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It is officially 15 years since the release of the Bitcoin White Paper

Its official: 15 years have now passed since the invention of Bitcoin.

In fact, this October 31 marks the anniversary of the day when, in 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto released his groundbreaking paper entitled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” to the world.

Little recognized on its release, the paper’s renown has only grown, the document now applauded for creating:

  1. A novel advance in internet protocols: Bitcoin marked the first time money could be sent over the web without any intermediaries.
  2. A novel economic asset on the world stage: Bitcoin being the first digital money that operates outside the control of any government or entity.

As we mark the 15th anniversary of Satoshi Nakamoto’s work, it’s a great time to revisit the spark that started the Bitcoin revolution.

Here are 15 facts about the white paper that everyone should know:

1) The White Paper is Only 9 Pages


Coming in at nine pages and 2,736 words, the Bitcoin BTC white paper is shorter than the Magna Carta (3,550 words) and the U.S. Constitution (4,543 words).

That’s not to say it’s an easy read. Some say it takes years to fully understand the intricacies of the Bitcoin white paper given it introduces many concepts that are more familiar to cryptographers and computer scientists.

That said, many industry natives use it as a litmus test for their own education, periodically revisiting its words as their own expertise improves.

2) No One Knows Who Wrote the White Paper


Though many have claimed to be Satoshi Nakamoto, no conclusive evidence has ever been presented that proves anyone to be Bitcoin’s inventor.

Still, this hasn’t stopped internet speculation, with social media having its preferred candidates like first Bitcoin user Hal Finney and mathematician John Nash.

In fact, that this is even the case is something of a modern miracle. Not only did Satoshi create an alternate identity, but he’s been able to successfully mask his true name from the internet’s top sleuths for over a decade, all at a time when surveillance and tracking on the web has never been worse.

3) The White Paper was widely critiqued when released


Embraced today, Satoshi’s reception on the cryptography mailing list where his work was published was anything but warm.

Objections spanned the gamut from the debunked – that the amount of electricity the system would use would be too great; to the still relevant, whether it could scale to a sufficient size to handle economic demand; to the downright silly, some arguing seriously that its economic policy was too inflationary.

Indeed, so great was the uproar, moderators of the mailing list would later intervene, telling Satoshi and his commentators to take their incessant talk elsewhere.

4) Bitcoin Only Appears Twice in the White Paper


It’s widely believed Satoshi named Bitcoin fairly late in the process, and there is evidence he may have even wanted to call it simply “Electronic Cash” or “Netcoin.”

Uncovered only last year, it appears someone registered a domain for netcoin just days before the Bitcoin domain was registered.

In addition, in early emails Satoshi sent to other scientists for review, Bitcoin was sometimes called “Electronic Cash,” which isn’t a surprise given the term has since the 1990s been used by academics to describe the idea he sought to pursue.

5) Satoshi Wrote Code Before He Wrote the White Paper


By his own account, Satoshi Nakamoto reports the Bitcoin white paper was the final task he completed before launching Bitcoin to the world.

In fact, in his early emails, Satoshi mentions he had been working on Bitcoin for two years by the time the white paper was finally released, writing:

“I actually did this kind of backwards. I had to write all the code before I could convince myself that I could solve every problem, then I wrote the paper.”

6) The White Paper Doesn’t Include the Word Blockchain or Cryptocurrency


Though popular buzzwords today, ones that have been abused to fund a variety of failed attempts to reimagine his work, the term “blockchain” and “cryptocurrency” were never used in the Bitcoin white paper.

Rather, Satoshi calls the blockchain a “timestamp server,” a term that makes more clear its function (keeping time for the network) and what it sought to replace in digital cash systems (the central server most often used to operate them).

7) The Most Common Word in the White Paper is Block


Batches of transactions that have been timestamped on the Bitcoin blockchain and approved by the distributed consensus, blocks are a bedrock of the network.

As such, it’s no surprise Satoshi uses the term often in the paper. Other terms that are mentioned often include – nodes (38), proof-of-work (18), and incentive (7).

8) 10 People Are Cited in the Bitcoin White Paper


Citations are the mark of any serious scientific work, and their inclusion in the Bitcoin white paper are notable given they suggest Satoshi’s academic intent.

In particular, the Bitcoin white paper includes eight citations to past works, including attempted digital cash projects like B-money by Wei Dei and Hashcash by Adam Back.

The most often cited are Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta, who are acknowledged for multiple works in which they introduce the concept of a blockchain. Back is the only cryptographer mentioned who still works on Bitcoin.

9) Parts of the White Paper Are No Longer Being Worked on by Developers


Of course, after 15 years, the white paper has become a little dated when describing Bitcoin’s software, which has been updated and patched hundreds of times in the decade since its release.

Indeed, so much has changed that the Bitcoin developers keep something of an official list of the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the Bitcoin white paper.

10) The White Paper Is Hosted on Many Websites Around the World


Released under the MIT License, anyone can freely share Satoshi’s work, and many unexpected websites do.

Surprisingly, the Bitcoin white paper is now hosted on a variety of websites including those owned by the U.S. Government, the City of Miami, and financial giants like Block (formerly Square).

The first website to host the Bitcoin white paper, Bitcoin.org, still hosts the document. It’s now available in over 40 languages.

11) The White Paper Is No Longer Available In the UK


Due to an unfortunate lawsuit by someone claiming to be Bitcoin’s inventor, residents of the United Kingdom (UK) can no longer access the document as of 2021.

The incident showcases the damage done by certain individuals claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto, and hints at why so many in the industry wish his identity to remain a secret despite the intense public interest.

12) The White Paper Was Embedded on Every Mac Computer, But Was Later Removed


If you own an Apple AAPL computer, you just may have a copy of the Bitcoin white paper in your hard drive.

In a viral post from earlier this year, it was revealed someone had successfully hidden the Bitcoin white paper inside every copy of MacOS shipped since 2017.

After going viral, however, the white paper was unceremoniously removed.

13) Twitter Creator Jack Dorsey Once Called the White Paper ‘Poetry’


In one of the best examples of the esteem Satoshi’s work has garnered him, Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter and CEO of Block (formerly Square), once called the Bitcoin white paper “poetry.”

The comments underscore why Dorsey has committed Block to becoming a Bitcoin financial services company, and why he believes that Bitcoin is a tool for freedom, one that will reduce the cost of transactions for millions around the globe.

High praise from someone who has done his share of world-changing work.

14) Kraken Put the White Paper on an F1 Racer


The latest stunt that put the Bitcoin white paper in the headlines was completed in March 2023, when crypto exchange firm Kraken put the full text of the document on the nosecone of the Formula 1 racer it sponsors.

Since then, the company has continued to use its racer to highlight other crypto products, like NFTs, which it recently put on the rear wing of its racer.

15) The White Paper Has Been Cited Over 4,000 Times


Though it remains to be seen whether any other cryptocurrency can improve on Satoshi’s invention, that hasn’t stopped his fans from the attempt.

According to SemanticsScholar, the Bitcoin white paper has been cited in over 4,000 academic papers, including many that purport to offer advances for cryptocurrency systems like Ethereum ETH , Zcash ZEC , and more.

Doubtless, that number will only continue to rise as more developers and builders around the world begin to recognize and advance Satoshi’s groundbreaking work.


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