Satoshi Nakamoto, long considered to be the pseudonym of the person or persons who created Bitcoin, is most likely the real name of the man who founded the cryptocurrency. Leah McGrath Goodman at Newsweek found Nakamoto, a 64-year-old model train-enthusiast, in his driveway after interviewing people who worked with him and his family.
Nakamoto, obviously, did not want to be found. And now Gavin Andresen, a lead bitcoin developer who talked to Goodman for the story, is saying he regrets that decision to cooperate.
I'm disappointed Newsweek decided to dox the Nakamoto family, and regret talking to Leah.— Gavin Andresen (@gavinandresen) March 6, 2014
He also suggests that Goodman may not have the whole story (although her piece is as close as anyone's gotten to revealing Bitcoin's shadowy beginnings):
RE: Satoshi: remember we are pattern-seeking, storytelling animals. http://t.co/C8o8pZTllf— Gavin Andresen (@gavinandresen) March 6, 2014
Andresen probably made these statements to avoid the ire of Bitcoin's many devotees, who are already losing it on Reddit. Since the main argument in favor of Bitcoin's use is its anonymity, they are naturally upset that the spirit of the project has violated against its founding father. Nakamoto, unsurprisingly, has remained silent.
Nakamoto, Goodman discovers, began the bitcoin project in 2008 and worked with other coders on it from 2009 to 2011. He dropped off the internet in 2011, and he told Goodman in his driveway this February, "I am no longer involved in [Bitcoin] and I cannot discuss it. It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection." It's estimated that Nakamoto is worth $400 million, but he lives in a modest home in Los Angeles. Some question whether he still has the keys to his fortune.
Andresen recalls his last exchange with Nakamoto in 2011:
"I wish you wouldn't keep talking about me as a mysterious shadowy figure," Nakamoto wrote to Andresen. "The press just turns that into a pirate currency angle. Maybe instead make it about the open source project and give more credit to your dev contributors; it helps motivate them."
Andresen responded: "Yeah, I'm not happy with the 'wacky pirate money' tone, either."
Then he told Nakamoto he'd accepted an invitation to speak at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters. "I hope that by talking directly to them and, more importantly, listening to their questions/concerns, they will think of Bitcoin the way I do — as a just-plain-better, more efficient, less-subject-to-political-whims money," he said. "Not as an all-powerful black-market tool that will be used by anarchists to overthrow the System."
From that moment, Nakamoto stopped responding to emails and dropped off the map.
Goodman also spoke to various members of Nakamoto's family, who offered clues as to why he might create bitcoin — he developed a distrust of the government after being laid off twice in the 1990s and losing his home. But Nakamoto never confirmed to anyone in his family that he founded the currency.
Goodman's story will continue to make waves among bitcoin users, who value anonymity (in their monetary transactions, at least) over everything. Users fear for Nakamoto's safety as well as their own.
Update: Goodman is beginning to respond to critics on Twitter.
Update, 4:36 pm: After dealing with hordes of reporters outside his home, Nakamoto apparently agreed to an interview with an AP reporter. Of course, other reporters followed the two from his home, creating a car chase. Nakamoto denies creating Bitcoin, and says he went with the AP reporter for a "free lunch."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.