Satoshi Nakamoto tweeted at me last week.

The previous week, the same person had emailed me, as he—or she, or they—has been doing since April, claiming to be the creator of Bitcoin and describing a forthcoming book that would supposedly “explain what happened to us and why we left and also tell our story from our viewpoint.”

This time, though, the self-proclaimed Satoshi, emailing from a domain, was trying to disclaim credit for something that was making waves in the cryptocurrency community: An online missive June 29, signed by a Satoshi Nakamoto and posted on the site, announcing an autobiography. A Bloomberg article the following day also ran excerpts of the book that had been released on the site. The listed email for the purported book author:

My Satoshi was having none of it. “Please inform your editors that the publication recently mentioned on Bloomberg is not authentic,” read the subject line of the email, sent the evening of June 30. It continued: “Dear Jen, Its Satoshi Nakamoto. You read my emails and my past writings and therefore must know that in no realm of possibility is that information released recently affiliated with myself or any member of our group.”

Two weeks earlier, this Satoshi had emailed me a “preview” of the book coming fall 2018, complete with a cover mockup showing the title, The Genesis Block: The Proof of Work.

A mockup of a supposedly forthcoming book by a self-claimed Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin.

Of course, I hadn’t responded to this email, or any others, since April, when it became clear to me that this Satoshi wannabe was likely wasting my time. In my first reply, I demanded proof that this author was indeed Satoshi Nakamoto.

I asked for Satoshi’s cryptographic signature; I asked for proof my pen pal held the private keys; I asked Satoshi to convince me in any way possible. I even asked for Satoshi’s Twitter handle, once it became clear that this person was closely following my tweets. (My follower finally did reveal at least his Twitter persona last week, when he took to the platform to gripe again about a “book-off” with the new rival author.)

The responses that came back, and the emails that followed, were frequently over 1000 words, and read like part nonsense and part fan fiction— an elaborate (and quite entertaining) imagining of what had caused Bitcoin’s founding father to go silent and retreat from the community, and why no one has ever been able to prove Nakamoto’s true identity.

“If there was a key left behind a ski mask and AK -47 would be the ultimate key,” went the cryptic explanation (suggesting some sort of heist) of why this Satoshi didn’t have access to the private keys to unlock the original Bitcoin wallet, containing more than 1 million Bitcoins that have never been moved.

In the writings, there were several tip-offs that this Satoshi was almost surely an imposter. There was the missing punctuation—a pattern of unsophisticated grammar and a complete disregard for contractions of “it is,” which requires an apostrophe. The real Satoshi never made such a mistake, as far as I can tell. Then there was a tone of arrogance and combativeness in this Satoshi’s emails that seemed absent in the archive of authentic Satoshi emails and writings. “This is a biblical journey and those who believe they can stop the work of the creator will fall like all others before them,” my Satoshi snarked in one email recently.

But I do believe this fake Satoshi about one thing: The recently published passages of the purported Satoshi Nakamoto book aren’t authentic either. As Bloomberg noted in its introduction to the book excerpt, the news outlet “has been unable to independently verify its authenticity.”

My guess? Neither of these Satoshis is the real deal—though I’d welcome being proven wrong.

After all, the creator of a mighty system for—in his words—transacting electronically “without relying on trust” would not simply ask us to blindly take his word for it, would he?


The Ledger team will be in Aspen, CO for Fortune’s annual Brainstorm Tech conference next week, where several panels will focus on cryptocurrency and fintech. For example, I’ll be talking about blockchain payments with Ripple SVP Asheesh Birla, Stripe CEO Claire Hughes Johnson and IBM’s blockchain lead Bridget van Kralingen on stage at 10:05 a.m. MT on Tuesday, July 17. You can watch the livestream here.


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Jen Wieczner


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