David Kleiman, Hal Finney and others helped create Bitcoin, says Dr Craig Wright
Could this revelation impact the ongoing legal battle over Satoshi Nakamoto's name?
After years of speculation and accusations, the controversial claimant to the Satoshi Nakamoto throne, CSW, finally acknowledges that Bitcoin was a group effort.
Dr Craig S Wright (CSW), the computer scientist long associated with the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto moniker, who has several times tried to claim the title as his own, has finally gone on the record to say that he is Satoshi Nakamoto, in an exclusive interview with Finder. This time, however, he acknowledges that there were many others also involved in the creation of Bitcoin.
Wright claims that he developed the core idea of Bitcoin, but concedes that he had sufficient help along the way, including from work colleagues and other well-known developers such as Hal Finney and David Kleiman.
Kleiman has been acknowledged by Wright before as a key part of Wright's version of Bitcoin history, however, the highly respected computer scientist Hal Finney is a new addition to Wright's tale. When asked by the interviewer, Fred Schebesta, about Finney's involvement in Bitcoin, Wright acknowledged that there were a lot of problems with Bitcoin in its earliest days, and that "Hal had a whole lot of knowledge about coding and whatever else" and was well positioned to help.
Finney happened to be the first ever person to receive a Bitcoin transaction, which supports the idea that he helped develop Bitcoin in its earliest days. Finney has long been a potential Satoshi "suspect", though he publicly denied such allegations in 2014.
Unfortunately, as fate would have it, both David Kleiman and Hal Finney passed away in 2013 and 2014 respectively and cannot corroborate Wright's claims.
When asked about whether Kleiman should be thought of as a member of Satoshi Nakamoto, Wright responded:
"I was the one that used the pseudonym, I was the one who drove the project. Where do you say someone was a part of it or not? I don't really care."
Names, dates, places
Craig Wright does, however, go on to name specific colleagues whom he worked with in the years leading up to the publication of the Bitcoin whitepaper, who could potentially corroborate his claims.
As such, this might be the first time that Wright has directly named people who were involved with prior research that supposedly led to the creation of Bitcoin, other than David Kleiman. For anyone deeply investigating Satoshi Nakamoto or Wright's claims, this could be a brand new chapter opening up, or another red herring.
While Wright appears to have turned a new leaf in some ways and become more forthcoming with the idea that Bitcoin was a collaborative effort, in classic CSW style, he wasn't going to be humbled by the contributions of others for long. When asked about "creating the Satoshi Nakamoto group", Wright interjected with:
"I don't know if there was really a Satoshi Nakamoto group, that's the wrong way to put it. I mean I had a goal that I'd been working on and was focused on for decades now, and had employed other people, had used other people, had been helped by other people, etc, over the time… There are people who helped Bitcoin, was a better way of putting it."
Wright then went on to elaborate on who some of those people were. According to Wright, one was an employee of Wright's only named as "Iggy" who had a PhD in protein folding and worked with Craig on modelling social networks, which Wright says "helped [him] to understand networks a lot better".
He continues, "At the same time I was doing that, I was auditing financial accounts of listed companies. A partner at BDO, Ellen Granger, put me on to the nature of a triple entry ledger and the whole distributed system."
While at BDO, Craig explains that to improve the nature of his work – tracking internal financial fraud – creating a singular central database, or ledger, was a much more efficient method of tracing transactions through a network.
"So looking at all that, in the 2007 period after being at BDO for a couple of years, that was sort of enough to get what I thought might be a workable system for Bitcoin."
After discussing the contributions of others at length, Wright displays a rare moment of modesty halfway through the interview.
He explains, that he has never been a "formal developer in a real organisation" and that he constantly cops flack from his colleagues about it, who pull apart his code frequently. He agrees with the interviewer that, while he claims to have had the primary idea for Bitcoin, he did indeed need help with its development and execution, even displaying regret: "Some bits [of Bitcoin code] probably should have been rewritten."
Wright v Kleiman v Twitter
The acknowledgement of Kleiman's involvement comes at a particularly interesting time, as Wright is currently engaged in a legal battle with the Kleiman estate over ownership of a trust that is alleged to contain 1.1 million Bitcoins (approximately US$6 billion at today's valuation) known as the Tulip Trust.
According to a recent bitcoin.com article about the case, which cites court transcripts of the discovery meeting, Wright's lawyers made the following statement about the pair's involvement:
"It is Dr Wright's position, your Honor, that Dave Kleiman assisted in editing the protocol related to Bitcoin but did not create Bitcoin."
Furthermore, Wright and his associate Calvin Ayre recently issued several letters accusing prominent blockchain Twitter users of libel, claiming that allegations made on Twitter that Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto amount to libel, and that they must submit to the legal requests made in the letter or be taken to court.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Wright have already escalated the matter with at least one individual, podcaster Peter McCormack, who has been issued a claim for damages of at least £100,000.
In light of these two ongoing court cases in which the question of who is or is not Satoshi Nakamoto is central to the ruling, Wright's change in narrative is all the more interesting. The interpretation of Wright's claims could affect the result of each case.
As far as the Kleiman case goes, further acknowledgement of Kleiman's contributions could harm Wright's previous attempts to distance Kleiman from the creation of Bitcoin. As for the libel case, Wright's acknowledgement that multiple people contributed to the development of Bitcoin could undermine his claim as the sole inventor of the protocol.
Among the demands made in the libel letters issued by Wright's lawyers is the request that the accused individual must publicly tweet an apology that reads, "I was wrong to allege that Craig Wright fraudulently claimed to be Satoshi. I accept he is Satoshi. I am sorry Dr Wright. I will not repeat this libel."
1/ So I got my letter from Craig Wright and @CalvinAyre. This is what they are sending out to people, now you can all see.
I absolutely reject their requirements.
(PS I don't recommend anyone else does this). pic.twitter.com/olpLUdwDyM
— Dr. Peter McCormack (@PeterMcCormack) April 12, 2019
However, now that Wright has acknowledged publicly that, according to his version of events, multiple people helped create Bitcoin, those who stand accused of libel may now have evidence in their favour to argue that Satoshi is not a single individual.
Furthermore, no one has yet been able to provide incontrovertible evidence of who Satoshi Nakamoto is, which could make the libel claims harder to enforce.
As for proving who may or may not be Satoshi, there have been several long-standing suggestions of how to do so. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ), coming to the defence of Peter McCormack, recently stated via Twitter that whoever Satoshi is should be able to easily prove their identity by signing a transaction with the public key associated with the Satoshi Bitcoin address that mined the Bitcoin genesis block.
The real Satoshi can digitally sign any message to prove it. This is as simple as breathing for him/her. And we have the pub key.
Until then, everyone is Satoshi, except Craig Wright!
— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) April 15, 2019
This particular method of proof has been asked of Wright numerous times, despite his attempt to do so in 2016 in private with journalists from the BBC and elsewhere. That effort in 2016 was subsequently treated by some as dubious, insufficient or cleverly deceptive, especially given that it was not a public showing of proof.
Andrew O'Hagan, a journalist who was embedded with Wright for several weeks to help provide a "proof package" and help Wright tell his story, eventually went on to claim that Wright's attempt at proving he was Satoshi had failed. Furthermore, Wright himself backed out of a commitment to provide further proof that he was Satoshi just days after the BBC interview aired. This has earnt Wright a dubious reputation and the unfortunate nickname "Faketoshi".
Despite the uncertainty that has dogged Craig Wright, his claims and his reputation for so many years, he does have his own fair share of high profile supporters.
Back in 2016, just after Wright had first been outed as Satoshi by Wired and Gizmodo, Gavin Andresen, the high profile Bitcoin developer who created the Bitcoin Foundation and served as the lead developer of Bitcoin Core, came to Wright's aid. Andresen came out in support of Wright's claims, saying that, "I believe Craig Steven Wright is the person who invented Bitcoin." Andresen was sadly punished for his support and his Bitcoin Core GitHub privileges were revoked.
In more recent times, influential cypherpunk and Bitcoin educator Jameson Lopp has even considered that after a year of research into Craig Wright, "Wright is better positioned than most people to pose as a Satoshi candidate, but I've yet to find any convincing evidence to support his claims."
Once again, we are left without a smoking gun to conclude definitively who is or is not Satoshi Nakamoto, but at least the tale continues to twist and turn. Don't put the popcorn away just yet.
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, the author holds BTC, ETH, XLM, XRP, NEU, VET, LINK, BSV, ICX, LRC, ETC, WAN, BNB, QASH, XMR, GRIN, NEO, BEAM, NXS