You may have already heard the stories about Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin and the first blockchain database. The mysterious founder has never truly been identified, and ceased being active in the development of Bitcoin in December 2010.
The rumours range from Satoshi being a Japanese developer through to being a cryptography and computer science expert living in the USA or Europe, or even a pseudonym for a group of individuals.
While the beginnings of Bitcoin are traced to one illustrious founder, the decentralised ethos behind Bitcoin means that today the largest influencers of the leading cryptocurrencies are the development teams, the miners, and the owners of Bitcoins.
Miners and developers
Wladimir van der Laan, Gavin Andresen, and Cory Fields
Wladimir van der Laan is now the lead developer for Bitcoin, taking over from previous lead developer Gavin Andresen in April 2014. Van der Laan still works with Andresen on Bitcoin development, alongside Cory Fields, all of whom are employed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Digital Currency Initiative.
Van der Laan tends to focus on the technology behind Bitcoin, staying out of the debates over scaling, and the hard-fork controversies.
Cory Fields, an ex-XBMC developer, is a little more vocal in his beliefs about scaling and hard-forking of Bitcoin. He believes the growth in the number of Bitcoin developers and external entrepreneurs, investors and businesses who all have opinions on how the technology behind Bitcoin should be structured, is good for Bitcoin.
At the MIT Bitcoin Expo, Fields stated that, “you know you have a beautifully constructed and safe system when the designers of the system can’t change it if they want to.”
Bitcoin Cash – Amaury Séchet – Lead Developer
Amaury Séchet is a French developer who, until earlier this year, worked for Facebook. He made the leap, joining Bitcoin Cash, to help answer questions of scalability in Bitcoin. He’s known in the developer community as “Deadalnix” and is the lead developer for Bitcoin ABC, the first implementation of the Bitcoin Cash protocol.
Séchet was approached by another developer known as “Freetrader” who wanted to implement an adjustable block size limit on top of Bitcoin ABC.
Séchet and Freetrader bought into the plan for a Bitcoin hard-fork and implemented it through a “User Activated Hard-Fork” (UAHF), an idea originally proposed by another developer, “Bitmain.”
A further set of improvements for Bitcoin Cash, aimed to fix fluctuations in mining efficiency, have been proposed by Séchet and accepted by the BCH guiding team. His vision for Bitcoin Cash is to restore Bitcoin back to Satoshi Nakamoto’s aspirations, including its low cost, anonymous, decentralised ideology.
“You know you have a beautifully constructed and safe system when the designers of the system can’t change it if they want to.” – Amauray Séchet
Bitcoin Gold – Jack Liao – Business owner, entrepreneur and Bitcoin miner
Jack Liao led the hard-fork which created Bitcoin Gold in July. He’s an avid competitor of Bitcoin Cash, believing Bitcoin Gold restores the original decentralised nature of Bitcoin.
He’s a key influence in the development of Bitcoin Gold, but is an entrepreneur, not a developer. His company manufactures the type of mining equipment which is compatible with Bitcoin Gold so his motivations have been questioned by some who feel he is only passionate about Bitcoin Gold for his own financial gain.
An ex-Microsoft engineer, Dave Carlson, owns the biggest large-scale mining facility in the whole of North America, reportedly earning $8 million a month.
He’s also CEO for Bitcoin-mining equipment maker, Giga Watt.
Influential advocates and investors of Bitcoin
Nick Szabo was one of the earliest advocates of digital contracts and digital currency. He is a computer scientist and expert cryptographer, and was suspected for a time of being Satoshi Nakamoto himself.
He denies the often-made claim that he is actually Satoshi Nakamoto, but is a known digital currency thinker given a paper he released, “Bit Gold,” 10 years before Satoshi came onto the scene.
Patrick Byrne is the CEO of Overstock.com, the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin.
Byrne’s acceptance helped to bring cryptocurrency into the mainstream, and his VC firm Medici Ventures – a subsidiary of Overstock – is focused on investing in digital currency and companies that leverage blockchain technology.
Byrne is currently working on an ICO, tZERO, a distributed ledger platform for capital markets, which he expects to raise $200-$500 million. The platform plans to integrate cryptographically secure distributed ledgers with existing capital market processes, to reduce timing and costs, and to increase transparency, efficiency and auditability.
Tracing all the other people
Bitcoin transactions are transparent through the blockchain ledger, but users are anonymous making it difficult to know who owns exactly how much.
Just under 20% of the Bitcoins in circulation are owned by just over 100 bitcoin addresses (accounts), based on the Bitcoin Rich List.
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, famous for their role in the early days of Facebook, are two of the biggest single owners of Bitcoin. The brothers hold an estimated 1% of all Bitcoins, estimated to be worth about $231 million.
Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto still allegedly owns around 1 million Bitcoins spread across a number of wallets. Roger Ver, nicknamed “Bitcoin Jesus”, John Mack, and Frank Giustra are major investors and advocates, as well as some of Bitcoin’s Big Money Makers.
Founders, developers, advocates and investors are all driving forces powering the blockchains, the cryptocurrencies, the hard-forks and the value of these digital assets. As with any technological breakthrough, the people behind it are the crucial elements to pay attention to as Bitcoin, and blockchain, evolve.