Who invented Bitcoin?
Given that the crypto-currency’s value has skyrocketed in recent weeks thanks to the crisis in Europe and a spate of good publicity, you’d think we’d know the answer.
But the identity of its creator — or creators — remains one of the Internet’s great mysteries.
Recap: Introduced in 2009, Bitcoin is really just a series of decrypted code that’s been cracked by super-industrial computers (the “brute force” required to process the code can take weeks to achieve).
Today, Maria Bustillos writes on the New Yorkers’ new tech page, “Elements,” that it’s widely agreed Bitcoin emanated from an individual calling himself Satoshi Nakamoto.
Until his disappearance from the Web, around the spring of 2012, Nakamoto was a visible participant on cryptography forums, where he discussed Bitcoin freely, and published a nine-page paper outlining the details of the project. These posts reveal that even in 2008, Nakamoto was able to respond to concerns regarding the scalability of bitcoin with remarkable prescience; he clearly understood the ramp-up of computing power that would be required for producing bitcoins as the system grew.
But there’s near universal consensus that “Satoshi Nakamoto” doesn’t exist. Instead, a worldwide guessing game has sprung up over who’s behind the Nakamoto handle.
In 2009, the New Yorker’s Joshua Davis set out to answer the question, and may have come close. He narrowed it down to a man named Michael Clear, a grad student at Trinity College, Dublin who’d been named the school’s top computer science student as an undergrad. Davis noted Nakamoto’s Bitcoin treatises included numerous Britishisms. Among Clear’s achievements, Davis says:
He was hired by Allied Irish Banks to improve its currency-trading software, and he co-authored an academic paper on peer-to-peer technology. The paper employed British spelling. Clear was well versed in economics, cryptography and peer-to-peer networks.
Davis eventually forces Clear to say, “I’m not [Nakamoto], but even if I was I wouldn’t tell you.”
Clear later denied on his personal website — since taken down — that he was Nakamoto. And there is now no real trace of him on the Internet.
Meanwhile, other theories have sprung up. Fast Company’s Adam Penenberg wrote about the question in 2011 and came up with the names of three men who’d filed a patent for a Bitcoin-related technology:
The three inventors listed on patent #20100042841 are Neal King, Vladimir Oksman, Charles Bry, and all three have filed numerous patent applications over the years.
Neal King (he also goes by Neal J. King from Munich, Germany) is listed on a number of patent applications, notably “UPDATING AND DISTRIBUTING ENCRYPTION KEYS” (#20100042841) and “CONTENTION ACCESS TO A COMMUNICATION MEDIUM IN A COMMUNICATIONS NETWORK” (#20090196306), both of which seem Bitcoin-y to me.
Earlier this morning on CNBC, Rick Santelli said many believe it to be Grigory Perelman, a Russian mathematician. Perelman is perhaps most famous for having solved a centuries-old mathematical dilemma.
We’ve performed our own cursory search. Via email, security researcher Dan Kaminsky said the consensus among his colleagues is that Nakamoto is…
a small group of quants from New York or London, who are deeply experienced software developers.
He declined to elaborate.
It’s possible we’ll never know who Nakamoto really is.
But if Bitcoin’s value keeps going up, it may be hard for its inventor to stay low for long.