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Cryptocurrency – Who is Satoshi Nakamoto – Part 2

Article by Matt Krill.


In Part 1, we explored the cypherpunk movement as a potential breeding ground for the type of libertarian, privacy-enabling ideologies that make sense as motivating factors for the invention of bitcoin. Many of the individuals active on the cypherpunk mailing list contributed ideas and small pieces of the puzzle that eventually led to bitcoin’s genesis. Hal Finney was one of these contributing persons, although as we previously examined, evidence suggests that he is not the notorious Satoshi Nakamoto.


Our next candidate is Nick Szabo, a humble, quiet leader in the world of cryptocurrency. Although Szabo has consistently insisted that he is not Satoshi Nakamoto, we will see why he remains a prime suspect for being the face behind the mask. Also a member of the cypherpunk mailing list, Szabo’s advocacy for network privacy puts him in an ideological position to be motivated to create a decentralized currency. His contributions to such a currency begin in 1997, when he published a paper conceptualizing the idea of ‘smart contracts,’ which happen to be one of the key applications of blockchain technology.


He writes, “Smart contracts combine protocols with user interfaces to formalize and secure relationships over computer networks,” later adding, “A family of protocols, called cryptographic protocols because their first application was computerized “secret writing”, provide many of the basic building blocks that implement the improved tradeoffs between observability, verifiability, privity, and enforceability in smart contracts.”(1)


Observability, verifiability, privity, enforceability; the very characteristics that make cryptocurrencies so appealing to many people. Szabo had been refining the idea of the smart contract since the early 1990s, and published a paper on it over a decade before bitcoin’s conception. A year later, in 1998, Szabo proposed another intriguing idea: bitgold.


Bitgold was built on the shoulders of Hal Finney’s reusable proof of work (RPOW) system, and Szabo’s pitch for it is identical to the pitch one might make for bitcoin: “The problem, in a nutshell, is that our money currently depends on trust in a third party for its value…it would be very nice if there were a protocol whereby unforgeably costly bits could be created online with minimal dependence on trusted third parties, and then securely stored, transferred, and assayed with similar minimal trust.”(2)


Furthermore, Szabo’s description of how bit gold would work is very similar to how bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies work: “The basic idea of bit gold is for “bit gold miners” to set their computers to solving computationally intensive mathematical puzzles, then to publish the solutions to these puzzles in secure public registries, giving them unique title to these provably scarce and securely timestamped bits.” (3)

Interestingly, Szabo’s written language has been cross-referenced with the language Satoshi Nakamoto used in his emails and writings; linguistic analysis suggests that Szabo and Nakamoto might be a stylistic match. Dr. Jack Grieve from Aston University–a researcher at the UK’s Centre for Forensic Linguistics and whose track record includes identifying murderers based on their writing style (4)–conducted a study analyzing linguistic similarities between Satoshi Nakamoto and eleven suspected candidates to be Nakamoto. The suspects included Hal Finney and Dorian Nakamoto, who were discussed in Part 1, as well as Mike Szabo.


Dr. Grieve’s findings: “The number of linguistic similarities between Szabo’s writing and the Bitcoin paper is uncanny, none of the other possible authors were anywhere near as good of a match. We are pretty confident that out of the list of people regularly referred to as possibilities, Nick Szabo is the main author of the paper, though we can’t rule out the possibility that others contributed.”(5) The worst linguistic match for those interested: Dorian Nakamoto.


While the analysis certainly doesn’t constitute conclusive evidence that Szabo is Satoshi Nakamoto, it supports evidence that suggests he is. Szabo continues to contribute to the cryptocurrency field, and has dozens of insightful essays on his blog, http://unenumerated.blogspot.com, where he discusses various topics related to cryptography, computer science, law, finance, history, and more. In reading some of his essays, it quickly becomes clear that Szabo has an innovative, brilliant mind. I highly recommend reading some of the essays on his blog. His essay on bitcoin’s social scalability (6) is an especially intriguing read for those interested in the topic.

While we may never know for certain who the real Satoshi Nakamoto is, many signs point in the direction of Nick Szabo, and several investigative journalists have reached the same conclusion, despite Szabo’s denials.



  1. Szabo, N. (1997). Formalizing and Securing Relationships on Public Networks. First Monday,2(9). https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/548/469


  1. http://unenumerated.blogspot.com/2005/12/bit-gold.html


  1. http://unenumerated.blogspot.com/2008/04/bit-gold-markets.html


  1. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet-security/10198067/Digital-detectives-solving-crimes-through-Twitter.html


  1. http://www.aston.ac.uk/news/releases/2014/april/researchers-uncover-likely-author-of-original-bitcoin-paper/


  1. http://unenumerated.blogspot.com/2017/02/money-blockchains-and-social-scalability.html