Why Did Satoshi Nakamoto Abandon Bitcoin?

Posted in: Archive
January 27, 2016 11:53 AM UTC

If you had created something that had gained popularity across the world, would you stop working on it? That’s what Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, did. People have many different theories as to why he did that. Numerous news outlets - like Newsweek…

Couverture Newsweek, “Bitcoin’s Face” – mag.newsweek.com

If you had created something that had gained popularity across the world, would you stop working on it?

That’s what Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, did. People have many different theories as to why he did that. Numerous news outlets – like Newsweek and Wired – have tried to uncover the real Satoshi Nakamoto.

Ideas about why Satoshi left the project goes all the way to the top in Bitcoin, like core developer of Bitcoin, Gavin Andresen. As he wrote on BitcoinTalk:

“Um… I haven’t had email from satoshi in a couple months actually. The last email I sent him I actually told him I was going to talk at the CIA. So it’s possible , that…. that may have um had something to with his deciding.”

Before that post on the popular Bitcoin forum, Satoshi made a seemingly nervous post regarding Wikileaks accepting Bitcoin.

“It would have been nice to get this attention in any other context.  WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us.”

Some people point to the fact that Satoshi knew he had a virtual fortune (literally) if Bitcoin succeeded. That’s why he designed bitcoin to be divisible to 10-8, in case the high price became such it would make it hard to trade Bitcoin. Thus, Satoshi’s apparent belief he could not remain anonymous, according to some, fueled his decision to leave the project.

People tend to believe that, although he used a Japanese moniker, Nakamoto hailed from the US or UK, in part due to his English skills.

However, if he were not from one such nation, he could be from a nation of Bitcoin persecution, such as Russia. Others point out that, regarding the fate of Bernard Von Nothaus, who tried to create his own silver-based currency, Nakamoto could face legal matters in the US. This is not entirely true as comparing the Von Nothaus project with the Nakamoto project are not perfect comparisons.

An interesting theory was recently presented by Theymos, who was given administration duties of BitcoinTalk by Nakamoto. According to the longtime R/Bitcoin administrator:

For some time, Satoshi lurked on various cypherpunk mailing lists. It was a little hobby of his, but he wasn’t famous or a major participant. One day the idea for Bitcoin came to him. He wasn’t sure that it’d work, but he was excited about it, so he thought that he’d give implementing it a try. In the two years that it took him to finish 0.1, new interesting facets of the problem presented themselves, and he was able to solve them. He considered a number of future use-cases, and added support for them to his software. When it all seemed to be working OK, he released it.

You have to understand that the ideas behind Bitcoin are not way out there. All of the crypto already existed, and even the idea of a block chain already largely existed in the form of git. Satoshi didn’t need to be a mathematician, cryptographer, or master software engineer to come up with the ideas behind Bitcoin and then implement them.

In fact, I think that Satoshi might not have been much of a programmer before building Bitcoin. But he was dedicated and detail-oriented. Maybe he read a good C++ book front-to-back before starting on the coding, and then put real effort into following best practices (with a large amount of success, though some imperfection).

He didn’t have a solid idea for long-term scalablity. He’d always planned to implement SPV in his client, but doing so looked like it’d take some major hacking. He’d had vague plans of auctions & trading systems built into the client, but he couldn’t find a good design for these things. Etc.

Additionally, he was having to deal more and more with people, which he didn’t much enjoy. Some people started to question his technical decisions, making it more difficult for him to make changes, and he couldn’t always depend on miners running his code….

All in all, Satoshi probably felt like he was losing track of the project, and moreover he didn’t see anything technology-wise that he particularly wanted to work on…

Most people forget that he didn’t just completely vanish one day; first he left the forum, then he only responded to a handful of his usual correspondents via email, and finally he stopped responding to even these people.

In this telling, Satoshi lost interest or burned out on Bitcoin. The coding was possibly over his head and there were and are still critical flaws in the Bitcoin protocol left unsettled, underscored, for one, by the blockchain debate.

Some believe he might have gone back to contributing, but under a different name. There are possibilities that, one day, the true identity of Satoshi Nakamoto could be revealed, though this writer doesn’t believe any reporter should really follow the trail as it doesn’t make a difference; thus is the nature of code – highly impersonal.

Some believe simply that Nakamoto felt the project could not progress with him still around, so he left, so that it could flourish without him in the picture.

Featured image from Shutterstock. Newsweek cover courtesy of Newsweek.

Last modified: May 21, 2020 10:34 AM UTC

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