Biography of Gavin Andresen, Bitcoin's Former Lead Developer
Though software developer Gavin Andresen didn't create Bitcoin and wasn't behind its whitepaper or initial release, he has been one of the most important figures in the cryptocurrency's development and rise to prominence. After decades working as a programmer for a wide variety of companies, he became fascinated by Bitcoin very early in its history, and he went on to rewrite most of the code that powers the cryptocurrency before eventually becoming the project's lead developer.
Despite his important role in the development of Bitcoin, even many cryptocurrency enthusiasts know little about Andresen. Unlike Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin's pseudonymous creator, Andresen is a real person who documents his career on his LinkedIn page, tweets regularly, and occasionally grants interviews. While life in the public eye hasn't been entirely easy for Andresen, readers can see for themselves from his public statements that he is an extraordinarily talented programmer and a passionate evangelist for cryptocurrencies.
Education And Early Career
Andresen studied computer science at Princeton University, graduating in 1988 and beginning an impressive career soon afterwards. Throughout the next two decades, Andresen specialized in 3D graphics, virtual reality, and game development. However, he'd also written a variety of other software, including content management systems, VoIP programs, and library archiving software. Through his decades working in the software industry, Andresen became a consummate programmer and also gained valuable management experience that would later prove crucial as he took the reins of the Bitcoin project.
Involvement With Bitcoin
Andresen first learned about Bitcoins from an online article published by InfoWorld in early 2010, and he was immediately enthusiastic about the technology. Within a month of reading the article, Andresen bought 10,000 bitcoins (for only $50 total), and he created a website called the Bitcoin Faucet that simply gave five bitcoins to every visitor. Later that year, he also created an escrow service for Bitcoin transactions called ClearCoin, allowing both buyers and sellers to ensure that goods or services were exchanged before payment was delivered. Neither Bitcoin Faucet nor ClearCoin lasted long – they folded in 2012 and 2011, respectively – but during this time Andresen began corresponding with Nakamoto, and he quickly took on a key role in the Bitcoin Core program's development.
In late 2010, Andresen announced with little fanfare that he'd be “doing more active project management” for the cryptocurrency, and nearly three years passed before it was revealed that Nakamoto had quietly departed, leaving the project to Andresen and several other collaborators.
As Bitcoin's lead developer, Andresen used Twitter and BitcoinTalk regularly, and was considerably more vocal than Nakamoto and many of the project's other lead contributors. As an unofficial spokesman for Bitcoin, Andresen advised caution to investors and repeatedly stressed that cryptocurrencies are experimental.
He also represented cryptocurrencies in several important events, most notably during a conference with the CIA to discuss emerging technologies. Andresen was also instrumental in the founding on the Bitcoin Foundation in late 2011, an organization that aims to keep the cryptocurrency entirely decentralized and avoid the undue influence of anyone, including himself.
By late 2014, Andresen's relationship with Bitcoin's other developers began to sour in a very public way. He contributed noticeably less code, had stated in a Reddit interview that there had been a disagreement about Bitcoin's block size, and he even identified computer scientist Craig Wright as Satoshi Nakamoto in a blog post.
Other developers, particularly Wladimir van der Laan, were upset with Andresen's behavior, and were particularly angry (and skeptical) of his disclosure of Nakamoto's identity. In 2016, other developers removed him as owner of the project's GitHub repository, meaning that while he could still contribute code, he could no longer control access to it.
According to Bitcoin's Github repository, Andresen had written nearly 65,000 lines of code for the project, but he currently contributes very little; aside from a small contribution related to unspent transaction outputs in January, he doesn't appear to have added anything in 2018. Andresen is currently working on other projects, including jobs advising various cryptocurrency developers and a solo undertaking called Random Sanity that analyzes random number generators.