Satoshi Nakamoto is Dead
Over the past month I’ve really started getting into Bitcoin, diving into Andreas Antonopoulo’s Mastering Bitcoin, but all of this has left me wondering: Who is this guy Satoshi Nakamoto? So the other night I started researching, determined to find the answer. And to my surprise, uncovering the mystery behind the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto was shockingly easy.
To begin my detective work I started with bitcoin.org, the Official Homepage for the Bitcoin project. And to see what the site looked like in it’s original form, I used archive.org’s Wayback Machine to see what the site looked like in it’s early days. Here is a link to the earliest snapshot bitcoin.org if you’d like to follow along: https://web.archive.org/web/20090131115053/http://bitcoin.org:80/
The original bitcoin.org page leads us to our second clue: The Original Bitcoin Source Code Repository hosted by sourceforge.net. At first glance there doesn’t appear to be anything special on the page, as Satoshi Nakamoto is listed as the admin for the repository. But if you go ahead and click on “Details” then “Developers: 3” you’ll see another person’s name listed on the repository: Hal Finney. Note that this snapshot was taken on January 6th, 2009 at the very beginnings of the Bitcoin project, and the only developers listed for the project are Hal Finney and Satoshi Nakamoto. So we now know that Hal Finney was affiliated with the Bitcoin project as early as January 2009. Furthermore, if you take a look at the Bitcoin mailing list archives on sourceforge, you’ll see that Hal Finney was the first person other than “Satoshi Nakamoto” to participate in the mailing list discussion.
Now you could spend hours wading through all of these early bitcoin pages on the Wayback Machine, as I did doing this research. You’ll likely end up compiling a list of all the names you stumble upon associated with the project in its earliest years. But I’ll just cut to the chase. One of the earliest contributors to the Bitcoin open source project was a young man named Martti Malmi. At first, I didn’t find anything in particular that made Malmi stand out from any of the other early Bitcoin contributors until I happened to stumble upon this gem:
In this interview with Malmi from 2014 he describes working on Bitcoin during its inception. Specifically, Malmi mentions that in 2009 he and Satoshi Nakamoto were the only developers working on Bitcoin. Well we already know from the January 2009 snapshots of the Bitcoin Sourceforge Repository that Hal Finney was working on the Bitcoin project in 2009. Thus we can confirm that Hal Finney and Martii Malmi were both working on the project during 2009. And according to Malmi only he and Satoshi Nakamoto were working on the project at that time. So this means Hal Finney must be Satoshi Nakamoto!
Malmi’s has also stated on Twitter that he believes the project began as a one-man project:
So according to Malmi there were only two developers working on Bitcoin in 2009. We know that the earliest snapshot of the Bitcoin repository on Sourceforge lists Hal Finney (along with “Satoshi Nakamoto”) as a developer on the project. And if you take a look at the next snapshot of the repository taken in September of 2009 you’ll see a bunch of code commits from user ‘sirius-m’ AKA Martti Malmi!
Other interesting bits of evidence include comments from Nick Szabo on his blog. On the earliest snapshot’s of the bitcoin.org homepage Satoshi Nakamoto cites Szabo’s bit gold and Wei Dai’s b-money as inspiration for Bitcoin, so that’s where Szabo enters the picture. And this comment from Szabo’s blog seems to support my hypothesis as Hal Finney being the man behind Satoshi Nakamoto:
“Myself, Wei Dai, and Hal Finney were the only people I know of who liked the idea (or in Dai’s case his related idea) enough to pursue it to any significant extent until Nakamoto (assuming Nakamoto is not really Finney or Dai).”
So maybe Szabo doesn’t come right out and say that Hal Finney is Satoshi Nakamoto. But what he does say is this, only himself Wei Dai and Hal Finney were interested in the idea of cryptocurrency back then. And we know that Malmi obviously became interested in the idea as well very soon after the creation of Bitcoin. And Szabo also notes the possibility that Finney or Dai could possibly be Satoshi Nakamoto.
We may never know definitively who is Satoshi Nakamoto. But it sure as hell looks like Hal Finney and Martti Malmi were the original authors of Bitcoin if you ask me. You decide.