Mike Hearn

Bitcoin and Markets edited this page Jul 21, 2018 · 7 revisions

Mike Hearn is an infamous early bitcoin developer. He's most well-known for his development of the BitcoinJ wallet library for light-weight clients, control of the Bitcoin XT hard fork that never was, and his "Rage Quit" of Bitcoin Jan 14, 2016 (archive). He is a former Google engineer until at least 2012, working on many programs there, eventually on their internal network, which Snowden claimed allowed a backdoor to the NSA. He currently works for R3CEV the polar opposite on the political scale from Bitcoin.

Work History

It appears Mike Hearn worked for QinetiQ, a company directly connected to British government and intelligence agencies, from 2002 to 2005, while in university. He definitely would have had a high level security clearance. During this time he signed comments/posts with his work email. QinetiQ is clearly listed on his Google+ page (archived), as well, but absent on his linkedin profile.

When Hearn graduated Durham University in 2006 he went straight to work for Google, which matches another story from Mike. No mention in his account of his work at QinetiQ with British Intelligence. That's interesting, because he definitely worked there for more than a short term contract, since he was there for 3 years.

At Google he worked in many different departments ending up at the Technical Lead in Switzerland when the news broke about Google conveniently having a backdoor to NSA and other intelligence agencies. He publicly spoke out against it, but was let go by Google soon after. He's an advocate for balancing privacy with security.(more needed here)

First Involvement

I'd like to spend a couple paragraphs on Hearn's start in Bitcoin, because it is typical of his whole involvement, cloudy and filled with possible deception (in my opinion).

The exact time Mike Hearn first got involved in Bitcoin is a point of contention. Since 2012, he's claimed that it was in April 2009, "back when it was basically me and Satoshi. Then I left for a bit and came back." However, we don't have any unbiased evidence of this earlier involvement. It was at least as early as 2010, because his bitcointalk account was set up on Dec 14, 2010. (Bitcointalk itself was founded a whole year earlier on Nov 22, 2009.) And the first mention I could find anywhere is Mar 2011, the first post on the bitcoinJ google group.

Mike Hearn was around at least as far back as Dec 2010, but why would Hearn release emails in 2017, a year after his ragequit, that allegedly contain Satoshi's succinct and controversial opinions on scaling that seem to support Bitcoin XT. Some of the points in the emails like when Hearn points out the possibility of GPUs and ASICs was way ahead of its time. The first mention of GPUs on bitcointalk was in 2010 (link needed) and Satoshi never mentioned ASICs.

Another small coincidence I find interesting is it was Hearn who reportedly received that last email from Satoshi, saying that he was pursuing other projects and that Bitcoin was in good hands with Gavin and others. This was the start of Gavin and Mike's tight relationship, that ended with Bitcoin XT and the ragequit.


Hearn's major contribution to the Bitcoin ecosystem was the initial development of widely used Java implementation called BitcoinJ in 2011.

He worked on a long term project called Lighthouse, a trustless escrow service, that eventually launched, but never achieved any level of success.

Hearn also suggested the name change of the reference client, from Bitcoin QT to Bitcoin Core in version 0.9.0.

His first contribution to Bitcoin Core resulted in the fork of 2013.

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