It’s been a month since Newsweek “outed” bitcoin’s creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, as none other than Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto. That declaration was met with immediate skepticism from the bitcoin community and an outright denial from the model train-loving man they identified.
Now, research from Aston University in the U.K. has identified a possible new creator of the original bitcoin paper: Nick Szabo, a well-known digital currency blogger and creator of bit gold, which was seen as a precursor to the bitcoin system. He also received a law degree from George Washington University in 2006, according to the Wall Street Journal (but reports that he was also a professor there are false).
Szabo was an “uncanny” match to the original bitcoin whitepaper, said the team’s leader, Dr. Jack Grieve, in a statement.
“Our study adds to the weight of evidence pointing towards Nick Szabo. The case looks pretty clear-cut. Szabo is an expert in law, finance, cryptography and computer science. He created ‘bit gold,’ a precursor to Bitcoin, and was looking for collaborators in 2008. Did Nick Szabo create Bitcoin? We’re not sure, but we think he probably wrote the paper so it’s certainly worth a closer look,” said Grieve in the release.
The team from the university’s Center for Forensic Linguistics looked at the writing of 11 candidates, all formerly rumored Satoshi Nakamotos. In addition to Szabo and Newsweek’s Dorian Nakamoto, the researchers also analyzed Hal Finney, Gavin Andressen, Jed McCaleb, Vili Lehdonvitra, Dustin Trammel, Michael Clear, Shinichi Mochizuki, Wei Dai and the team of Neal King, Vladimit, Oksman and Charles Bry.
The study showed that Szabo was “by far” the closest match out of the 11 compared after the team matched linguistic traits from the paper with Szabo’s blog posts:
This includes the use of: the phrases “chain of…”, “trusted third parties”, “for our purposes”, “need for…”, “still”, “of course”, “as long as”, “such as” and “only” numerous times, contractions, commas before ‘and’ and ‘but’, hyphenation, ‘-ly’ adverbs, the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘our’ in papers by a single author; fragmented sentences following colons and reflexive (-self) pronouns.
It’s not the first time either that a linguistics analysis has matched Szabo to the original whitepaper. Researcher Skye Gray ran an analysis in December 2013 that also identified Szabo as the possible creator of bitcoin. Gray also noticed the repeated use of “Of course,” “for our purposes” and “trusted third parties.” Gray’s analysis does delve a little further and mentions Nakamoto’s use of British spellings like “favour” instead of “favor,” although those can be easily swapped out by someone trying to be anonymous.
It’s important to note that the study only identifies Szabo as the possible author of the paper itself — at least out of that group of eleven — and that he’s been on the top of people’s lists for a long time. In a 2011 WIRED article, Szabo denied being the founder and instead pointed to Hal Finney or Wei Dai (who then both denied it in the same piece). A Forbes reporter found Hal Finney, the first person to receive a bitcoin from Nakamoto, a few weeks ago living in the same neighborhood as Dorian S. Nakamoto, but that was apparently just a weird coincidence.
The Aston University research might solidify Szabo as frontrunner as the author of the paper, but that doesn’t mean he’s the creator of the bitcoin system. It’s long been a theory in the bitcoin community that Satoshi Nakamoto might be a group of people. If that’s the case, Szabo may not be bitcoin’s creator, but one of them.