exchanged emails with him only to distance himself personally from the invention.
Furthermore, Hal lived in the same neighborhood of LA as someone who is actually named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. Dorian was later also exposed as potential real Satoshi, but that rumor was quickly rebuffed.
For starters, he himself denied being Satoshi. Furthermore, email exchanges between him and Satoshi look very real and someone would have to go to great length to stage it. For example, why would someone send debug crash logs to himself?!
If you want to read more about Hal’s life and interest in Bitcoin, we recommend you to check his Bitcointalk post from March 2013.
Nick Szabo is a computer scientist best known for his research on digital contracts and digital currency. Szabo has been one of the leading digital currency researchers for more than 20 years.
Most interestingly, in 1998 Szabo designed a currency called “bit gold”. It was never fully implemented. That said, a lot of its ideas ended up being included in the final design of Bitcoin and Satoshi publicly credited Szabo for it.
We recommend you to follow Nick Szabo on Twitter - he is very active and outspoken on the subject of cryptocurrencies. Probably the closest voice of Satoshi we’ll ever have.
Nick Szabo revived his “bit gold” idea in the spring of 2008, looking for help in developing it further. Yup, that’s just a few months before Bitcoin whitepaper arrived. You can read a more elaborate analysis of why Szabo is Satoshi here.
Well, he has denied it on several occasions. Furthermore, Szabo appears to not have enough computer programming experience to be able to write the initial Bitcoin software all on his own.
Wei Dai is a notable computer engineer, cryptographer and cypherpunk.
Dai created b-money - an early precursor to Bitcoin, which Satoshi cites in his famous Bitcoin whitepaper.
Dai’s b-money concept shares a lot of similarities with the final version of Bitcoin. Moreover, Dai’s background fits very well with the skills required to design and implement Bitcoin.
Satoshi emailed Wei Dai in August 2008, 2 months before releasing the famous whitepaper, asking him about a reference to his b-money. The further email exchange claims that Satoshi was previously unaware of Dai’s work. So, either Dai is a master of deception or just not Satoshi.
As mentioned, throughout the years, there has been a lot of founded and unfounded speculation around the true identity of Satoshi.
Some of the other more or less likely suspects include: Shinichi Mochizuki, Dorian Nakamoto, John Nash and Craig Wright, Vili Lehdonvirta and Michael Clear. People have gone even as far as calling out Elon Musk as the real Satoshi.
While the thought of Bitcoin being created by one genius alone is interesting, it's most likely not true. A lot of people claim that Nick Szabo and Hal Finney are both responsible for the creation of Bitcoin.
If this theory is true, Nick Szabo probably served as the leading architect and academic, while Hal Finney coded most of the early versions of the Bitcoin software.
Satoshi was very active in the Bitcoin community from 2008 to late 2010. In fact, there are more than 1,000 of her publicly available posts. But there are a couple of his quotes that stood out.
On the origin of Bitcoin:
(I’ve been working on bitcoin’s design) since 2007. At some point I became convinced there was a way to do this without any trust required at all and couldn’t resist to keep thinking about it.
On lost bitcoins:
Lost coins only make everyone else’s coins worth slightly more. Think of it as a donation to everyone.
On core design decisions of Bitcoin:
The nature of Bitcoin is such that once version 0.1 was released, the core design was set in stone for the rest of its lifetime.
On anonymity in Bitcoin:
We don’t want to lead with “anonymous (currency)”… (or) “currency outside the reach of any government.” I am definitely not making an such taunt or assertion.
On internet getting segmented:
It’s hard to imagine the Internet getting segmented airtight. It would have to be a country deliberately and totally cutting itself off from the rest of the world.
On bugs in Bitcoin:
This isn’t the kind of software where we can leave so many unresolved bugs that we need a tracker for them.
On Bitcoin electricity waste:
The utility of the exchanges made possible by Bitcoin will far exceed the cost of electricity used. Therefore, not having Bitcoin would be the net waste.
On feature development:
We shouldn’t delay forever until every possible feature is done. There’s always going to be one more thing to do.
On writing a simple tagline for Bitcoin:
Sorry to be a wet blanket. Writing a description for (bitcoin) for general audiences is bloody hard. There’s nothing to relate it to.
On creating the Bitcoin logo:
How does everyone feel about the B symbol with the two lines through the outside? Can we live with that as our logo?
On Bitcoin utility in 20 years:
I’m sure that in 20 years there will either be very large (bitcoin) transaction volume or no volume.
On Bitcoin price:
The price of any commodity tends to gravitate toward the production cost. If the price is below cost, then production slows down. If the price is above cost, profit can be made by generating and selling more.
The last digital trace of Satoshi is his last email sent to one of the early Bitcoin developers Mike Hearn. You can see their original email exchange here.
In the last email, Mike asked Satoshi whether he had any plans to rejoin the Bitcoin development community. This was Satoshi's answer:
I've moved on to other things. It's in good hands with Gavin and everyone.
Gavin, that Satoshi mentions above, is Gavin Andresen, one of the early Bitcoin developers and the lead developer of the Bitcoin Core codebase at the time (2011). You can read more about Gavin on his Wikipedia page.
The satoshi currently also stands for the smallest unit of bitcoin: a one hundred millionth of a single bitcoin (0.00000001 BTC).
Well-produced documentary featuring many of the early Bitcoin enthusiasts:
Great documentary on Bitcoin's early days: