The Evidence Pointing to Hal Finney Helping Nick Szabo Create Bitcoin
The creation of Bitcoin is a mystery that most people deem impossible to solve. Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, has been purported to be a number of different people.
Despite this daunting challenge, I have spent over a year conducting research on the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto and reached the conclusion that he was legendary computer scientist and cryptographer Nick Szabo. Szabo displays personal traits and motivations that align perfectly with the inventor of the first cryptocurrency.
The timing and circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Szabo invented smart contracts, which is a crucial concept for Bitcoin scripts. In addition, Bit gold, which was his first attempt at a cryptocurrency released in 1998, was never cited in the whitepaper, but shares uncanny similarities with Bitcoin that B-money, which was cited, doesn't. Szabo even used the terms "bit gold miners" and "chain of digital signatures" before Satoshi did. Szabo's similar writing style removes any reasonable doubt.
Top Satoshi Nakamoto researchers Dominic Frisby and Nathaniel Popper reached the same conclusion. Fortune journalist Jeff Roberts also agrees, discussing in a 2017 piece how insiders he privately spoke to were convinced it was Szabo.
Based on the available evidence, it's clear-cut that Nick Szabo alone was behind the writings and code. Although, it's often been suggested that the creation of Bitcoin was too difficult for one person to single-handedly do.
So, despite Szabo being behind the writings and code, he may have had help in other ways behind-the-scenes. After conducting further research, there is persuasive evidence pointing to the second user of Bitcoin, Hal Finney, helping Nick Szabo create Bitcoin.
Finney and Szabo were good friends
In life, most people typically gain friends based on common interest and location. It was no different with Hal Finney and Nick Szabo. Szabo has maintained this fact on numerous occasions. By all accounts, they met during the earliest days of the cypherpunk movement. Cypherpunks are computer programmers who work to put the power of secure and private communication back in the hands of the public. The pair of friends were arguably the most prominent cypherpunks besides Julian Assange.
Their strong friendship is further supported by Hal Finney being a recipient on Szabo's now famous 1998 private email list called "Libtech." Along with Finney, Wei Dai, and economists George Selgin and Larry White were the other known recipients. Szabo released Bit Gold there for the first time. This is also where Wei Dai released B-money.
While its disputed, a researcher traced Satoshi's IP address to California. Since Nick Szabo is likely Satoshi Nakamoto, it would make perfect sense for his best friend to be along for the ride. Their close proximity would make it relatively easy for in-person meetings discussing the Bitcoin code, among other relevant topics.
Finney being the second user of Bitcoin is convenient
Hal Finney participated from the start using his public identity, so this may have been planned by Szabo and himself for various reasons. Since Finney participated using his real name, he was still able to help Satoshi publicly, while collaborating with other core developers at the same time. It is public knowledge that Finney was the second ever user of Bitcoin, with Satoshi sending him 10 Bitcoin in the first transaction. Satoshi's early public communications with Finney also come across as scripted to many people.
Given their previous relations, it seems highly likely that Satoshi conducted this risky transaction with Finney because Szabo would only trust him - meaning it could have all been planned from the start. This trust is further shown in a statement made by Satoshi himself. In response to Finney complimenting Satoshi on his code, Satoshi replied:
"That means a lot coming from you Hal. Thanks."
Szabo and Finney collaborated on Bit gold
Nick Szabo spent many years working on Bit gold, as revealed in his 2019 interview with Peter McCormack. Although, it's crystal clear that Hal Finney was right along with him, working to make Bit gold a reality. Szabo stated numerous times on his blog Unenumerated in the years leading up to Bitcoin that Hal Finney had successfully implemented a variant of Bit gold known as RPOW. The project simply would have never been a reality without help from Szabo.
In fact, RPOW was so close to being a massive success, that Szabo labeled it the "world's first implemented cryptocurrency." The strange part is that neither project was cited in the Bitcoin whitepaper, despite both being far more similar to Bitcoin's design than Wei Dai's B-money. They even used Adam Back's Hashcash and open source databases featuring shared ownership records implemented through public key cryptography.
So, if RPOW was the first implemented cryptocurrency, then why didn't Satoshi cite it in the whitepaper? Because, just like Bit gold, it would place far too much scrutiny on Szabo and Finney.
Dorian Nakamoto connection
Many in the crypto world wonder why Bitcoin's mysterious creator chose the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto." Well, in 2014 after some digging from various journalists, that question may have been partially answered.
It was revealed that a retired government programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto lived mere miles away from Hal Finney. The Japanese man was famously pinned by Newsweek journalist Leah Goodman as Bitcoin's creator, but it became apparent quickly that he was not the same person. This whole situation seemed like just a crazy coincidence - or was it?
Hal Finney lived so close to Nakamoto, that it was discovered they even went to the same high school. Given that Nick Szabo lived in the same state as both men and was good friends with Finney, several assumptions can be drawn. Since Hal Finney always supported Nick Szabo publicly in his works, it would be effortless for him to provide Szabo with a pseudonym of a man who lived just down the road.
Despite Finney denying that he ever knew Dorian, it would have been effortless for Finney to find his name in a phone book and send it to Nick Szabo. That way, if either man were suspected to be Satoshi, it would make it look like Dorian was actually the creator of Bitcoin - which is what actually transpired for a few years.
Why Finney was not behind the code or writings
In 2014, there was an ambitious journalist named Andy Greenberg who wanted to find the creator of Bitcoin. His research led him to Hal Finney after confirming for himself that Dorian Nakamoto was not Satoshi. He knew about Finney's work with PGP and found it odd, like others before him, that he lived so close to Dorian Nakamoto.
Although, after doing the last ever interview with Hal Finney before his tragic death due to ALS, Greenberg came to the conclusion that Finney was not Satoshi Nakamoto after all.
Part of his conclusion involved Finney's denial, but more importantly, there was one crucial detail revealed by Finney in the interview that made it impossible for him to be behind the writings and code: he predominantly used a Mac.
Satoshi Nakamoto was not a Mac user, stating on many occasions that he had no experience using them - asking other core developers to create the Mac versions of the software. This automatically rules out Hal as being behind the code and writings.
Furthermore, Dominic Frisby revealed in his excellent book, Bitcoin: The Future of Money?, that Nick Szabo was a Windows user in the 2000s - Satoshi's preferred operating system.
Nick Szabo is more than likely Satoshi Nakamoto, but parts of the journey do indeed seem difficult without behind-the-scenes help. Based on Finney being the second user of Bitcoin, their friendship and various coincidences with Dorian Nakamoto, it is a very reasonable theory that Finney helped Szabo invent Bitcoin.
However, the world will never know for sure unless Nick Szabo speaks publicly about his experiences. In the end, there is always a chance that Finney truly didn't know anything about Satoshi or his background. It's highly possible that Finney may have assisted Szabo indirectly. Ultimately, we will probably won't know, but the evidence points to Finney playing some form of role in the creation of Bitcoin.