While the true identity of the possibly pseudonymous founder of Bitcoin Satoshi Nakamoto remains a mystery, there is one man who can be linked definitively to the digital cryptocurrency prior to its public debut.
He’s a software developer who goes by the name Michael Weber, appears to be in his early 30s, and has a fondness for tight t-shirts, working out, heavily gelled hair, and sunglasses.
Based on his apparent connection to Bitcoin.org, the site used by Nakamoto in 2008 to launch the digital currency, Weber has been cited on multiple forums as potentially being one of the people behind the Bitcoin.
While there’s no evidence Weber authored the Bitcoin code, the creator of the cryptocurrency clearly used his services. Furthermore, Business Insider has found additional connections between Weber and Nakamoto, as well as new information demonstrating Weber’s past interest in anonymous online banking.
Weber has not responded to multiple requests for comment from Business Insider made via his email and phone numbers in Japan and Mexico.
The WHOIS domain records for Bitcoin.org show the site was first registered in 2008 to “Anonymousspeech LLC,” a company dedicated to providing anonymous email and web surfing services to customers. In a recent email to BI, Martti Malmi, a developer who is one of Nakamoto’s earliest confirmed collaborators, told Business Insider that Bitcoin.org was “originally created by Satoshi.”
Though his name did not appear on the Bitcoin.org registration, there is substantial information indicating Weber has played a key role in “AnonymousSpeech LLC.”
AnonymousSpeech.com, the website associated with that company, shows it is dedicated to providing anonymous email and web surfing services to customers. An archived description on the site from 2007 said the company “specialises in international law and IT security consulting” and had been “based in Tokyo, Japan since 1996.” By 2009, the AnonymousSpeech.com site indicated the company was “located in Switzerland” and, as a result, “governed by Swiss law and allowed to delete customer data legally from its servers.”
In 2007, AnonymousSpeech advertised the ability to accept bank transfer payments to a Swiss bank account identified as belonging to “Mike Weber.” The company also took payments via “E-Gold” a service that allowed anonymous, digital transfer of gold ownership between users. By 2008, AnonymousSpeech was also taking payments via Bank Weber, which is billed on its website as a “Swiss Internet Bank.” According to WHOIS records, Bank Weber’s homepage was first registered to a Michael Weber at a residential address in Tokyo in 2007.
Business Insider sent a message to the contact email identified on the Bank Weber site on March 18 inquiring about the company’s services. As of this writing, we have not received an answer.
By late 2010, AnonymousSpeech was accepting payments via Bank Weber, E-Gold, Weber’s Swiss Bank account, and Western Union. Customers who opted for Western Union payments were instructed to send them to “Michael Niklaus Weber” in Mexico City. In March 2013, a note on the site indicated it no longer accepted “payments from E-Gold.” However, by the end of the year, AnonymousSpeech featured a banner boasting “We Accept Bitcoin.”
In addition to AnonymousSpeech and Bank Weber, records show a second connection between Weber and Nakamoto.
Bank Weber was registered in Weber’s name with the street address of “Sakura House,” a real estate agency in Tokyo specializing in shared accommodations for foreigners. The same Sakura House address was used to register Bitcoin.org. The registration for the Bank Weber site also included an email, [email protected], which is connected to records for at least 19 other domains.
One of those domains is Vistomail.com, which is registered to:
- Michael Weber, as well as weber’s [email protected] email
- AnonymousSpeech’s Sakura House street address
- An additional Tokyo address used for some of Weber’s other sites.
Nakamoto used a Vistomail account, [email protected], to make forum posts and to communicate with the developers who helped build the Bitcoin code. Nakamoto’s other known email — the one he included on his Bitcoin manifesto — is [email protected], which uses the same free email provider apparently favoured by Weber.
Nakamoto has not responded to messages from Business Insider sent to both of those emails.
Vistomail was also apparently popular among some users of Silk Road, the now-shuttered illicit online drug marketplace where Bitcoin was the local currency. A quick request to [email protected] would get users “High End Professional Document Creation.” [email protected], meanwhile, took orders in the UK for marijuana.
Malmi told Business Insider that Weber was the contact for Anonymous Speech’s domain registry service, but was “not related to bitcoin in any way” beyond that.
“Domain names need to have valid contact details, some registrars allow clients to stay anonymous behind the registrar’s name,” Malmi said in a recent Skype chat. “Anonymousspeech is one of the few registrars that don’t require any details from its clients. You can just create an account and pay by cash in the mail (or bitcoins these days).”
At the very least, it’s clear Nakamoto knew about services Weber was offering and used them for his email and to register the site where he launched Bitcoin.
Malmi, who has previously denied being Satoshi, has himself has played a role in managing Bitcoin.org. In late 2011, WHOIS records show registration of the Bitcoin site was transferred from AnonymousSpeech to a Finnish domain company, Louhi Networks Oy. Malmi works in Finland. He confirmed the site was transferred to him in 2011. He described this as the “first time (in 2011) I was in contact with Satoshi.”
The Bitcoin.org registration was transferred back to AnonymousSpeech in September 2013 before moving to Whoisguard two months later. Malmi said the site was transferred from Weber’s company because of an unspecified “security issue.”
“Last year it was on anonymousspeech for some time to allow multiple admins without a breach of ToS but it was transferred to the current domain host because of a security issue,” said Malmi. “Now there are other admins besides me, but they wish to stay anonymous.”
Other sites and social media accounts linked to Weber provide further information about his personality, activities, and current whereabouts.
In 2007, Weber registered the site NaNiNu.com, which seemed to be an early social network designed to organise events and networking for foreigners living in Tokyo. One 2006 party oraganized on the site was described by its unnamed administrator as a farewell for ” a member of the infamous Sakura House in proud Nakano Sakaue gang” who was “leaving Japan soon.” Steven Taradai, a representative for the Sakura House real estate agency in Tokyo confirmed via email that their property near the Nakano Sakaue train station in Shinjuku is located at the street address used by Weber. Business Insider asked Taradai whether Sakura House had records of Weber living at the apartment building and he declined to comment saying the company is, “legally and contractually bound not the release the information about Sakura House tenants and their place of residence to the third party.”
GoalSetting1.com is another site registered to Weber through his name and the email and physical addresses in Tokyo he has used for other registrations. That site is a social network that allows users to share their personal goals. A note on the site identifies Michael Weber as its “founder and creator.” There is also a page for Weber on the site that appears to have been posted in early 2006. Weber’s goals included: “stop procrastinating,” attain a “golf score under 100,” “power gain on Creatine,” and “stop picking my nose.” He also described himself as a Swiss software developer living in Japan who was “always around” two Tokyo neighborhoods known for nightlife — Roppongi and Nishi Azabu.
A photo on Weber’s goal-setting profile appears to match pictures on other accounts identified as belonging to a Michael Weber on Google Plus and Wayn.com. The Google Plus page is far more sparse and it has not been updated since late 2011. It identified Weber as living in Mexico City and includes a single picture captioned “Capitan Mike” that seems to show Weber piloting a small aircraft. Weber’s Wayn page is much more recent than his Google Plus profile. It was updated as recently as last month and identifies him as being “currently in Mexico City.”
Obviously, none of this is a smoking gun showing Weber is the person behind “Satoshi Nakamoto.” There’s no definitive proof he’s involved in Bitcoin beyond providing its inventor with an anonymous email domain and hosting the site used for the cryptocurrency’s launch. Still, Weber’s ties to Bitcoin.org and Vistomail make him one of the only people who can be conclusively linked to Bitcoin before it was made public. His ties to AnonymousSpeech.com also suggest he had some level of technical expertise and an interest in anonymous digital currencies.
One odd site registered in Weber’s name with the Sakura House address and [email protected] email is aidsgame.com, which was billed in 2004 as “the first Internet Virtual HIV test.” Current versions of the site proclaim “HIV Does Not Cause AIDS” and feature a curious note.
“I came to the conclusion that AidsGame.com is a joke! I leave this page online since i ranks high for certain HIV/AIDS related keywords,” the note said.
However small Weber’s role was in the launch of Bitcoin, it’s clear his apparent interests in digital currency align significantly with Satoshi’s.
Know anything further about Weber or his role in Bitcoin? Drop us a line.