October 31, 2018 marks the 10th birthday of one of the most promising and yet still widely misunderstood technological breakthroughs of the 21st century: Bitcoin.
“I’ve been working on a new electronic cash system that’s fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party”
Satoshi Nakamoto, Oct. 31, 2008, 06:10:00 PMThat’s the opening line in the first email sent by Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of the creator of Bitcoin. It was sent to an obscure cryptography email list and included a link to the seminal Bitcoin whitepaper, called Bitcoin: A Peer-To-Peer Electronic Cash System.
The paper was debated by a small group of cryptographers but only a few believed it had any chance of success.
The Bitcoin blockchain went live in January 2009 and Satoshi and two or three coders began to iron out the kinks in what turned out to be a revolutionary idea — the first decentralised digital currency — Bitcoin.
In April 2011, presumably satisfied that the project was now successfully underway — Satoshi sent a final email to the list, stating “I’ve moved on to other things. It’s in good hands with Gavin and everyone.”
Satoshi handed over the source code and disappeared for good. That’s right, one of the many mysterious facts behind the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is the idea that nobody knows who created it.
Today, ten years later, the Bitcoin blockchain has a market cap of around $110 billion dollars.
This means that the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto effectively appeared out of nowhere, invented a new form of currency that is 100% digital, not under the control of any government or bank on earth, is worth billions and billions of dollars… and then vanished.
Strange but true.
What makes the story even more intriguing is that because Satoshi mined the first bitcoins, right at the beginning when it was trivial to mine Bitcoins quickly and easily, it’s estimated that Satoshi owns approximately 1 million Bitcoins.
Because the Bitcoin blockchain is a public ledger, we can see these Bitcoins on the blockchain and they have never been moved despite being worth around 10 billion dollars.
Over the years there has been intense speculation over who Satoshi might be. Is he a man? A woman? An intelligence agency? Or probably more likely, a small group of dedicated cypherpunks?
As for why Satoshi disappeared? Again, no one knows for sure, but it seems likely that Satoshi had the vision to know that for Bitcoin to succeed as a decentralised currency, it should have no leader — so he disappeared as soon as he could.
He, or she, also knew that they would be a potential target for governments, bad guys and of course, Internet trolls. So again, the smart thing to do was leave.
Satoshi, if you’re still out there somewhere, we salute you.
Thank-you for Bitcoin. And happy 10th Birthday.