An entrance to La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris.
Photograph by Stephane de Sakutin — AFP/Getty Images

Times reporter and author has fingered Nick Szabo as the likely creator of bitcoin.

By Daniel Roberts
May 15, 2015

Remember that Newsweek story claiming to have found the creator of bitcoin?

The March 2014 story was the cover of the very first issue of the magazine’s relaunch in print, and it reported that the man behind the mysterious “Satoshi Nakamoto” pseudonym was Dorian Nakamoto, an unemployed computer engineer living with his mother in Temple City, Calif. Adweek called it a “bitcoin coup” for the magazine’s relaunch, and editor Jim Impoco boasted, “The [U.K.’s Sunday] Times had a 7,000-word story trying to find the inventor of Bitcoin and didn’t. The Telegraph tried to find the founder and got nothing. The New Yorker, Fast Company, they followed the trail, and the trail went cold. And we found him.”

But then most in the bitcoin community insisted that the story was wrong. Within days, Dorian Nakamoto issued a strong statement “unconditionally” refuting the entire premise. Bitcoin developers and insiders cried foul. Many media outlets and blogs posted about the article’s failings and called for Newsweek to put out a retraction. ArsTechnica posted about the “colossal arrogance” of the “scoop.” Newsweek issued a defense (“the facts as reported point toward Mr. Nakamoto’s role in the founding of bitcoin”), criticism continued, and eventually people moved on.

Now Nathaniel Popper of the New York Times has fingered another potential candidate as the man behind bitcoin. In a New York Times excerpt from his forthcoming book Digital Gold, Popper writes that, in his interviews for the book, “I encountered a quiet but widely held belief that much of the most convincing evidence pointed to a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo.”

In the 1990s, Szabo worked as a consultant for a company called DigiCash. In 1998, he created the blueprint for a bitcoin predecessor called “bit gold” that used some of the same technology, but was eventually supplanted by bitcoin. Since then, Szabo has remained involved in bitcoin. Last year he joined Vaurum, a stealth-mode bitcoin startup in Palo Alto that was working on a bitcoin exchange (see our story about the proliferation of these exchanges) but has since been renamed to Mirror and refocused on smart contracts, according to Popper’s report.

Popper met Szabo in person last year at a party at the home of Dan Morehead, founder of the bitcoin investment firm Pantera Capital. Popper spoke to him and reports, “he bristled when I cited what was being said about him on the Internet… and the notion that he had created bitcoin.” Szabo denied the suggestion, telling Popper, “I am not Satoshi,” a statement he reiterated a second time, over a year later, when Popper asked him again this week over email.

But even Szabo acknowledged, “There are a whole bunch of parallels… There are all these parallels, and it looks funny to me, and looks funny to a lot of other people.”

Popper’s book is one of a slew of recent business tomes on the digital currency. (We christened the phenomenon the “bitcoin book boom” back in March and interviewed three bitcoin book authors.) His colleague at the Times, Nick Bilton, is working on one as well, focused on the online drug marketplace Silk Road; 20th Century Fox already purchased the film rights.

In other words, even as the nascent technology works toward mainstream adoption, and remains a niche obsession championed by developers and venture capitalists, prepare for the film industry to embrace bitcoin drama just as the business publishing already has. In fact, maybe the Satoshi movie is coming next.

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