Janos Kummer / Stringer, Getty Images
- Satoshi Nakamoto is said to be the inventor of bitcoin and wrote the token’s original white paper in 2008.
- Crypto fans this week celebrated Nakamoto’s 48th birthday amid new theories as to their true identity.
- Here’s what to know about the mysterious icon behind the world’s largest cryptocurrency.
Satoshi Nakamoto is the name of the individual or group credited with inventing bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency. Their legend is shrouded in mystery.
The inventor’s identity has never been confirmed, though April 5 marked their 48th birthday, according to information on a profile with The P2P Foundation.
This week, conspiracy theories connected the figure to the late Steve Jobs, the visionary Apple cofounder, following the revelation that Apple has shipped out Mac computers since 2018 with a copy of the original bitcoin white paper.
“While trying to fix my printer today, I discovered that a PDF copy of Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper apparently shipped with every copy of macOS since Mojave in 2018,” technologist Andy Baio wrote in an April 5 blog post.
Nakamoto’s paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” was published in October 2008. The abstract reads:
“A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.”
Since then, bitcoin has become the largest cryptocurrency, with a market cap of about $540 billion, according to CoinMarketCap data on Friday.
What we know about Satoshi Nakamoto
Someone is behind the name, given that they invented bitcoin’s complex source code, authored a white paper, and interacted with users on web forums.
Nakamoto’s profile on The P2P Foundation lists their location as Japan. In their posts, however, Nakamoto has used British English spellings and expressions, leading some to assume they are in fact not Japanese, as the inventor claimed. Additionally, some have pointed to the time stamps on Nakamoto’s comments as reason to believe they were not located in Japan.
In 2011, a comment from that account stated that they had “moved onto other things.”
The name is also associated with a number of crypto wallets, presumably owned by Nakamoto. Some estimate that those wallets hold more than 1.1 million bitcoin tokens. When bitcoin peaked in November 2021 at $68,000, those holdings would have been worth about $73 billion, placing Nakamoto among the 15 riches people in the world at the time.
Some have speculated that the chances Nakamoto is one person are low, given the complexity of bitcoin’s source code.
“Either there’s a team of people who worked on this or this guy is a genius,” Dan Kaminsky, a leading internet-security researcher, told The New Yorker in 2011.
In his white paper, Nakamoto cited the work of Stuart Haber, a computer scientist credited with helping invent blockchain technology. Haber has echoed Kaminsky’s sentiment that the programmer behind bitcoin would have had a “keen intelligence.”
Other names that have been connected to Nakamoto
In 2013, Nick Szabo, a computer scientist who published research in 1998 on “bit gold,” a precursor to bitcoin, drew attention for potentially being Nakamoto. He has denied it, and financial writer Dominic Frisby has said no proof exists connecting the two figures.
“The most convincing evidence pointed to a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo,” journalist Nathaniel Popper wrote in The New York Times in 2015.
A Newsweek article in 2014 said that Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese American man living in California, was the elusive inventor of bitcoin. According to the article, he was trained as a physicist and worked on classified defense projects, but he, too, denied the claims.
After the article published, Nakamoto’s online account revived itself after a five-year hiatus, stating: “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
Then, in December 2015, Wired posited that Australian researcher Craig Steven Wright “either invented bitcoin or is a brilliant hoaxer who very badly wants us to believe he did.”
The same day, Gizmodo published a story that said Wright, as well as computer scientist Dave Kleiman, together were involved in the invention of bitcoin.
Then, in May 2016, Wright announced in a blog post that he did create bitcoin, though he was met with prominent crypto figures who said it was false.
The list of other potential candidates, apart from Apple’s Jobs, includes the government, various other computer scientists, and even Elon Musk, who denied he was Nakamoto in a 2017 tweet.
On Friday, bitcoin hovered around $27,937. It has surged 68% in 2023.