Bitcoin, the word that was introduced to us back in 2009 and ever since then has been gaining traction in the web community. The word that will soon be the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year. For now, however, Bitcoin is an online cryptocurrency that essentially acts as online cash in monetary transactions. It is a type of money that can be used on the web as long as both parties are able to trade in Bitcoins and the transaction does not go through any financial institution. Most of this is simple economics, but done on a slightly more complicated and cryptic scale. The real interesting part of Bitcoin is in the history of its creation, and fascinating way new Bitcoins are earned and the myth of its creator.
First off, how does someone earn Bitcoins? Each Bitcoin transaction has to be verified and these Bitcoins that are in “limbo” are placed in blocks. These blocks have to have a key in order to open and only a verifiable key can open the block verifying all of the Bitcoins and thus the transactions they are involved in. This block then gets put into the block chain which will then prove that the same Bitcoin isn’t being double sold at any point. Whoever finds the key to the blocks receives 25 Bitcoins as a reward, and this number will decrease with the more Bitcoins that are out in existence. The key is found by running bitcoin client software until the key code is found. This process is called Bitcoin mining, and this is how new Bitcoins are born. There are approximately 12 million Bitcoins in existence as of the beginning of 2014, and there will only be 21 million Bitcoins in existence ever. It will take until 2140 for all of these Bitcoins to be mined.
The real interesting story of Bitcoins come from one name: Satoshi Nakamoto. This is the name of the person who wrote the original white pages protocol that described the Bitcoin and all of its workings down to the last 1/millionth of a Bitcoin (known as a Satoshi). Satoshi Nakamoto is assumed to be a pseudonym by many involved in the Bitcoin forums. Who is the actual man (or woman, or group) known as Satoshi Nakamoto? There have been several guesses, most have backing, but every single person pointed out has claimed that they are not the originator of Bitcoin. These guesses have come from investigative journalists from the likes of The New Yorker, Fast Company and most recently Newsweek. The people implicated have been everyone from an Irish graduate student, a Japanese mathematician, and a Texan security analyst among more.
On the Bitcoin forum Nakamoto made approximately 500 posts with both British and American English sprinkled throughout the posts. The profile he made however said “he” was a 37 year old Japanese man. This has led some to believe that Satoshi Nakamoto is a group of people, and this would make sense given the complexity and well thought out nature of the entire Bitcoin system. One prominent member of the forum, Stefan Thomas, graphed the timestamps on all 500 posts from Nakamoto and found his “sleeping hours” to coincide with nighttime in the eastern and central standard time zones in the United States also including Central America and parts of South America. This is basically irrelevant however if Nakamoto is a group. On the Bitcoin forum Nakamoto was active for approximately 1 ½ years and then gave all of the domains and responsibility away to prominent members of the forum and control over the source code and alert system to Gavin Andreson, then the account went completely dormant, until very recently.
The most recent person indicted in the possibility of being Nakamoto is a Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a 64 year old japanese man living in Temple City, California. He was put into the spotlight by Leah McGrath Goodman from Newsweek in an article titled The Face Behind Bitcoin. He seemed to make sense: The name, background in cryptography as well as software engineering, but here is where one last phrase forces the plot to thicken. The Satoshi Nakamoto of the Bitcoin forum came back for exactly one post a day after this man was indicted and simply posted “I am not Dorian Nakamoto”.
So, who is Satoshi Nakamoto? We don’t know and I am not sure I want to know. This story is too interesting for me to want it to end and frankly with Bitcoin being the first big cryptocurrency, I think it makes sense that the originator stays encrypted himself. What we do know is that Bitcoin is already becoming a big deal and will only get bigger. It could truly revolutionize commerce on the internet and that could revolutionize commerce all around the world.