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Will the Real Satoshi Nakamoto Help Fix Bitcoin?

The identity of Bitcoin’s mysterious creator won’t matter much if the cryptocurrency remains permanently fractured.

The shadowy genius behind the cryptocurrency Bitcoin may have just revealed himself. But what really matters is what he does next to help fix Bitcoin’s problems.

Craig Steven Wright, a 45-year-old Australian computer scientist and entrepreneur, today announced that he created the original paper and code for Bitcoin, and he provided substantial (although not entirely conclusive) evidence to back up his claim. And an important endorsement comes from Gavin Andresen, who formerly headed the Bitcoin project, and who met with Wright in London to verify his claim.

“After spending time with him I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt: Craig Wright is Satoshi,” Andresen wrote on his blog.

Wright was previously outed as the man behind the mysterious pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. After he posted a paper outlining the design for Bitcoin to a cryptography mailing list in October 2008, Satoshi actively contributed to the project before going into hiding in April 2011. Wright says that he finally decided to come forward to end the speculation, and to dispel negative criticism of his creation.

The timing could indeed prove very important to Bitcoin’s future. The project has become split into two camps. Some wish for Bitcoin to remain pure in its design and ethos, even if that means certain limitations. Others would have Bitcoin change in ways that would make it more like a conventional currency but would allow it to grow more rapidly.

Bitcoin has, of course, become much more than the original work of Satoshi. But, interestingly, Wright claims to have been doing important work since going underground:

Be assured, just as you have worked, I have not been idle during these many years. Since those early days, after distancing myself from the public persona that was Satoshi, I have poured every measure of myself into research. I have been silent, but I have not been absent. I have been engaged with an exceptional group and look forward to sharing our remarkable work when they are ready.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is convinced by Wright’s claims, and indeed some significant questions remain regarding the evidence he has so far supplied.

In a nutshell, Wright has supplied text that seems to be signed with a cryptographic key that indeed belonged to Satoshi, but he has refused to provide other verifications, such as signing new text or transferring some of Satoshi’s original bitcoins. If you’re interested in delving into the mystery yourself, check out this post on how to identify the real Satoshi, by Emin Gün Sirer, an associate professor at Cornell University.

The complexity of the issue suggests that we may never know, with absolute certainty, the identity of Satoshi. But it also won’t matter much if the ballyhooed cryptocurrency can’t escape its growing pains.

(Read more: The Economist, Dr. Craig Wright.net, Gavin Andresen, Wired, "Bitcoin Transactions Get Stranded as the Cryptocurrency Maxes Out," TechCrunch, "How to Spot Bitcoin Inventor Satoshi Nakamoto")

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