Bitcoin Turns 10 But Crypto’s Biggest Mystery Still Remains: The Many Faces of Satoshi Nakamoto
Exactly a decade ago, Bitcoin network came into existence after Satoshi Nakamoto mined its Genesis Block, effectively starting a long-lasting trend that has brought over two thousand different tokens to date, as well as started a world-wide monetary revolution. However, despite his enormous impact on the entire world, Nakamoto's very identity remains a mystery to this day, ten years into the future.
Since he first appeared in 2008 with his Bitcoin white paper, there were countless attempts to unmask him. He was targeted by journalists, investigators, and even governments. Even so, we still don't even know whether Nakamoto is an individual or a group, where he might be located, or any other clue regarding his identity.
Obviously, the name is an alias, and Nakamoto himself identified as a 43-year-old from Japan. This also appears to be an attempt to misdirect those who might be interested in unmasking him, as none of his Bitcoin forum posts were made during Japan's daytime. There were also several clues that curious investigators noticed, such as the British spelling of certain words.
Even so, his identity, nationality, and other details remain a mystery. And, what does the internet do when it has a mystery to solve? It speculates. As a result, numerous people and entities were suspected of being the “man behind the mask,” and while there is no confirmation that any of them is the real Nakamoto, it is always interesting to consider these possibilities.
Let's take a look at some of the main suspects that the internet considered over the years.
1) Vili Lehdonvirta
The first suspect is Vili Lehdonvirta, a 38-year-old professor from Finland's Helsinki Institute for Information Technology. He was suspected of being Nakamoto as far back as in October 2011. One of the New Yorker's journalists, Joshua Davis, wrote a piece about him back then, after talking to a graduate student in cryptography who believed that Lehdonvirta is a perfect fit for Nakamoto. However, the suspect denied being Satoshi and had stated that only a crypto expert could create something like Bitcoin, which is something that he definitely is not.
2) Shinichi Mochizuki
The next major suspect is a 49-year-old Japanese mathematician, suspected of being Nakamoto by Ted Nelson, a known US sociologist, philosopher, and IT pioneer. He suggested that Mochizuki might be the real Satoshi on May 17, 2013, but Nelson did not have any real evidence, apart from the circumstantial ones. He also offered to donate 1 BTC to charity if Mochizuki denies being Nakamoto, which he eventually did, a few months later.
3) Hal Finney
Another big suspect turned out to be Hal Finney, who was suspected of being Nakamoto on March 25, 2014. Finney was a US cryptographic pioneer, and he was the first person ever to receive Bitcoin, sent to him by Satoshi Nakamoto himself. To be fair, Finney was likely considered to be the real Nakamoto even before 2014 because of this fact, although this is the only time that he was officially proposed as a potential candidate.
The reason for being suspected of being behind the alias is the huge similarities between their handwriting, which is something that Forbes journalist Andy Greenberg noticed, and Juola & Associates' writing analysts managed to confirm. However, the writing style used by Finney was not a close enough match for any kind of real confirmation. This led to speculation that the two may have collaborated in some way, but that they are likely not the same person, as Greenberg eventually accepted. Finney died on August 28, 2014, at the age of 58.
4) Elon Musk
As unexpected as it may be, there was a time when SpaceX's former intern, Sahil Gupta, speculated that Satoshi Nakamoto is none other than Elon Musk. Gupta pointed out that Musk's background certainly makes him capable of coming up with Bitcoin, although Musk himself addressed these speculations as not true.
5) Craig Wright
Many are probably already aware of Craig Wright's claims that he is the real Nakamoto, as they were made numerous times. However, Wright was also suspected of being Satoshi back in December 2015, when Wired's journalists — Gwern Branwen and Andy Greenberg — stated that Wright is either the real Satoshi or a skilled enough hoaxer who wants the world to believe he is Satoshi.
There were also speculations that Wright is only one half of Satoshi, with the other half being his friend, David Kleiman, who died two years earlier. This was allegedly confirmed by a hacker who managed to gain access to Wright's emails.
Wright responded by disappearing for five months, and then returning and stating that the claims were true. Later on, when he failed to prove that he is Nakamoto, many started suspecting that his claims were false.