This much we know: someone named Satoshi Nakamoto launched the idea for bitcoin in 2008 after publishing a paper through a Cryptography Mailing List.
Since then, the industry has taken off, blossoming and becoming an international phenomenon.
The media has tried to unmask him (or her) to no avail. While charlatans have come forward, claiming they’re really Nakamoto, no one has been able to verify.
Nakamoto — initially thought to be a 36-year-old Japanese man — has been in relative exile since 2010, only fueling more and more intrigue into the real identity.
Let’s look back at 4 times the media thought they had found Nakamoto — only to be proven wrong.
Arguably the most famous probably-not-Satoshi was Australian entrepreneur Craig Steven Wright. In 2015, major tech publications such as Wired and Gizmodo pointed to the Aussie as the real Nakamoto. The Economist even has a clickbait headline proclaiming “Craig Wright reveals himself as Satoshi Nakamoto” before noting that “nagging questions remain.”
Wright told The Economist the reasons why he chose the name Satoshi Nakamoto, but the publication remained skeptical. According to hackers, Wright has claimed to be Nakamoto and hacked emails show that Wright used the email address email@example.com.
In one of those emails, Wright admitted to business partner Dave Kleiman, “I cannot do the Satoshi bit anymore. They no longer listen. I am better as a myth.” While the claims were bold, Wright failed to provide credible evidence and the media and community were quick to conclude this was most likely not true.
In a now infamous media blunder, Newsweek reporter Leah Mcgrath Goodman published her article “the Face Behind Bitcoin” which named Los Angles resident Dorian Nakamoto as the inventor of Bitcoin after a 2-month long investigation.
While the name did line up and several key parts of Dorian’s life made it possible he could have been Bitcoin’s father, the community was quick to shoot holes in the story and many quickly concluded it was not true or possible.
This didn’t stop the media circus from taking Dorian’s entire world by storm and shortly after the story appeared, he announced his intention to sue Newsweek. While the lawsuit didn’t happen from what I can find, the Bitcoin community rallied around him and ended up donating over $23,000 (in bitcoin of course) to his cause.
One of the earliest attempts to reveal Nakamoto’s identity came in 2011, as The New Yorker suggested that Irish cryptography student Michael Clear might’ve been the origin of bitcoin — heavy emphasis on might.
Toward the end of a deep dive into the topic, The New Yorker’s Joshua Davis tried to build to a conclusion of naming Clear as the nom-de-cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin. However, even this ended with a whimper:
“I’m not Satoshi,” Clear said. “But even if I was I wouldn’t tell you.”
Clear later offered a more complete rebuttal, staying firm against the belief that he’s the mind behind Nakamoto.
Neal King, Vladimir Oksman, Charles Bry
Not long after The New Yorker failed to peg Clear as the real Satoshi, Fast Company had another theory: Satoshi Nakamoto is a combination of three people.
After going through textual analysis of Nakamoto’s paper, Fast Company pointed to a patent filed by inventors Neal King, Vladimir Oksman and Charles Bry. Fast Company’s Adam Penenberg Googled phrases from the paper, finding similarities within that patent.
The domain name of bitcoin.com, where Nakamoto originally published his findings, was registered just three days after the patent by King, Oksman and Bry was filed. Penenberg believed all of these clues pointed to the trio really being Nakamoto.
While the idea of Nakamoto being a mix of three minds is intriguing, it wasn’t the truth. The three all denied their alleged role as Nakamoto.
“Just like Davis, I found all this information that pointed directly to someone, but in the end I ran into a brick wall, albeit accompanied by far more gentler denials,” Penenberg wrote.
Countless others have been pointed to as the real Nakamoto, from Finnish developer Martii Malmi to computer scientists Donal O’Mahony and Michael Peirce. Time after time, after so many words written by reporters and deep digging by authors and online sleuths, each supposed Nakamoto has denied any involvement.
The mystery still remains: no one knows who Nakamoto is (or if Nakamoto even exists). The media has been on an empty-handed hunt for years, trying to find the mastermind behind Bitcoin.
Do you think we’ll ever actually find out who invented Bitcoin? Does it actually even matter?