Satoshi or not, it’s been a rough week for Craig Wright.
The man who rose to notoriety in 2015 by boldly claiming he was bitcoin’s creator is under fire from not just some of the industry’s most respected names, but the very people that have most embraced his shaky affirmation. Indeed, despite not offering any evidence to date to prove his claim, the Australian cryptographer and nChain founder had found a home among supporters of bitcoin cash.
From supportive T-shirts to displays of public support, Wright has developed a close association with the cryptocurrency that split from bitcoin and that is valued at $10 billion today.
Recently, though, he’s faced a round of backlash.
It all started earlier this week when ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin took the microphone at a Q&A session at the Deconomy conference in Seoul, South Korea. There, Buterin used the moment to attack Wright’s technical arguments issued onstage, highlighting a criticism levied by anyone and everyone respected in crypto since: that his technical commentary just doesn’t make sense.
“Given that he makes so many nonsensical claims, why is this fraud allowed to speak at this conference?” Buterin told the crowd to tumultuous applause.
Though some in the community have hurried to Wright’s defense, the backlash has only mounted.
“I wrote the lightning network whitepaper and I still didn’t understand your talk,” developer Joseph Poon, co-inventor of the lightning network, later shouted.
Miles away, litecoin creator Charlie Lee couldn’t help but join in.
“Craig S Wright’s talks and papers are filled with illogical technobabble and his Satoshi proof is fraudulent. He’s a fraud. Why give this guy a platform?” he said.
And with that, it seems, Buterin has started something of a movement.
Generally sympathetic to bitcoin cash’s approach to scaling, Cornell computer scientist Emin Gun Sirer perhaps summarized the general sentiment the best.
He said in a tweet:
“Right now, I have bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum and zcash devs in my mentions, all roundly ridiculing Craig Wright’s technobabble. Cryptocurrencies have never been as united.”
The particular criticisms would go on to reignite a long-standing battle between Wright and Peter Rizun, a well-known bitcoin cash and aggressive bitcoin scaling advocate who has faced no shortage of criticism in the past for his views.
The technical feud started last summer when Rizun critiqued one of Wright’s white papers wherein he argued (with math) that an attack in bitcoin called “selfish mining” is not actually viable.
Rizun essentially replied, in detail, that his paper doesn’t make sense.
More recently, on March 25, Rizun – much like Vitalik – cornered Wright after a lecture, to argue his technical ideas related to unconfirmed transactions were not feasible. Rizun implied Wright’s ideas would lead to mining attacks.
Rizun and Wright have since taken the argument to Twitter, with Rizun going as far as to call Wright a “proven fraud.”
He’s not the only one. Sirer expanded upon Rizun’s critiques, arguing Wright has “repeatedly failed to grasp” selfish mining. (This is a notable claim since Sirer was one of the first to independently find the attack.)
Sirer went as far as to argue, “He is done. No one takes him seriously as a technical person,” before adding Wright hasn’t yet delivered on last year’s promise to release another bitcoin code.
This weariness of Wright now seems to be spreading to the rest of the community, even on forums that have been historically friendly to ideas he’s championed.
One Reddit user on the forum stated in a post: “I am now downvoting every post with Craig Wright’s face on it.
Still, it’s worth noting many others in the community have come to Wright’s defense.
A popular argument is that, whether or not he is Satoshi, his high profile and allegedly well-capitalized startup have done a lot for certain cryptocurrencies like bitcoin cash.
“Regardless of whether he’s Satoshi or not, or whether he’s even right or wrong about various technical points, I think [it’s] unfair to accuse him of ‘fraud’ because claiming to be Satoshi (and then not proving) isn’t fraud,” Jonald Fyookball, who’s penned many critical essays for the community, argued.
“Also, giving away tons of money to various bitcoin cash endeavours doesn’t seem like fraud either,” Jonald continued.
His comments to back up Wright were met with a chorus of agreement.
That said, many other key members of the community have been quiet on the issue, or equivocal in whether they have a similar opinion of Wright. Still, with crypto enthusiasts never seeming to shy away from a debate, the comments can’t help but feel unique in context.
As Poon concluded on Twitter, this type of dispute is not normal in the technical community. Whereas fits of rage and public animosity may not exactly be rare (investor Roger Ver accused bitcoin’s developers of “killing babies” at the Seoul event), he argued that among the world’s top developers, respectful disagreements are tactfully embraced.
“The confrontation at the conference should not be seen as a normal response to disagreements in the crypto ecosystem,” he wrote, adding:
“It was an extremely strong response to extreme, intentional deception.”
Craig S. Wright image via a BBC interview