Gavin Andresen is an American software developer best known for managing Bitcoin’s development after Satoshi Nakamoto disappeared.
Source: USA Today
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After Andresen finished high school, he attended Princeton University to study computer science. He graduated in 1988 and took a job developing 3D graphics software for a Silicon Valley-based company — Silicon Graphics. During this period, he co-authored a new file formatting system for representing 3D graphics online called VRML, or Virtual Reality Modelling Language.
He left Silicon Graphics to work as the CTO of a VoIP startup, and then co-founded a company which developed multiplayer games that blind people can play against sighted people.
Creating the Bitcoin Faucet
“Eventually, he pulled a fast one on me because he asked me if it’d be OK if he put my email address on the Bitcoin homepage, and I said yes, not realizing that when he put my email address there, he’d take his away. I was the person everyone would email when they wanted to know about Bitcoin.”
“With Satoshi's blessing, and with great reluctance, I'm going to start doing more active project management for Bitcoin."
“I've moved on to other things. It's in good hands with Gavin and everyone.”
"I hope that by talking directly to them and, more importantly, listening to their questions/concerns, they will think of Bitcoin the way I do - as a just-plain-better, more efficient, less-subject-to-political-whims money," he said. "Not as an all-powerful black-market tool that will be used by anarchists to overthrow the System."
Satoshi never replied to this message, and was never heard from again. We can only assume he didn’t share Andresen’s optimism about how the US intelligence agencies would treat Bitcoin.
Despite his reluctance at taking on the job, Andresen still believed he was the developer best suited to it. “I sure was the best,” he said when asked about the matter. He was also well paid for his efforts: in 2014, Andresen said he was paid $209,648 per year, which he received in Bitcoin. He exchanged most of the Bitcoin for dollars because “it just doesn’t make sense to have all your eggs in one basket,” but he kept enough that by the decade’s end, he had enough to comfortably retire.
A few years after he took over Bitcoin, Andresen set up the Bitcoin Foundation, a non-profit which sought to restore Bitcoin’s reputation after consecutive scandals brought its reputation into disrepute. These scandals included arms and drug dealers accepting Bitcoin in exchange for their illicit products on the Silk Road; and hackers minting 184 billion new BTC in seconds, which massively devalued all the other Bitcoin in circulation.
While the Silk Road eventually shut down and the Bitcoin hack was reversed, Bitcoin’s reputation was in dire straits in 2012. So Andresen urgently needed to get the Bitcoin Association off the ground, while also managing Bitcoin’s continuing development.
What did Andresen actually do in his role as Bitcoin developer-in-chief? For the most part, it seems, he arbitrated between Bitcoin developers who couldn’t agree on which direction the project should go in.
Bitcoin’s Civil War
Up to this point, Bitcoin’s developers had desperately wanted new users. But when they got their wish, and Bitcoin’s blockchain started filling with transactions, the problem of how to process all these new transactions came to the foreground. Because if Bitcoin was ever going to reach its potential, it would have to process a lot more than seven transactions per second.
The question was how the developers should achieve this. At the time there were basically two schools of thought.
Increase Block Size
One group, led by Andresen and Mike Hearn, believed the blocks should get bigger, in accordance with Satoshi’s vision. This would have changed Bitcoin into a low-cost, fast payment network like PayPal. But, it could have led to a situation where ordinary computers couldn’t process Bitcoin’s blocks because the blockchain itself had become unmanageably massive, and eventually the whole network could have fallen into the hands of the only people who could afford systems large enough to run the code: huge corporations.
The warring factions became openly hostile to one another, each accusing the other side of either deliberately — or through sheer stupidity — of sabotaging Bitcoin. And Gavin Andresen, as Bitcoin’s chief, was caught in the middle.
When Andresen took over Bitcoin, he had probably hoped to spend most of his time writing and editing code. But he actually spent most of his time mediating between these two warring factions within the Bitcoin community. As lead developer, he was put in the awkward position of having to make the final call on all the big decisions whenever there wasn’t a consensus. This, he says, made him a kind of “benevolent dictator,” wherein what other people thought didn’t matter nearly as much as his own opinion. Understandably, this only escalated Bitcoin’s civil war.
"That may be what has to happen with the block size, frankly. I may just have to throw my weight around and say, 'This is the way it's going to be. And if you don't like it, find another project.’”
End of His Tenure as Bitcoin's Chief
A resolution to the dispute was nearly found in Hong Kong, when Andresen, Hearn, and the other lead Bitcoin developers met up to try and find a way out of the trenches. They found some common ground, but it all fell apart before long. By the meeting’s end, Andresen was taking pot shots at those who disagreed with him. “It’s likely that the current developers will get fired, and some other team will replace them because they are not listening to their customers,” he said.
Craig Wright is an Australian businessman and computer scientist who was ‘outed’ as Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s inventor, in December 2015. The evidence looked convincing at first, and plenty of people thought he really might be Satoshi. Unfortunately for Wright, the evidence that he invented Bitcoin disintegrated faster than it first appeared.
His claims are today considered false by most of the crypto space, but one crypto leader who was sucked in by Wright was none other than Gavin Andresen.
In May 2016, the year after Wright was outed as Satoshi, Wright and his associates secretly assembled news crews from the BBC, GQ, and the Economist, in order to provide cryptographic evidence that Wright was Satoshi Nakamoto. Wright called Andresen in to help him substantiate his claims by verifying the proof he was showing the journalists. Andresen agreed.
It wasn’t until Andresen supported Wright publicly, however, that everything started to go wrong for him. While speaking at the Consensus 2016 conference on the day Wright’s proofs were published, Andresen affirmed that he was standing behind Craig Wright’s claim that he was Satoshi Nakamoto. But by this time, a lot of Wright's evidence had been shown to be false or misleading. Consequently, Andresen’s statement was met with utter disbelief. Bitcoin developer Eric Lombrozo said:
"It was a very bizarre moment."
A bizarre moment indeed, and one which led the other Bitcoin developers to revoke Andresen’s commit access to GitHub before the end of the day, which meant he could no longer contribute code to the software. This effectively kicked him off the Bitcoin developer team, ending his reign as Bitcoin’s lead developer.
Source: Bitcoin Wiki
After leaving Bitcoin, Andresen was still determined to see Bitcoin implement bigger blocks. He and his fellow developer Mike Hearn decided that the only fair way to move forward was to give the people a vote on what they wanted: larger blocks, or a layer-2 solution.
They assembled a new version of Bitcoin called Bitcoin XT: a near-identical copy of Bitcoin but with an 8MB block size, rather than 1MB, which would grow every two years. They proposed to the community that the people would decide which version of Bitcoin they wanted to use: Bitcoin core, with small blocks and layer-2 applications; or Bitcoin XT, with large blocks.
Many of the other developers were against not only Andresen and Hearn’s proposal, but the very idea of giving anyone but themselves a vote on Bitcoin’s direction. They argued they alone should decide what happens with Bitcoin’s code, and that trying to put it to a vote amounted to a coup.
Andresen and Hearn pressed on anyway, but their plans were scuppered by a malicious hacker. The hacker installed software that overloaded users’ computers with traffic if they tried to use Bitcoin XT.
This caused a Long Island-based ISP’s services to shut down for several hours across Long Island, and forced Coinbase, the cryptocurrency exchange, to shut down for nearly a whole day. Thanks to the combined efforts of hackers and small-block supporters, Bitcoin XT never took off.
In fact, it’s fair to say it crashed and burned, and took Gavin Andresen down with it.
Evidence That Gavin Andresen Could Be Satoshi Nakamoto
#1 His Career, Qualifications and Technical Ability
Andresen’s computer science degree from Princeton and his four years as developer-in-chief of Bitcoin proves he has the skills required to have invented Bitcoin.
#2 His Beliefs Align With Satoshi’s
Andresen describes himself as a libertarian who is deeply concerned with centralized government and central banks, who act as single points of failure for the global monetary system. He even keeps a Zimbabwean one trillion dollar note in his wallet to remind himself of the dangers of centralized control.
Satoshi shared Andresen’s libertarian beliefs and concerns about central banks. He included the text “The Times 03/Jan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks” within Bitcoin’s genesis block.
Evidence That Gavin Andresen Likely Isn’t Satoshi Nakamoto
#1 He Says He Isn’t
When he was asked by journalists whether he invented Bitcoin, Andresen denied it and said that he still backed Craig Wright.
#2 It Would Require An Exceptionally Elaborate False Trail
There are volumes of forum and email messages between Satoshi and Andresen. If these were faked, Satoshi must have spent more time writing fake emails to convince the world he wasn’t Gavin Andresen than he did writing code for Bitcoin.
#3 He Backed Someone Else To Be Satoshi
From 2016 onward, Andresen has publicly backed Craig Wright as the inventor of Bitcoin. If he was Satoshi, why would he do this? To throw people off the trail? Possibly, but this seems a little far-fetched.
So, do you think Gavin Andresen invented Bitcoin?