Artikel of The Economist : Mr Nakamoto holds 1million bitcoin’s
Imagine that the paternity of a particularly brilliant child is in doubt, and someone steps forward to claim he is the father. In the real world a DNA test would sort the matter out quickly. In the confusing world of bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, things are not that simple. From the start bitcoin has rested on a mystery: the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the author of the academic “white paper” published in October 2008 which first outlined the technology behind the digital money. This mystery may finally be solved: Craig Steven Wright—a 45-year-old Australian computer scientist and inventor who was outed against his will and with dubious evidence as Mr Nakamoto in December last year—now claims he is the real Satoshi. On May 2nd he published a blog post offering what he says is cryptographic proof that he is indeed the creator of bitcoin.
The Economist—along with the BBC and GQ Magazine—had access to Mr Wright before the publication of his post (see footnote). We interviewed him, reviewed the documents he has provided and talked to bitcoin insiders who have communicated with Mr Nakamoto in the past and who had access to the same information. Our conclusion is that Mr Wright could well be Mr Nakamoto, but that important questions remain. Indeed, it may never be possible to establish beyond reasonable doubt who really created bitcoin.
Bitcoin has become much bigger than Mr Nakamoto; he stopped participating in the project a few years ago, and his successors have written far more code than he ever did. Whether Mr Wright’s claim is believed, especially by bitcoin cognoscenti, matters nonetheless. The bitcoin project has been riven for months by what some call a “civil war” between two competing camps of developers and bitcoin companies (although the rhetoric has recently become less strident). One side wants to keep bitcoin smallish and pure; the other is pushing for it to grow rapidly, even if this means turning it into something more like a conventional payment system. The bone of contention is the size of a “block”, the name given to the batches into which bitcoin transactions are assembled before they are validated. The intervention of a resurrected Satoshi would certainly change the dynamics of this debate. First, however, Mr Wright has to persuade people of his claim.
Nobody, not even his closest collaborators, ever met Mr Nakamato in person. They only communicated with him electronically. He not only wrote the white paper, but also the first version of the software that powers the system and then worked with other developers to improve it. But a couple of years into the project, he stopped participating. “I have moved on to other things,” he wrote in April 2011. Except for a few messages, most of which are believed to be hoaxes, he has not been heard from since.
That suggests a huge desire to remain private—and extraordinary willpower. Thus far, at least, the person behind the pseudonym has forgone fame and kudos. Despite its shady side (for instance as an anonymous means of payment for drug dealers) the system has proven very resilient: its exchange rate has recovered after a steep fall last year (see chart). The invention that underlies it, called the “blockchain”, is widely considered downright brilliant. Nor does Mr Nakamoto seem to be motivated by fortune: all bitcoin in circulation are now worth about $7 billion, more than the basic monetary supply (cash and deposits) of many small countries. According to some estimates, Mr Nakamoto holds 1m bitcoin, worth about $450m at current rates, but they have never been touched.
FIVE months after Craig Steven Wright, an Australian computer scientist and businessman, was outed against his will as Satoshi Nakamoto, he says he is indeed the creator of bitcoin. On May 2nd he published a blog post offering cryptographic proof, backed up by other information, to make his case. Along with two other media organisations, The Economist had access to Mr Wright before the publication of his post. Our conclusion is that he could well be Mr Nakamoto, but that nagging questions remain. In fact, it may never be possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt who really created bitcoin. Whether people, particularly bitcoin cognoscenti, actually believe Mr Wright will depend greatly on what he does next, after going public.
In December, after he was outed, Mr Wright stayed silent. So why has he now changed his mind? “I’m not seeking publicity, but want to set the record straight,” he explains. He says he called himself “Nakamoto” after a 17th-century Japanese philosopher and merchant, Tominaga Nakamoto, who was highly critical of the normative thought of his time and favoured free trade. (He doesn’t want to say why he picked “Satoshi”: “Some things should remain secret.”)