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Bitcoin creator reveals identity

May 2, 2016

The mystery shrouding the founder of Bitcoin may be over now that a man named Craig Wright has said he created the digital currency. He provided cryptographic proof to back his claim, but not everyone's convinced.

USA drcraigwright.net Screenshot
Image: drcraigwright.net

Craig Steven Wright, an Australian computer scientist and businessman, outed himself as the creator of the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin on Monday.

To reaffirm his admission, he showed British and American journalists programming code that was written in early days of Bitcoin - proof that apparently only the creator of the digital cash could have provided.

For years, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto was thought to have been the driving force behind Bitcoin, but now it seems that may have just been a pseudonym used by Wright. After Wright spoke to the BBC, The Economist and GQ magazine, his admission was confirmed by other prominent members of the Bitcoin community, the BBC said.

But when pressed by The Economist to provide more information to back his claim, he refused. That led the British news weekly to say it still had doubts about Wright's statement.

"Our conclusion is that Mr. Wright could well be Mr. Nakamoto, but that important questions remain," The Economist wrote.

Freedom of finance

Bitcoin is a digital or cryptocurrency first proposed in a white paper written by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. Individual Bitcoins are created - or mined - by solving increasingly complex mathematical equations.

The Bitcoin network is built on a technology called the blockchain which is a distributed, decentralized ledger which allows every Bitcoin transaction to be recorded and verified by the network, meaning there is no need for a central regulator like a bank or financial institution.

Transactions are also anonymous and theoretically instant, but recent oversaturation of the network has led to problems in this regard.

As the popularity of Bitcoin has grown, so too has its value. It peaked at the end of 2013, when one unit fetched more than $1,200 (1,047 euros). Fluctuations of over $20 per day in the crypto-currency's value are still a regular occurrence. Today, one Bitcoin is worth around $460.

Bitcoin: the digital currency

The legend of Satoshi Nakamoto

Already in December 2015, Craig Wright was outed as Nakamoto, after two magazines, Wired and Gizmondo, had received documents believed to be stolen from him that revealed his involvement with the project.

After initially remaining silent about the revelations, Wright is now quoted as saying he was "not seeking publicity, but want to set the record straight."

He said he called himself “Nakamoto” after a 17th-century Japanese philosopher and merchant, Tominaga Nakamoto, who was highly critical of the normative thought of his time and favored free trade. He added that his choice of Satoshi as the first name "should remain secret."

Renowned cryptographer Hal Finney was one of the engineers who helped turn Wright's ideas into the Bitcoin protocol. "I was the main part of it, but other people helped me," Wright told the BBC.

Jon Matonis, an economist and one of the founding directors of the Bitcoin Foundation, said he was convinced that Wright was who he claimed to be.

"During the London proof sessions, I had the opportunity to review the relevant data along three distinct lines: cryptographic, social, and technical," he said.

China: Bitcoin exchange hub

Legal hassles

Following earlier revelations about his identity, Australian tax official raided Wright's home, saying he was investigated for tax offenses rather than Bitcoin.

Wright said he was cooperating fully with the investigation and his lawyers were "negotiating with them" over how much he would have to pay. "There are lots of stories out there that have been made up and I don't like it hurting those people I care about," he said.

Insisting that he didn't have any plans to become Bitcoin's figurehead, he added: "I want to work; I want to keep doing what I want to do. I don't want money. I don't want fame. I don't want adoration. I just want to be left alone."

There are currently about 15.5 million Bitcoins in circulation. Each one is worth about $449. Craigh Wright - alias Satoshi Nakamoto - is believed to hold about one million Bitcoins which would give him a net worth, if all were converted to cash, of about $450m.

uhe/cjc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)