Disclaimer: I (Dr. Sarang Noether) am neither a previous nor a current recipient of any Zcash development fee, and I have no financial ties to either the Electric Coin Company or the Zcash Foundation. I am funded through the Monero Community Crowdfunding System to conduct independent cryptographic research. My views are my own, and do not represent those of any other person or group.
I see there being two distinct questions regarding ongoing funding, and they should remain separate.
Question 1: Should the original social promise to end the development fee be changed in any way?
Question 2: If the answer to Question 1 is YES, what level of funding should entities like the Electric Coin Company (ECC) and Zcash Foundation (ZF) receive?
I’m going to completely ignore Question 1 here, because determining it is a difficult problem. To be very clear, inaction is keeping the current (expiring) fee schedule, not keeping the same level of ECC and ZF funding.
According to ECC, their recent burn rate has been around $700K per month. They have stated publicly that they intend to increase this burn rate to at least $1M per month, and that they estimate around 24 months of runway assuming the price of ZEC is stable.
They have not publicly stated what they would operationally change, or what they would change about their burn rate, if they did not receive a development fee meeting the $1M number. Unless they specify otherwise, I will assume they would continue that burn rate regardless of the level of funding they receive in the future.
They have stated that if their runway shortens to 12 months or so, they will consider moving their efforts away from maintaining the Zcash protocol.
This puts the community in a difficult spot. Unless I am misinterpreting any of what ECC has said, providing any amount of funding (accounting for volatility) less than $1M would likely result in ECC eventually needing to pivot away from protocol development.
I have publicly requested that ECC provide information about what they would do if the community provided less than this amount.
The current situation essentially forces the community to make an “all or nothing” decision that seems to fly in the face of what an open-source project should be: flexible, open to participation, and building a vibrant ecosystem. It seems reckless for the community to move forward with ECC funding until or unless better information is provided about the practical consequences of funding choices on the future of protocol development.
The community wants to see the Zcash protocol grow, and privacy to be vigorously debated and defended more broadly. But the “blank check” approach of Zcash’s founding and early years needs to give way to a more robust process for funding and development that encourages real broader participation and more direct accountability. I believe this is the high standard to which the entire community should hold itself, and to which ECC and ZF should be equally held.