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SAN FRANCISCO — Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? For many in the tech world, the identity of bitcoin's elusive creator has been a long-running parlor game. And the speculation might not be over.
Australian entrepreneur Craig Steven Wright, who announced Monday that he founded the digital currency, convinced at least one longtime bitcoin contributor that he's the real deal. He managed that feat via a technical demonstration involving Nakamoto's secret bitcoin keys. But Wright's public documentation underwhelmed others and left the question of Nakamoto's true identity far from settled.
"There's no way you can conclusively prove that you are the creator of bitcoin," said Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center, a Washington, D.C.-based crypto-currency think tank, who is skeptical of Wright's claims.
Tracking a pseudonymous cryptographic genius would be challenging under the best circumstances. And here we're talking someone who invented a way for people to send money around the world anonymously, without banks or national currencies. Someone who apparently disappeared five years ago for unknown reasons.
None of that has stopped people from trying.
One of the most celebrated candidates — to his own dismay — was an unassuming Japanese-American engineer who found himself in the cross-hairs of Newsweek magazine in 2014.
A Newsweek cover story fingered Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto after citing circumstantial clues and a vague comment that Nakamoto made when confronted briefly on his front doorstep. The article sparked a media frenzy and a car chase that ended at the Los Angeles offices of The Associated Press — where Dorian Nakamoto emphatically denied any involvement with bitcoin.
An earlier contender named in a 2011 New Yorker magazine piece was Michael Clear, then a graduate student in cryptography at Trinity College in Dublin. At first, according to the New Yorker, Clear was evasive when asked at a cryptography conference if he had created bitcoin. But he later denied it repeatedly.
Speculation has also focused on a Hungarian-American computer scientist named Nick Szabo. The only problem? Szabo, who has worked on other digital currencies, has repeatedly denied creating bitcoin.
Other scientists' names have surfaced over the years; some theories pose the notion of two or three working together. But denials have usually followed each new mention.
Vice magazine once suggested Nakamoto might be Gavin Andresen, an American software expert and early bitcoin enthusiast. Andresen has denied it — and on Monday declared that he believes Wright is Nakamoto.
But other cryptocurrency enthusiasts aren't convinced it's Wright. The truth, they say, is still out there.