Is ZCash a science-fair project?

First of all, forgive the inflammatory title. I wanted to catch your attention.

Now that I have it, allow me to elaborate:

Axioms:

  1. Currencies inevitably compete against each other for adoption

  2. A dominant network effect is a necessary condition for mass-adoption

Thesis:

  1. ECC (fka. ZcashCo) is uniquely positioned to deliver on the technology thanks to their expertise in cryptography engineering. They can push the state-of-the-art and take it to production.

  2. ECC and Zooko are infusing their work with a culture of collaboration that draws a lot from hacker ethos and academia.

  3. This attitude is justified by a moral imperative: collaboration breeds innovation and increase the chances that financial privacy will be allowed for all

  4. It is a noble goal, one that I find desirable. But it also tells another story: The mission (financial privacy) is more important than the means (ZEC).

  5. Paradoxically, this “total” spirit of collaboration compromises both the end (financial privacy) and the means (ZEC mass adoption).

  6. For a currency to be survive and prosper it needs a core of stubborn users and a growing network effect. The latter is a byproduct of future expectation of usage. That is to say, “I will use and accept this currency, or buy it, because I think people will want to purchase, or sell me, things with it, or there will be an increased demand for it”.

  7. The “total” spirit of collaboration, despite being well intentioned, is telling the world that ZCash’s moat is bound to be duplicated, sooner rather than later, and that its “core” do not believe it can become mass-adopted since it tries to “de-risk” the mission by helping different approaches simultaneously.

  8. In that case, why use or buy ZCash at all? Simply jump on the Ethereum or Tezos train and wait for it to be there. After all, Tezos already has OCaml bindings to Sapling libs.

  9. If ZCash is a science-fair project (winning doesn’t matter, what matters is participating and learning from each other!) then it is also a wealth transfer from naive folks to cryptologic research (not the worse transfer ever, but still - it stings). Otherwise, ZCash is a wannabe-monies and it must start acting like one. It wrestles for world-domination, not a special award for “nicest guy” or a honorable mention for “team playing”.

  10. ZCash must be money. The technology does not matter if no uses it. Once its competitive advantage is replicated, it will all come down to existing user-bases. And we will lose on that front.

  11. The only way forward is to grow the advantage before it goes poof - roll out software strategically to keep an edge over the competition, and grow the userbase so that when the time inevitably comes that privacy gets solved (“good enough”-style), we can compete on our other merits.

In short, the ZCash way should be opinionated. Bitcoin maximalists are a pain but they understand that things are zero-sum. When the dust settles, the world will be using one or perhaps two cryptocurrencies. We have a window to secure a whole market segment that has actual usage (black markets). ZCash should stop trying to be polite and go for it. ZEC, look-out for #1.

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I have to disagree with you on a few points:

Darknet markets are so niche (less than 10% of bitcoin use) that Zcash doesn’t need to be making efforts there whatsoever. It’s not worth the liability or potential fallout from regulators, nor is it legal in the US.

The Zcash core team (ECC) and Zcash Foundation is already doing great work with the code (Sapling, Blossom) and making UX (ease-of-use, accessibility) a top priority. Once the ease-of-use is in place there are so many ways to encourage adoption like Point of Sale systems, online payment gateways, etc… that Zcash isn’t really promoting/marketing to now.

I do think in the future that there will be fewer cryptocurrencies than there are now but trying to beat the Bitcoin maximals by being more maximal is a zero sum game. You won’t change opinions and attract new users by constantly bashing other projects and calling everything a scam. Zcash has never been the sort of toxic/trolling community that you find elsewhere and I wouldn’t want to be a part of it if it was.

Zcash is like the quiet kid in the corner that is not paid attention to by all the loudmouths. The kid that works hard learning and works his ass off behind the scenes. Then one day the rest of the world realizes “Oh snap, that kid I used to ignore was Steve friggin Jobs!”

My advice is stay humble, stay hungry, don’t try to beat the trolls at thier own game. Code is everything in cryptocurrency and Zcash is second to none in that regard. It’s just a matter of time before the rest of the world takes notice.

4 Likes

I think money (and/or memos) are a deceptively simple and fundamental unit of exchange.

If Zcash can nail money at the required scale, projects like Ethereum or Tezos can borrow features from Zcash, like privacy or scalability, but never outcompete it as a pure money. Arguable, nothing needs privacy and scalability like money does.

ECC has invested in Coda, Starkware, etc. I assume this is to improve the privacy and scalability of Zcash as money, first and foremost, then share the technology with more projects who have more complex use cases.

With Polkadot, I imagine that Zcash can serve as a simple bridge currency, instead. If Ethereum wants privacy or scalability via zkps, bridge your transactions through zcash and voila! z2z set you free.

By the way, I should have prefaced my technical comments with ‘idks@f’ (i don’t know sht abt fCk).
If a core developer could enlighten me i would be forever grateful! Although, I do understand that as a private company you may not be able to share this type of information.

While I agree with some of what you said, I disagree with a lot - sure, as a zechodler it’d be great to see them squeeze as value as possible, but at what cost?

Should they have published the sprout vuln without working with ZEN etc first? Great way to screw the competition, but bad for zk-tech.

Should we bad-mouth bitcoin privacy at every opportunity? No, because its not necessary and divisive.

If ECC/ZEC started behaving that way I’d quit. Zcash is the flagship/showcase product of zero-knowledge-tech and that wont change.

Other projects that implement/borrow that tech are downstream & dependant, which is just fine and why I’m into Zcash.

Interesting point though, and good that someone asked :roll_eyes:

2 Likes

Yeah, I’m definitely for going, so excited to read the same point of view