It is widely accepted that a software developer called Satoshi Nakamoto invented the “crypto-currency”, which gained public infamy as the means of paying for illegal goods and services on sites such as the Silk Road drug market, and other corners of the so-called “deep web”.
But this “Satoshi” was, most assumed, a pseudonym. Now, however, a Newsweek cover story has found otherwise, outing the bitcoin inventor as Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a 64-year-old from Temple City, California.
Leah McGrath Goodman spoke to him, albeit briefly, outside his home:
Tacitly acknowledging his role in the Bitcoin project, he looks down, staring at the pavement and categorically refuses to answer questions. ‘I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,’ he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. ‘It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.’
Or – cue mysterious music – have they?
Shortly after publication, Associated Press published an interview with Nakamato, who insisted he knew nothing about bitcoin, that his English wasn’t that flash, and he was simply intending to say he was “no longer in engineering”.
A phalanx of other commentators expressed misgivings, including surprise at the sight of a man purported to be worth about a billion US dollars living in a modest suburban house with his mother.
Newsweek’s editor-in-chief, Jim Impoco, defended their “gutsy move”, telling the website Mashable, “Go large or go home … This is Newsweek. We are raising the dead here.”
Raising the dead is right in more ways than one: Newsweek ceased print publication at the end of 2012. The Bitcoin exposé led the first issue of the relaunched Newsweek magazine, disinterred by new owners.
As for the truth, Reuters blogger Felix Salmon puts it like this: “Either Nakamoto is lying through his teeth, or Newsweek has made what is probably the biggest and most embarrassing blunder in its 81-year history.”