For years, mystery has shrouded the true identity of the creator of the electronic currency called Bitcoin. The person has been known only as Satoshi Nakamoto. Now, Australian businessman Craig Wright claims it's him.
In interviews published Monday with the BBC, GQ and the Economist, along with a blog post of his own, Wright said he is Nakamoto and offered details about digital signatures to associate him with some of the earliest bitcoins created.
One key person who's convinced is Gavin Andresen, chief scientist of the Bitcoin Foundation, which attempts to standardize and promote the technology. Another is John Matonis, founding director of the Bitcoin Foundation and chief executive of encrypted email provider Hushmail, who attended a session in London where Wright offered proof.
"I had the opportunity to review the relevant data along three distinct lines: cryptographic, social, and technical. Based on what I witnessed, it is my firm belief that Craig Steven Wright satisfies all three categories," Matonis said in a blog post.
If Wright's claim is confirmed -- and there are skeptics aplenty already -- it could help demystify a technology whose promise has been hampered by technical complexity and a short history tarnished by theft, illicit commerce at the Silk Road site, and bankruptcy of some early players.
Bitcoin, used today to buy products online and transfer money between countries, is based on cryptographic technology. It relies on a small army of bitcoin "miners" who verify bitcoin transactions through a computationally intense process that occasionally rewards them with newly minted bitcoins. Although the value of a bitcoin has diminished since a moment of hype in early 2014, the volume of bitcoin transactions continues to steadily increase, according to tracking site Blockchain.info.
Brian Spector, CEO of MIRACL, a cryptography-focused company that uses blockchain technology in its products, said it doesn't really matter who the creator of Bitcoin is.
"Once that barn door opened," he said, "all this innovation started to happen."
What does matter is that experts have validated the coding and math behind Bitcoin.
That has allowed organizations like the Linux Foundation to take up Bitcoin technology and create standards and protocols. Those are the efforts that will give Bitcoin credibility, prompting financial institutions to use it in consumer products, Spector said.
The quest to identify Nakamoto has been dramatic but journalistically perilous. Attempts by Newsweek and The New Yorker unraveled, and Wired was forced to back off its 2015 assertion that Wright probably is Nakamoto after close scrutiny revealed problems with the proof. Gizmodo, too, tentatively fingered Wright as the Bitcoin creator last year.
Last December, shortly after Wired and Gizmodo reported the Satoshi-Wright connection, Australian Federal Police raided a residence in the Australian city of Sydney, as well as a business address a few suburbs away, both reportedly linked to Wright. Police confirmed they had executed search warrants in relation to an investigation by the Australian Taxation Office, but denied the raids were connected to media reporting on Wright's Bitcoin connections.
Now, Wright said he has reluctantly decided it's time to end the anonymity. "I have not done this because it is what I wanted. It's not because of my choice," he told the BBC. He has no plans to become a figurehead for the Bitcoin movement, he added, but evidently he plans to stay involved.
"I have been silent, but I have not been absent. I have been engaged with an exceptional group and look forward to sharing our remarkable work when they are ready," he said in his blog post. "Satoshi is dead. But this is only the beginning."
Updates, 6:17 a.m. PT, 8:14 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. PT: Comment from Bitcoin Foundation's John Matonis has been added. Gavin Andresen's and Craig Wright's names have been fixed. The comparisons of the value and volume of bitcoin transactions have been corrected. Also, a comment from MIRACL CEO Brian Spector has been added.
Update, 6:30 p.m. PT: Information about Australian Federal Police raids added.
CNET reporter Laura Hautala contributed to this report.