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Bitcoin developer talks regulation, open source and the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto

James Niccolai | May 20, 2013
Jeff Garzik says the Bitcoin creator was a brilliant architect and economist but that his coding left a bit do be desired.

JG: I would never recommend Bitcoin as a nation state currency that you're forced to use, but I think it's great as a private currency that you're free to choose if you want to. It's just very frictionless, you can trade it with free software.

The biggest hurdle may be the volatility, as you suggested. For regular users, I agree that's off-putting to a certain extent. I think it's something that will diminish over time, but it's a free market so there's no guarantee. Just introducing new people to Bitcoin is hard as well. It's technologically complex, how do I explain it to my aunt? But then, to a certain extent you don't have to understand it, you can download a Bitcoin wallet in the Android market, scan a QR code and you have bitcoins.

IDGNS: Is Satoshi still involved in Bitcoin's development?

JG: My personal opinion of him as a project leader is that he's not a good project leader. My opinion of him as an engineer is that he's a mediocre engineer. My opinion of him as an architect-slash-economist is that he's brilliant. He released Bitcoin and there were a bunch of obvious bugs and attacks that got fixed in the first six months, then there were less serious bugs that got fixed. He designed the system, fundamentally it works and it hasn't been hacked, but the software is sort of a crap program.

IDGNS: Do you know his real identity?

JG: No one I know has done any more than converse with him over email or Internet forums.

IDGNS: Do people still ask for his input?

JG: He hasn't answered anything since December 2010.

IDGNS: Do you think he'll pop up one day and say, hey I invented this?

JG: In the early days, when we had Wikileaks wanting to use bitcoins for donations, Satoshi came up on the forum and said, Please don't do that, it's a system in its infancy, we don't need all this conflict and controversy right now.

IDGNS: Can Bitcoin transactions be completely anonymous?

JG: The stock answer is no, it's pseudo-anonymous, sort of like a Swiss bank account, it's a number. But if you go through a lot of effort it can be anonymous.

IDGNS: Like using Tor?

JG: You'd have to use Tor, and if you send me bitcoins and another person sends me bitcoins, I have to sort of keep those in two separate pools. If I spend them both together, a network analysis can tie you, the other person and me together, so you might not even know who that other person is but suddenly we three are linked through network analysis.


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