Friday, April 30, 2021

"The Last Days of Satoshi: What Happened When Bitcoin’s Creator Disappeared"

From Bitcoin Magazine, April 26:

10 years ago today, Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto's disappeared. Pete Rizzo tells the story.

“Tradition demands that there is no gap between kings.” – Terry Pratchett

They suspected that he was British[X], that he was Yakuza[X], that he laundered money[X]. They wondered if he was a woman[X], laid claim just in case[X] and joked about fucking him[X]. They kept contingencies for if he proved crazy[X], eyed for shifts in his sleep[X], debated why he spoke and didn’t speak and sent him eager patches signed with pretty please[X].

To be sure, by the waning days of 2010, Satoshi Nakamoto was still acknowledged for inventing Bitcoin, and was respected for growing the world's first decentralized digital currency into a $1 million market. But as frustrations with his authority and availability built, it became all too common for users to decry Satoshi the admin[X], Satoshi the bottleneck[X], Satoshi the dictator[X].

If it can be said a quiet clamour against Bitcoin’s creator had been simmering since summer, it soon became something of an outcry. As demands escalated, Satoshi sightings even assumed the role of sport, with users speculating when and why he might appear on the forums[X].

That’s not to say Satoshi was able to bring order to the discussion if and when he surfaced.

Indeed, as winter approached, a noticeable change in the conversation would begin with a wave of posts casting doubt over the project, and more specifically, Satoshi’s role in its operations.[X] In response, users drew a dividing line – it was not Satoshi, then still directing development, but the users who ran the software who were the project’s ultimate authority.

“There is no single mastermind in open source. It's more of a brain where a single human is just a cell,” wrote ShadowOfHarbringer[X]. “If one day Satoshi says, ‘OK guys, it was just a joke with this Bitcoin thing, I'm closing down the project,’ we would simply fork the code.”

This line of defense was echoed broadly, even by Satoshi’s most active assistant, Gavin Andresen, who wrote in no uncertain terms: “If Satoshi goes rogue, then the project forks.”[X]

At the heart of this defense was a growing belief – stronger perhaps than any confidence in Satoshi himself – that no Bitcoin user could be greater or less than any other, that they were all nodes on the network, authors of code, individuals responsible for the software’s success.

Still, the coming weeks would find Bitcoin’s early users exercising this power in ways that would upend assumptions about the software’s usability, politics, limitations and freedoms.

In the end, this awakening would amount to something more, the first assertion of authority over Bitcoin’s creator and his system of rules, one already defined by choices so absolute they may as well have been divine.

Wrote user Thrashaholic to one early critic[X]: