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If Craig Wright did create Bitcoin, what next?

This week saw Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright claim he was bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

Wright conducted interviews with the BBC, Economist, and GQ outing himself as the creator of Bitcoin, as well as showing a proof demonstration in London and publishing a lengthy post on his own blog outlining his evidence.

“I was the main part of it, but other people helped me,” he told the Beeb.

Background

Having released the white paper in 2008 outlining the concept of Bitcoin in 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto stepped away from the technology he created in 2011, saying in an email to other developers on the project that he had “moved on to other things”. Since then there’s been a constant hunt to unmask Satoshi’s identity.

Back in December, both Wired and Gizmodo independently claimed they had found the “true” Satoshi in Wright. But after a brief flurry of news, the story quickly went cold and many - including myself - thought it was another Newsweek-type fiasco.

Why does all this matter? With Bitcoin moving ever-closer to the mainstream, it could do with a figurehead to lead the community and drive through any changes to the technology, and Satoshi’s messiah-like status could allow these changes to happen unopposed. Also, the cryptocurrency’s creator has a stash of some 1 million Bitcoins, valued at more than $400 million today. 

Wright reportedly attempted to buy $60 million worth of gold and software using Bitcoins in May 2013. According to some news reports, he may have tax problems, may have lost a lot of money during the collapse of Mt Gox.

Is it true?

Wright is by no means the first person to be accused of being the creator of Bitcoin, but this is probably the first time one person has put together so much evidence and proclaimed so loudly.

“Some people will believe, some people won't, and to tell the truth, I don't really care,” Wright said in a video interview with the BBC.

During a proof session in London last month, Wright apparently provided a cryptographic signature associated with one of the earliest blocks added to the Blockchain ledger – one likely used by Satoshi. Is this concrete evidence? Not really - Vice went so far as to label Wright’s demonstration “worthless” - but he has convinced several major players in the Bitcoin world.

Jon Matonis, the founding director of the Bitcoin Foundation, is on board. “According to me, the proof is conclusive and I have no doubt that Craig Steven Wright is the person behind the Bitcoin technology, Nakamoto consensus, and the Satoshi Nakamoto name,” he wrote in a blog post this week.

Gavin Adresen, one of the lead developers for Bitcoin software, also believes in Wright. “I believe Craig Steven Wright is the person who invented Bitcoin,” he wrote on his blog on Monday.

Plenty of people from within the Bitcoin community have come as sceptical about Wright’s claims, many saying the proof he has provided doesn’t actually prove he is Satoshi or even has real control of the blocks.

What now?

In the BBC interview, Wright says he didn’t decide to come out, but was essentially forced to by the press. “I'm going to come in front of the camera once, and I will never be on a camera, ever again, for any TV station or any media, ever,” he said. “I really do not want to be the public face of anything.”

If he really does feel that way, I think he may be being naïve. Bitcoin is at a crossroads; transactions are taking longer and longer to process due to the size of each block – a major barrier to mainstream adoption – while the energy required to create and use the technology is becoming increasingly large, just to highlight a couple of issues that need addressing, ideally with a figurehead to lead.

Interestingly, while the price of Bitcoin rose in December when Wright was first fingered, the price actually dropped on Monday after this week’s news broke. Given Satoshi’s massive stash, Wright could easily flood the market if he chose to do so. It’s unlikely, since it would devalue, but anyone with a large haul of BTC is probably feeling nervous right about now.

coindesk-bpi-chart

Assuming Wright’s claims are legitimate, I personally think there’s three possible scenarios:

1: Wright’s presence becomes a destabilising force. The large number of Bitcoins he owns spooks the market and the price of BTC falls heavily. He becomes a polarising figure, splintering the already fractured state of the Bitcoin & Blockchain community further. Conspiracy theorists forever claim he’s not the real Satoshi, maybe even not the real Craig Wright. He probably gets hacked.

2: Wright’s presence becomes a stabilising force. Wright assumes something akin to a Torvalds-like position within the world of Bitcoin & Blockchain, spear-heading changes for the good of the technology, and promising not to use his massive reserve of BTC to upend the market. Bitcoin Unicorns emerge.

 3: Not much changes. No one really cares. He becomes a Steve Wozniak-like talking head; says some interesting things but ultimately has little impact on Bitcoin & Blockchain. The price of BTC fluctuates a bit more than normal for a while, especially when Wright decides to sell a few and go on a nice holiday. He probably gets hacked.

If Wright’s honest about not wanting the attention, scenario 3 is the most likely. If he’s out to make money, expect scenario 1 to pop up pretty quickly. And if he’s not the real Satoshi, the search will continue. And Wright will probably get hacked.

Is Craig Wright the real Satoshi? What impact do you think this will have on Bitcoin & Blockchain? Comment below.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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