Bitcoin may have developed into a $1 trillion plus market, even as it threatens to disrupt finance as we know it. But little is known about the identity of the cryptocurrency’s creator beyond the fact that the person or persons called themselves ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’.
A number of people have claimed without proof to be the real ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’ but now, a family of one late David Kleiman has sued a London-based Australian programmer named Craig Wright.
The family’s claim: Kleiman and Wright created bitcoin together and the Kleiman family is entitled to half of the 1.1 million bitcoins that was mined by ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’.
The trial is not going into the question of who Satoshi Nakamoto is. But Satoshi’s identity could end up being confirmed – or not – if Wright is asked to and is able to carry out a transaction from Satoshi’s publicly-identifiable wallet. All bitcoin transactions are associated with a public key and a private key. Every bitcoin transaction can be identified by its public key. The owner uses their private key to make the transaction. In fact, reports say Satoshi’s wallet, which had been lying dormant for more than a decade, recently became active again.
In his defence, Wright who has claimed for years that he created bitcoin – but has not proved it so far – has denied he partnered with Kleiman who passed away in 2013. Much of the bitcoin community does not believe Wright’s claims that he is in fact bitcoin’s creator. But if the trial does end up confirming Satoshi’s identity, it could end up putting Wright – and the Kleiman family, if it wins -- on record as one of the world’s richest people. The 1.1 million bitcoin in Satoshi’s wallet are estimated to be worth $72 billion.
Bitcoin came into existence in January 2009 shortly after Satoshi Nakamoto put out a ‘while paper’ envisioning the concept of an electronic currency, driven by encryption, cryptography and a decentralised system of computers.
Bitcoin was valued in cents when it started but today each unit is valued at about $65,000 or about Rs 50 lakh, amid feverish speculation by its followers who believe it could someday replace traditional currencies. Today, a user in one part of the world can send bitcoin units to anyone else through the Internet without any charge and within minutes, a feat that traditional banking systems find it difficult to achieve.
Most governments and central banks globally have been wary of bitcoin’s claims of potentially being legal tender as transactions can be notoriously difficult to trace beyond their public keys. Most experts, however, believe that if not bitcoin or similar cryptocurrencies that have sprung up in its wake, the technology that underpins it – blockchain – could have vast uses when it comes to payments and record keeping.
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)
First Published: IST