Or maybe this is the person who invented Bitcoin

A lecturer in forensic linguists at Britain's Aston University claims to have uncovered the identity of the inventor of virtual currency system Bitcoin. Jack Grieve, with a group of 40 students, determined that Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington law professor, is the likely author of the seminal paper written under the pen name Satoshi Nakamoto, which launched the concept.

Finding the person who invented Bitcoin quickly seems to have become a cottage industry. The reborn Newsweek made a splash by claiming reporter Leah McGrath Goodman used old-fashioned investigative means to determine it was reclusive innovator Dorian Nakamoto. However, Nakamoto has completely denied the report, and many people in the technology community have pointed out what they say are significant flaws in Goodman's research and logic.

Grieve and his team started with a limited list of 13 names, including Dorian Nakamoto, and matched samples of their writing with the original paper posted to a cryptography mailing list in 2009, according to the Bitcoin Foundation. The people other than Dorian Nakamoto have often been mentioned as possible authors because of their previous work in the field of so-called cryptocurrency and the set of expertise necessary -- including law, finance, cryptography and computer science -- to develop the idea.

"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," said Grieve in a press release. "We are pretty confident that out of the primary suspects Nick Szabo is the main author of the paper, though we can't rule out the possibility that others contributed."

Grieve also acknowledged that someone outside of this small group could be a contributor or even lead author.

The researchers pointed to a number of linguistic idiosyncrasies, including such phrases as "chain of" and "trusted third parties"; the use of commas before the words "and" and "but"; and fragmented sentences following colons.

This isn't the first time people have used linguistic forensics to identify Szabo as the likely author.

Some have pointed to something Szabo wrote as a denial of being Satoshi Nakamoto:

While the security technology is very far from trivial, the "why" was by far the biggest stumbling block -- nearly everybody who heard the general idea thought it was a very bad idea. Myself, Wei Dai, and Hal Finney were the only people I know of who liked the idea (or in Dai's case his related idea) enough to pursue it to any significant extent until Nakamoto (assuming Nakamoto is not really Finney or Dai). Only Finney (RPOW) and Nakamoto were motivated enough to actually implement such a scheme.

However, read carefully, he doesn't exactly say that he and Nakamoto aren't the same person. Szabo simply creates an implication and lets readers do the rest.

An article at Wired said Szabo explicitly denied being Nakamoto. But then, if someone went to the extent of creating an anonymous presence, the person might not admit the connection if asked outright. After all, for months in the 1990s, political reporter Joe Klein denied being the author of the book Primary Colors, an anonymous novel that was an apparent satire on the Clinton White House.


  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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