Do you agree with ECC's decision to not prioritize having a large number of active validators in choice of PoS consensus algorithm?

We prefer not to prioritize having a large number of block selectors based on the belief that delegatable stake supports free competition sufficiently. We also believe finalizing protocols tend to have lower limits on the number of block selectors supported, and our preference for finality supersedes the desire for a large number of block selectors.

I think it is dangerous for a privacy-protecting blockchain like Zcash to not prioritize having a large validator count. If there is any blockchain which needs the censorship resistance a large validator set provides, it is a privacy-protecting one. Many countries are going to ban crypto all together, and even in countries which are not likely to ban crypto all together, privacy technologies are still likely to eventually be banned. Just look at Tornado Cash.

Sure, if all we had to worry about was validators censoring transactions of their own individual free will, competition introduced by delegatable stake might be enough to prevent censorship. But if Zcash gets banned we are going to need a ton of validators so the whole network doesn’t get taken down. Governments are going to perform multinational raids to shut down Zcash nodes, just like we see them shut down dark net marketplaces.

The good news is that we do not need to compromise on finality to achieve a high validator count. The algorithms used in Avalanche supports thousands of simultaneously active validators, while still finalizing in under 2 seconds.

The bad news is that by judging by the frequent mentions of Cosmos and the hiring of Zaki Manian, the ECC is leaning towards choosing the Tendermint consensus algorithm instead of Avalanche or Snowman. Tendermint only supports around 150 validators before performance suffers. 150 validators are not enough to withstand the power of governments in my opinion. I honestly think that unless Zcash achieves a very large validator count, there is a big chance that it will die.

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High number of validators in itself doesn’t guarantee stake decentralization. Just look at what happens in Ethereum where a few validator “groups” control the majority of staked Ethereum. In PoS, delegation will happen regardless of delegation being supported natively by the chain or not. Also, while user experience might suffer, emergency chain halt and off-chain coordination to get rid of compromised validator’s power is possible.

To be clear I think “Ethereum” and “Cosmos” are both good example of PoS in the wild.

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I agree that stake concentration is also a problem that needs to be tackled, but even without stake decentralization, a high number of validators is important for a chain like Zcash because in the event of a chain halt and needing to fork out compromised validators, we need alternative validator nodes as soon as possible. If the ECC goes with the Tendermint algorithm very few people outside of the ~150 active validators will be running good validator nodes because they won’t be getting any rewards, and thus our alternatives will be limited.

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Thank you for this discussion.

I do not know how many validators will be offered, but I also do not know of cases where validators have motivation for a bad game. Even if we assume that it will be all the people of the large Zcash family ( as like such as Ethereum validators in their family), there is no malicious motivation and therefore the network works steadily. No matter what anyone assumes in theory, validators are never motivated to devalue their assets. Today, about 2 hundred people, including me, keep Zcash nodes open without any financial motivation. Just because we are Zcash hodlers and I am motivated in a decentralized network.

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I agree, I am not that worried about malicious node operators. I am worried about the government shutting down zcash nodes. That is the reason we need many zcash nodes, so it is impossible for the government to shut them all down. The algorithm they use in Cosmos is limited to around 150 validators, while Avalanche is limited to many thousands.