March 6, 2014, is a date that the Bitcoin community is not likely to forget anytime soon. On that date, an article ran in newly revived publication Newsweek that claimed to have outed the founder of Bitcoin, the mysterious figure known as Satoshi Nakamoto.
Throughout the day on March 6, my Twitter feed was littered with reports of various journalists chasing the alleged Nakamoto. Throughout the ordeal, in interview after interview, the man who Newsweek claims to be the inventor of Bitcoin repeatedly denied any involvement with it.
The alleged Satoshi Nakamoto found by Newsweek, legally goes by the name Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto and apparently is descended from Japanese Samurai. The only problem with the story about the alleged Bitcoin inventor is that it’s not likely true.
Late in the day on March 6, the real Satoshi Nakamoto did in fact reveal himself, and it wasn’t the man that reporters had been chasing all day.
In a simple one-line post on the P2P Foundation’s Ning page, the same forum where the true founder of Bitcoin first announced his invention in February 2009, and from the same account that actually made the 2009 announcement, the following was posted:
“I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”
Yes, it is possible that the man outed by Newsweek and chased by reporters is the real Satoshi Nakamoto and the P2P Foundation post is just designed to fool us all. Yet somehow, I don’t think that’s likely.
The truth is that Bitcoin, from the very first post made by the real Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, has always been about distributed privacy. It makes absolute sense to me that the founder of Bitcoin would always want to protect his (or her) own privacy too.
A single Bitcoin today has a value hovering around $600 U.S., and the person who invented the currency no doubt is worth a tidy sum of money. Dorian Nakamoto by all reports lives a very humble lifestyle, so there is no indication of vast wealth. Then again, we all know that Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in America, and he still lives in a modest Omaha home.
In our culture, the cult of personality and the need to revere the founders of technology, be it Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison, are a long-standing tradition. The need to seek out and find the founder of Bitcoin is perfectly understandable in that context, but Bitcoin’s founder isn’t likely to be found anytime soon.
Unlike Linus Torvalds, the founder of the open-source Linux operating system, which has changed the world, Nakamoto has not actively remained part of the Bitcoin development community so far as we know. Torvalds, in contrast, started Linux and to this day remains the person who releases new Linux kernels every three months.
The Bitcoin Foundation today is the leading body that is helping to push the actual Bitcoin protocol forward, and Nakamoto is not officially part of that effort.
The question of who is Satoshi Nakamoto is one that has been asked since 2009. I’ve seen plenty of claims about who the real person might be, but before yesterday no one was chased down like poor Dorian Nakamoto.
It is very likely that the real Satoshi Nakamoto has not yet been publicly found, and I strongly suspect that the true inventor of Bitcoin will remain in the shadows until a time of his own choosing.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.