Updated The mysterious inventor of Bitcoin is a middle-aged Japanese-American family man named Satoshi Nakamoto, Newsweek has breathlessly alleged.
In a cover story for the magazine's print relaunch today, reporter Leah McGrath Goodman claimed she found the crypto-currency's mastermind living in Temple City in Los Angeles County, California.
Other publications including the New Yorker, The Sunday Telegraph, and Forbes have all attempted to identify Bitcoin's Big Daddy, and have all failed. Computer technology pioneer Ted Nelson also had a theory that the creator was a Japanese mathematician.
If today's claims are true, the architect of BTC was until now anonymous.
Many had assumed "Satoshi Nakamoto", the name that appeared on the currency's blueprint [PDF] in 2009, was a pseudonym. But that is, apparently, more or less the actual name of BTC's mastermind: Newsweek says it tracked down Nakamoto, who changed his name to Dorian Prentice Satoshi Nakamoto at the age of 23 and has gone by Dorian S. Nakamoto ever since.
Bitcoin is a decentralized semi-anonymous cryptography-based currency that has reached trading values as high as $1,200 per Bitcoin.
The creator, then, is a very wealthy man as it is they who forged the currency and put their computer to work generating some of the initial bitcoins. Satoshi Nakamoto, who stepped back from the project in 2010, is believed to have some $400m in wealth as a consequence of the currency's rise. A study of the BTC blockchain – a public ledger of transactions in the system – shows his early mined coins have not been transferred.
'I no longer have any connection'
Newsweek tracked down 64-year-old Nakamoto and his family and eventually confronted him on the steps of his house on the outskirts of Los Angeles. "I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," the mag quotes him as saying when questioned about his role in Bitcoin. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
Note that the father of six did not directly confirm he invented the crypto-cash.
The weekly said its probe took two months, and revealed a number of interesting facts that strengthen the argument that this Nakamoto is the real deal, namely that he is very good at mathematics, has worked for murky government agencies, identifies as a libertarian, and, er, amuses himself by playing with model trains.
Along with the investigation, Newsweek published a photo of Nakamoto, and details about his house and car and work history.
But by unmasking the creator so thoroughly, the mag has sparked off a debate about whether it has endangered Nakamoto's life. After all, this is supposedly the man who has the keys to $400m in Bitcoins.
In defense of the privacy invasion, Newsweek writer Goodman stated in a series of posts to Twitter that the "picture and info people are asking about (including residence and car) already public. His name too."
However, one person who was interviewed for the piece, Gavin Andresen – the lead developer for the Bitcoin Foundation – was upset by the thorough profile.
"I'm disappointed Newsweek decided to dox the Nakamoto family, and regret talking to Leah," Andresen wrote in a post to Twitter.
At the time of writing the sidewalk outside of Nakamoto's residence was thronged with press – something the highly privacy-conscious supposed creator of a crypto-currency is sure to be rather miffed about. ®
Updated to add
The Nakamoto located by Newsweek has since denied any involvement with the development of Bitcoin.