How does ZEC fit into the Zcash Foundation's long-term strategy?

Lol. This is where my contribution to this conversation ends. You’re not acting in good faith and I won’t subject myself to any further disrespect. Have a wonderful Sunday!

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Since I’m repeatedly seeing discussion here on the forums that sounds like “ZF does nothing” I feel obligated as an ECC engineer to jump in and say ZF’s engineers are kicking ass and writing really quality code. They have also helped us find serious bugs and specification issues on our end.

Zebra is probably one of the biggest endeavors in our project’s history and essential work if we want to escape the C++ hellscape we inherited from bitcoin. Naturally, it’s a long-term project so it doesn’t get the love it deserves and ZF engineers don’t get the praise they deserve for working on it. It will increase our velocity in shipping new features in Zcash when it’s finally at feature parity (and it’s getting close!) and overall its existence strengthens our project’s decentralization and security.

I admit to being slightly disappointed in ZF’s engineering cadence in the past but the challenge before them is immense and over the last year they’ve made way more progress than I was expecting. And then look at us: NU5 has been a total slog! That’s an egg on my face.

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@pkr I understand that you may have some frustration with Zcash in general or the Zcash Foundation in particular but singling out Winfred to vent on is completely uncalled for. Dial it down.

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I echo @ebfull ’s message. All of these are true:

  1. ZF devs are amazing, doing gods work in building Zebrad, a fresh implementation of Zcash protocol. So thankful for them.
  2. ZF focus is broader than just supporting Zcash ecosystem. It’s not clear what plans ZF have for Zcash in the near & long term.
    Examples: Figuring out how to get Ledger support for latest shielded pool (at this point), X Exchanges onboarded to shielded pool, a multi sig (FROST) SDK for Zcash wallets etc
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It strikes me that a whole lot of the tension in this discussion comes down to a fundamental tradeoff, with two legitimate viewpoints: part of the Zcash community is really worried about opportunity cost, while another part of the Zcash community is really about capture and exploitation of the work funded by the Zcash community as a whole.

Both of these are legitimate concerns, borne out of real problems in Zcash’s history. There was a significant opportunity cost to not funding wallet development adequately early in Zcash’s history. This was compounded, in my opinion, by the choice to fund a second node implementation. At the same time, we’ve definitely suffered some due to free riders taking Zcash-funded technology, adopting it for their own and giving nothing back, and then indeed maligning Zcash.

What I want to make clear here is that I believe that, while there have been missteps in the past, it’s also clear that the Zcash ecosystem is currently stronger than it has ever been. The delivery of Zebrad is a huge milestone; new third party contributors are doing meaningful work bringing ZSAs and cross-chain integration, and the Zcash wallet story is stronger than ever. We also see new marketing efforts, new regulatory outreach efforts, and overall I think that we have, as a community, more ability to execute on our opportunities than at any time in the past. All of this has been made possible by the dev fund, and I want to remind folks that we’re little more than a year into ZCG investments, and they’re actually starting to bear fruit.

All of this is made possible by having a diverse set of participants in the ecosystem, each executing on the parts of supporting Zcash that they’re best suited for. ECC is making groundbreaking leaps in cryptography and at the same time funding and building the infrastructure that mobile wallets are building on; ZF has Zebra ready to support NU5 and I’m really hoping to see significant efforts in supporting FROST within the wallet & node ecosystem in the near future. ZCG appears, from my perspective, to be getting good results.

With this diverse set of participants and perspecives, you’re going to get disagreements around how to trade off opportunity cost against other concerns. It’s inevitable and it’s healthy - and, more importantly, I think it’s in good faith. ECC isn’t attempting to dominate the ecosystem by moving to a stronger copyleft license; advocates of ZSAs that just charge standard (ridiculously low) fees for transactions are in good faith worried about the opportunity costs of doing otherwise. None of us actually know whether our perspectives are correct, and each side likely overestimates the cost of not doing things in the way they most prefer.

In short, everybody’s wrong. But let’s keep building stuff.

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That may be the most profound distilled piece of wisdom I’ve ever heard in the crypto space. I thank you in all earnestness.

I think ECC and ZF do important work. ZF could do more to make its strategic goals clear. I know what ECC plans to do over the next 2 years. I can’t say the same for ZF. I think roadmaps are cheesy but that said ZF coming out with a clearly articulated vision for Zcash and their role in the ecosystem would go a long way with many people.

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I keep hearing different versions of this dilemma, trilemma, quadrilemma, whatever you want to call it. And respectfully, I think it is misguided. These groups do not in fact benefit from different focuses. Here I think Zooko has it precisely - we must generate value for Zcash Holders in terms of both price appreciation and usability. Everything else is secondary.

Why? It’s very simple to me, but will still take a lot of words to express so please bear with me.

What is Zcash in the most basic sense? What is its purpose? Who is it for? We can do lots of cool things with Zcash as a network. But fundamentally I think we would most agree, that at its core, Zcash is the Private Store of Value AND Means of Exchange. Zcash is for everyone. It’s for me, as an investor, who hopes/expects to rewarded for my investment, sure. But I chose to invest in Zcash because it’s not just that. I care about Zcash far more than I do the smattering of other coins or the wide variety of other assets I invest in. That’s because Zcash has the power to meaningfully expand human freedom. I can think of no other asset/network/product with that much power.

Rights enshrined in law are great and necessary. But other rights are largely meaningless in a capitalist system absent perhaps the most fundamental right (along with bodily autonomy) - the right to transact. I can have the abstract right to free speech. But this means nothing if I can’t buy a bus pass to the public square. Or to buy a classified ad in the newspaper. Or buy access to an ISP so I can go online.

Bitcoin maxis tell you Bitcoin solves this problem. It doesn’t. Bitcoin is traceable and non-fungible. All sorts of bad actors (including but not limited to governments) can easily turn this around into a tool of persecution. It’s easy to imagine the myriad ways.

Zcash is for the people who fear seizure of their assets by kleptocratic regimes. Its for people who live in fear of their bank accounts being drained by hackets thanks to garbage infosec by mainstream financial institutions. It’s for people terrified of their government inflating away their hard won earnings. It’s for the gender and ethno-religious minorities who are barred by their governments or families from transacting independently and thus exercising their basic human rights. It brings secure, safe access to the global public square. And the safest possible means to protect property rights. Safer than gold because it can be hidden safely away on an encrypted device. And gold is a totally awful means of exchange for many obvious reasons. Few people transact in gold outside of commodities traders. Zcash has the potential to store value safely and to move that value around with minimal friction.

None of that is possible without people wanting to hold Zcash. Can you transact in a SOV/MOE that you don’t want to hold onto long term? Sure, I’ve done it. But it sucks. And I don’t particularly want to do it. Buying assets in non-USD currencies means hedging away currency risk which is beyond the means of most people not steeped in financial markets. Outside of a few other currencies (EUR, GBP, CHF) these things are all over the place, unstable or losing value relative to reference currencies. And I can’t use them to buy the best products, mainly exports from countries with solid currencies.

For Zcash to be universally useful as a means of exchange, merchants/peers must want to accept it. And mass acceptance of it is unlikely without price stability/appreciation. End of story. No quasi-rational actor wants to accept payment in a depreciating asset against currencies of reference, whether in real or nominal terms. And nothing can function as a store of value without people willing to buy it and hold it. Lots of people want Bitcoin and hang onto it. But a lot of people who accept Bitcoin in a transaction don’t, and immediately convert it into something more stable. This undermines Bitcoin’s value and its broader adoption. BTC is doing mostly just fine. But why not aspire for something even better for Zcash?

Ergo - the best way to advance the use and power of Zcash for the primary purposes we all (unless I’m totally off my rocker) value most highly is to make sure people want to obtain Zcash and not immediately get rid of it. And that means prioritizing returning value to Zcash holders and doing everything possible to produce a return on investment. Everything else is nice to have but not essential for Zcash to realize its mission. So for everything Zcash entities do (ZCG, ECC and ZF) should provide an answer to the question - how does this benefit people who want to store value in Zcash?

So to summarize, Zcash works if people want it. And people will want it if it is stable or appreciating relative to alternative stores of value. The more Zcash appreciates, the more adoption it will have, and the more interesting and useful things can be done on top of it. Positive feedback loop.

I could keep on going but this is already way too long - and I recognize my limitations as a writer. Thanks if you’ve made it this far. And please let me if you agree or disagree and why.

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Thanks a lot for the helpful data point about your experience with the Zcash Foundation, aiyadt. Also, I’m glad to hear that you’d be interested in helping institute a non-USA entity to support Zcash (ZEC).

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Matt, I’m very disappointed to see you misrepresenting my intentions as being an attempt to gain power or money on my own behalf. That’s entirely false. I sincerely hope that nobody who scrutinizes my track record will find this kind of smear against my character to be credible.

In addition to being false, it’s harmful, both to me personally and to the Zcash community, because insinuations of ulterior motives can be used to derail important conversations that need to happen. I asked this question of the Zcash Foundation — in the O.P. of this thread — because I honestly don’t know the answer, and because I think it is important. I don’t have a hidden agenda.

I have always stated that I know that the people who make up the Zcash Foundation, like you, are honest and well-intentioned people, even when we have different views. Please extend the same presumption of good-will to me.

The rest of your post is a complaint about a lack of building. It’s a real struggle for me to interpret this part charitably since I don’t understand why you seem to be attributing this “lack of building” to ECC, when as far as I can see we’ve never stopped delivering results, but — and I say this with utmost respect to the skilled and hard-working Zcash Foundation employees — the Zcash Foundation hasn’t yet started delivering results in terms of technology development. Here’s my attempt to respond to that part of your post about “building” as charitably as I can:

[edited to add in terms of technology development]

What’s stopping you?

No, seriously, what’s stopping you? How can we help?

The Zcash Foundation was founded in 2017 by donations. I and my family and friends collectively agreed to donate a huge amount of our wealth. Depending on how you count it was between one third and one half of all the money we ever expected to have in our lifetimes. Then I called every other Zcash founder who was due to receive Founders Rewards and asked them to donate too. That included you, and Ian Miers, both of whom are now on the Board of the Zcash Foundation, and Eran Tromer, who is currently active in these discussions. To my surprise, all three of you, as well as almost all of the other Zcash founders, declined to donate.

The only Zcash founders who donated were Andrew Miller (Chair of the Board of Zcash Foundation), Alan Fairless (now Chair of the Board of Bootstrap), Jack Gavigan (now on the Board of, and also the Executive Director of, the Zcash Foundation), and Ariel Gabizon. Those folks had much smaller shares of the Founders Reward, so their donations collectively funded only about 5% of the Zcash Foundation’s initial endowment (even though some of them donated a quite generous proportion of their coins). The other 95% of the Foundation’s initial funding came from that huge, life-changing donation by me and my family and friends. The total of all donations from these five donors was 227,840.13 ZEC.

Then in 2020 the Zcash community decided to institute the Dev Fund, and allocate 5% of all Zcash issuance from 2020–2024 to the Zcash Foundation, plus an additional 8% of the issuance ear-marked to be allocated by the MGRC/ZOMG/ZCG. It’s been about 18 months since the Dev Fund kicked in, so that 5% has been about 98,437 ZEC by now, and the additional 8% has been an additional 157,500 ZEC.

So — and I sincerely mean this with all charity and good-will — What’s stopping you? Is there something that the Zcash community, or that we at ECC, or that I personally can do to help the Zcash Foundation start building and delivering results, in-house, or by using your money to get others to build the things you want to see in the world?

This is a sincere offer. Like with my question about the Zcash Foundation’s policy with regard to ZEC — at the top of this thread — I don’t have an ulterior motive in saying this. I am speaking honestly and from the heart.

P.S. The Zcash Foundation has delivered some results. The main ones that come to my mind are organizing the annual Zcons — which were very successful conferences — and their more hands-on support of the Zcash Community Grants panel in year 2, which appears to be producing results to me. I also continue to have hope that they’re going to start producing more results at a faster rate in the future. I also like the communications and community results that DecentralistDan and Winfred have started producing.

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Thanks for your note, Winfred. I knew that when I opened this thread I was gonna find things that I had said wrong or unnecessarily hurtful, and this is definitely a huge one. It was a huge mistake on my part not to clarify in my original post above that my concern is about the Zcash Foundation’s policies as an organization — and also to a certain degree about the intentions of the members of the Board of Directors who set those policies. I certainly never doubted that the Zcash Foundation is full of mission-driven and honorable people, both at the Board level and among the employees, many of whom I know personally and respect. I apologize that I accidentally made that ambiguous in my post. Thanks for writing, even while you were on your way to a soccer game!

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Thanks for the thoughtful response, Hudson.

In order to not contribute to a negative reputation for them (the Directors of the Zcash Foundation) is why I explicitly said in my post that it is possible that they feel they can’t speak freely due to political pressures, and I explicitly said that if that were the case (I don’t know), that I would still interpret them as being honest and well-intentioned people.

The reason I did it in public instead of by reaching out to them privately is that I think it is important for the Zcash community to have visibility into this, including — or especially — in the hypothesis that they feel silenced by political pressure.

The fact is that, as far as I can tell, there is no formal statement of the Zcash Foundation’s strategy with regard to ZEC (the coin, not Zcash-the-network, or Zcash-the-technology).

In my mind, there are three hypotheses. In all three scenarios the Board of Directors are well-intentioned and honorable people in my eyes (with one caveat, below).

Hypothesis 1. The Zcash Foundation’s informal strategy actually is to sustain positive feedback loops with the ZEC coin, but their current mission statement and other public communications don’t reflect that policy, simply due to the natural difficulty in forming such strategies and expressing them clearly. In this scenario, the Directors who set this policy are good and well-intentioned people in my eyes. In my view, this can be easily fixed by updating the mission statement to include a statement about what role ZEC (the coin, not Zcash the technology or Zcash the network) plays in their mission.

Hypothesis 2. The Zcash Foundation’s informal strategy actually is not to support ZEC the coin, but instead to prioritise only public goods that benefit everyone equally, regardless of what coin they hold. In this scenario, the Directors who set this policy are good and well-intentioned people in my eyes. Except, in my view it is important for them to be clearer about this with the donors who are sending them 5% of the issuance from the blockchain. That 5% is a donation to be used solely for the public good, and not to be used to fuel any positive feedback loops with ZEC itself. I think that’s a fine and moral strategy for the Zcash Foundation to take, and for the Zcash community to choose to donate to, as long as it is clear.

Hypothesis 3. The Zcash Foundation’s informal strategy is unclear with regard to this question, because the Board who sets that informal strategy believe that it isn’t legally safe to formally embrace the strategy from hypothesis 1, above. In this case the actual behavior of the Zcash Foundation going forward will likely be muddled, or else will actually follow the strategy from hypothesis 2, due to the hidden political pressure. In this scenario, the Directors who set this strategy are good and well-intentioned people in my eyes, who are simply operating under difficult legal pressures (which I myself have previously operated under, so I’m entirely sympathetic to it). In my view, it is important for the community to become aware of this effect, and think about what they can do to improve the situation (an outside-USA entity!) and they can’t rely on the Zcash Foundation Directors themselves to speak plainly about it due to the political pressures.

That’s why I brought this up (and I apologize again to Winfred and all of the Zcash Foundation employees, whom I accidentally tarred with a brush in my original post when in fact I believe every one of the that I know of to be a mission-driven and honorable person). I brought it up and did so in public instead of in private because I think information on which of these three hypotheses is closest is really important for the Zcash community to use to drive its own decisions, and I don’t think we can rely on the Zcash Foundation to officially clarify this on its own, even though under every scenario that I can think of, the Board of Directors of the Zcash Foundation are almost all honest and well-intentioned people.

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I can see where you are coming from wanting to make this a public discussion, but I hope you can see now that despite your best intentions this is now turning into drama. I don’t think your end goals would have changed at all had you brought this up privately and then brought it up publicly if it was appropriate to (if ZF didn’t answer your question or if you wanted to discuss a private conversation after consent from ZF).

From the quote above you say “I don’t think we can rely on the Zcash Foundation to officially clarify this on its own”. If you didn’t even try to ask them privately to clarify a question you have before bringing it to the forums and then say they can’t be relied upon clarify your question on their own, that looks bad. I am not personally thinking you meant to do this, but you did.

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One thing I’d say regarding the whole debate of building this versus that is that ECC chose to focus on building out the “currency” aspect of zcash with Halo and eventually POS. Both polls done last year showed POS was popular. I’m not sure what the poll results would have been a couple of years ago if Halo vs POS vs ZSAs vs programmability would have been on the list. Maybe Halo would not have won (of course it wouldn’t have been called Halo back then) because it’s not “user facing” or it was solving a problem that didn’t immediately exist like scalability. But the DF is in place to be able to focus on long term problems and plus there’s only so much a handful of people can do. If the question is “should we focus on building a better long term foundation to build on top of” versus “let’s build ZSAs and stuff on top of what we already have”, I suppose I would have voted for the former. Of course, going with the former would have upset the latter camp (which it apparently definitely did). But I think most people would agree Halo will indeed put Zcash on a much better foundation and now ZSAs are being built. So between two equally debatable ideas, one was chosen and successfully executed and indeed the latter choice is being addressed now on better foundations. Not much good comes from going over the same ground again. It should be kept in mind that crypto still has not touched 96% of the world’s population, so whatever users Zcash has lost due to that strategic choice is pretty minimal compared to new users that will be coming and hopefully using Zcash on better foundations.

Also a note, I usually watch the Arborist calls as they come out and it is lovely to see the collaboration and friendliness between qedit, ecc, and zf. QEDIT is clearly passionate about ZSAs and the ECC devs offer sage advice to them on every call. On the call prior to the last one, I recall daira and str4d saying QEDITs plan looked “really good” or something to that effect. I’m optimistic about the future even if the order of events the last few years was not to everyone’s liking, the question of how to build what everyone wants to see is very much alive.

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@madars @ebfull @nuttycom @nathan-at-least and @daira among others had some good posts in this thread. The amount of time and brain-power expended here is astronomical. But, I spent enough time reading it myself. So, I’ll add.

The Zcash community is not moribund and ZEC is not dying: zebrad, NU5, ZSAs, free2z … some of the most exciting things in all of “crypto” are happening here. All we need is a good attitude, hardwork and patience. We should be celebrating right now, regardless of price. But, we still have a long way to go - too far to go without something resembling unity.

Honestly I can be swayed on most of the contentious questions here. The BOSL/MIT question in particular I’ve gone back and forth on. I think both sides have good points. But, after thinking it over for a few more hours, as someone who holds a lot of ZEC, I’m back to favoring MIT which was my original, intuitive position. I think @Dodger’s justification here is convincing. I don’t buy ZEC so that we can hoard a rust crate to ourselves and patent-whip other projects that might try to use it; I buy ZEC because I think it can become a competitor for world-reserve currency and fulfill its mission to become widely used, private internet cash. We’re not going to get 100 million users by enforcing intellectual property claims, we’re going to get to 100 million users with good attitude, hard work and patience.

Until recently I was just listening to both sides without actually having read the text of the BOSL myself. I invite anyone who hasn’t read it to do so: orchard/LICENSE-BOSL at main · zcash/orchard · GitHub
Compare this to the MIT license: The MIT License | Open Source Initiative

Recently I expressed my support for BOSL and @zooko responded:

But, as I spend way too long writing this comment and thinking over the question more, I come to believe that MIT is the correct approach both ideologically and pragmatically.

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Hooray for being willing to change one’s mind in public based on new information or new arguments. :slight_smile:

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Sean, thanks a lot for weighing in with this, which is informed by the visibility you have as an expert engineer into the Zebra codebase and development process. I fully agree that big engineering projects always take way longer than expected, and that this is true of NU5 — which is an even bigger engineering project than Zcash 1.0 or Sapling were — and also of Zebra.

I have a lot less visibility than you do into the Zebra codebase and the process, but as far as I can tell the ZF engineers are skilled and diligent engineers, so I also have high hopes for Zebra.

I really regret that I let this thread branch out from my original point, which is simply “What role does the ZEC coin (not Zcash-the-technology nor Zcash-the-network) have in the Zcash Foundation’s strategy?", to this topic of “Is the Zcash Foundation doing enough?”. When I posted this response to Matt Green’s post, I was basically just flabbergasted that, on the heels of smearing my character with accusations of dishonesty and power-grabbing, that Matt Green would then somehow blame me and/or ECC for “not enough being built”, when five years ago I and my family and friends literally donated a life-changing-to-us amount of money and appointed Matt to be on the initial Board of Directors to put that money to good use, and now he’s somehow blaming us for not enough getting done!

But in retrospect, I really shouldn’t have taken the bait. I should’ve just ignored that part of his post or somehow stated that I wasn’t going to go there, or maybe started a separate thread for that topic.

I think the original topic of this thread is important to be discussed publicly:

What role does the Zcash-the-coin, ZEC, (not Zcash-the-technology nor Zcash-the-network) have in the Zcash Foundation’s strategy?

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You said youre a 501c3 right? Wouldn’t that make yalls interest exactly the same?

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Dodger, thanks for writing this thoughtful response to my question, especially on a Sunday! Just so you know, I’ve started writing a reply, and I can tell it is going to get long, so I figure it’ll take me several hours to write it, and then several more to whittle it down and restructure it to be clear. My main thought is that it sounds like we have a lot of shared goals and that this conversation can help us understand each other better.

Everyone else, please be aware that I’m probably going to get behind again on reading all the threads, but I’m working on it.

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Wow, what a great post, @Angst01 . I really like your ”big picture” thoughts here. Thanks for posting.

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Well said! :clap:

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