Satoshi Nakamoto. Say the name three times and blink. Then rearrange the letters to form the name, Otto Khan Mitasas. Go to the laundromat at the far end of the block, write that name on the back of a receipt and hand it to the man with the handlebar mustache. He will introduce you to the inventor of bitcoin.
That level of mystery sums up the elusive quest to identify the genius who first dreamed up the digital currency. Ever since a man using the Nakamoto name published a paper describing a bitcoin currency on a cryptography mailing list in 2008, researchers and reporters have struggled in vain to identify the anonymous genius. Speculation has ranged from a government agency to a Finnish economic sociologist to an Irish student to a 37-year-old man living in Japan to a Texas-based computer security researcher. Almost two years ago, Newsweek caused a sensation when it tracked down Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto, a Japanese-American computer engineer living in California who seemed to confirm that he was the inventor of bitcoin but then quickly denied the claim.
Now, both Wired and Gizmodo are reporting that they have uncovered Nakamoto’s real identity –Craig Steven Wright, a 44-year-old Australian academic. They base their conclusions on a stack of documents leaked to both publications, including:
– A blog post written three months before the 2008 publication of the original bitcoin paper in which Wright expressed his intention to publish a “cryptocurrency paper.”
– A transcript of Wright meeting his lawyers, in which he says “I did my best to try and hide the fact that I’ve been running bitcoin since 2009. By the end of this I think half the world is going to bloody know.”
– Wright’s discussion of the “Tulip Trust,” a giant cache of 1.1 million bitcoins (worth over $400 million today and which is believed to be the size of Nakamoto’s fortune) with late friend David Kleiman. According to Gizmodo, Kleiman helped Wright invent bitcoin.
Here is Wright speaking via Skype at a bitcoin investor’s conference in late October:
Adding to the cryptic nature of the puzzle, when a Wired reporter reached out to Wright last week, he replied: “You are digging, the question is how deep are you?” using an IP address controlled by the same email service used by Nakamoto. Other puzzling responses from Wright included: “You seem to know a few things. More than you should. Although we all desire some level of credit, I have moved past many of these things.”
When a reporter went to Wright’s home in suburban Sydney and asked his wife about his identity, she smiled and closed the door.
Some of the emails and other pieces of alleged evidence are outlined in this Gizmodo video: