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The Top 5 Theories About Who Created Bitcoin

Bitcoin has fundamentally altered how millions of people worldwide choose to send value to one another. Its founder, Satoshi Nakamoto went to great lengths to conceal their identity.

The whole concept of Bitcoin was a means to eliminate the reliance on third-party intermediaries. By concealing their identity with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s creator allowed Bitcoin to grow organically through community consensus rather than the need for some central figure directing it.

That hasn’t kept people from speculating on the identity of the person behind Bitcoin, however. Today we’re looking at five of the most popular conspiracy theories regarding Satoshi Nakamoto.

Bitcoin white paper

Satoshi Was Anonymous By Design

Bitcoin’s design removes a central point of failure and influence, which allows Bitcoin to remain decentralized in the purest sense. Satoshi ultimately stepped back from the project on April 23, 2011, announcing in an email to Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn that “I’ve moved on to other things” and “It’s in good hands.

Last word's of Satoshi Nakamoto

Despite Bitcoin’s design to keep its creator anonymous, there have appeared a number of different theories as to who the mysterious creator might be. Here are 5 of the most popular theories on the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto.

1. Hal Finney

Hal Finney’s impact on Bitcoin, whether or not he was actually its creator, is unmistakable. He was the first person to receive a bitcoin transaction, an early code writer for the blockchain, and widely believed to be the second person to download and run a copy of the blockchain after Satoshi. A brilliant mind whose contributions to the early development of Bitcoin will always be remembered.

Finney’s proximity to the early development of Bitcoin makes him a prime suspect for being the creator of Bitcoin. It is conceivable that he used the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto to keep the focus on the project.

Another significant link Hal Finney shares with Bitcoin’s creator is that Satoshi Nakamoto’s disappearance from the project coincides with Finney’s progression of ALS. Finney was initially diagnosed with ALS in August 2009, seven months after the Bitcoin blockchain launched. He ultimately succumbed to the disease in August 2014. Whatever the truth is, his contributions to Bitcoin have ultimately helped make Bitcoin what it is today.

2. Nick Szabo

Nick Szabo is a potential candidate for being the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. He is a computer scientist, cryptographer, cypherpunk and worked closely on pre-Bitcoin digital currency projects. He is also credited with first developing the concept of smart contracts in 1996 for contract law and electronic commerce protocols between strangers digitally.

After graduating from the University of Washington in 1989 with a degree in computer science, Szabo went to work for David Chaum at DigiCash Inc. Here he was directly exposed to cryptographic protocols that would secure and keep transactions anonymous for digital payments.

Szabo’s familiarity working with digital currencies and the technical difficulties they present makes him a strong candidate for being Bitcoin’s creator. However, his cypherpunk background and history working with anonymous payments at DigitCash led some to believe he wished to remain anonymous.

3. Craig Wright

Finding someone more disliked in the Bitcoin community than Craig Wright is difficult. Where every other candidate on this list has denied being the creator of Bitcoin, Craig Wright has embraced the title and filed defamation lawsuits against those who would suggest otherwise.

He is an Australian computer scientist who spent time working in IT for OzEmail, K-Mart, and the Australian Securities Exchange. He is also responsible for the hard fork on the Bitcoin Cash blockchain known as Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) on November 15, 2018.

His main claim to being Satoshi was through a post he made on his blog in May 2016, where he posted a message with a cryptographic signature using private keys that were created during the early days of Bitcoin that are linked to Satoshi. However, it was later revealed that his blog post and public encryption of the keys had been backdated and most likely fraudulent.

Failing to establish credible proof, Mr. Wright turned to sue anyone who discredited him, including Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, and notable bitcoiners Peter McCormack, and Hodlonaut. Unfortunately for Craig Wright, you won’t find many people that truly created Bitcoin.

4. Dorian Nakamoto

In March 2014, Newsweek published an article declaring they had solved the riddle. They announced that they believed the illusive Bitcoin creator was none other than the 64-year-old Japanese American, Dorian Nakamoto. A California resident who had graduated in physics from California Polytechnic and had spent time working on classified defense projects.

His education in physics, family name, and address are from the same area as Hal Finney. This led many to believe he was Bitcoin’s founder.

The release of the Newsweek article sent the crypto community and mainstream media into a frenzy. The world descended upon Dorian Nakamoto, and he was put instantly in the spotlight. Whether or not he is Bitcoin’s creator, Newsweek’s doxing of his address upset a lot of Bitcoiners. As a result, Andreas Antonopolous created a compensatory fund that raised over 67 BTC for Dorian Nakamoto’s trouble.

5. The NSA

This is one of the more outlandish theories about Bitcoin’s creator, yet there are a few reasons it could be considered an option. From a technical aspect, it was the NSA that first developed the SHA-256 hashing algorithm in 2001 that fundamentally underpins the architecture of Bitcoin. Therefore, the creator of Bitcoin would have needed to be familiar with it while developing the software.

The NSA and the larger U.S. intelligence community would benefit from having a financial infrastructure that can easily move money across borders without the watchful gaze of centralized finance and international banks.

Ironically, the opposite can also be considered a reason to support this theory. Every transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain is recorded and visible to everyone. With the assistance of forensic blockchain providers, the U.S. intelligence community would be able to actively and reliably record every transaction made by anyone it chooses to.

Final Thoughts: We Are All Satoshi

No matter who the real Satoshi Nakamoto is, bitcoin lives on without the aid of its creator(s). The anonymity of the founder propagates the message that We Are All Satoshi.

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Iain Taylor

About the Author

Iain Taylor

Iain Taylor grew up in Northern Ireland, and is currently living in Halifax, NS. He has quadruple citizenship status, and has been involved in cryptocurrency since the end of 2020. He completed a study in Bitcoin, Blockchain Technology, and Cryptocurrencies at Dalhousie in 2021, and has been writing on the industry since September 2021.

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