Learning from NU5 Retro - Communication & Narrative

Opinion: Overall (and now with the luxury of time/ arm-chair quarterbacking) the NU5 upgrade for Zcash, which provided the world’s first shielded pool with no dependence on trusted encryption parameter setup, was poorly communicated, poorly received, and remains broadly misunderstood and unknown.

Known Challenges: Communicating the nuance and complexity of the upgrade is not trivial. The broad ecosystem of cryptocurrency/ blockchain network/ cryptography is a giant mess, which makes it tough to broadcast a message. NU5 never had a concise/ ELI5 sort of packaging that would have benefitted it’s communication. (Zooko, using only one example, did a great job at explaining that Trusted Setups would become a thing of the past… but that at face value isn’t actually true, all but one of Zcash’s pools remain atop trusted setup parameters, and all correct me if I’m wrong other blockchains using ZKP rest atop various trusted parameter setups.

Shifting Deliveries & Deliverables: The technical scope, and the timeline for NU5 changed more than a handful of times, spanning over the course of about 2 years (beginning at announcement in 2019-2020, to delivery in June of 2022). Whenever grand product deliveries suffer repetitive scope and schedule changes, their perceived value decreases. Zcash and it’s NU5 updgrade were negatively impacted by this.

Where is it Now: Of course, dear reader, you and I understand the scope and lasting impact of NU5, but for the less engaged crypto enthusiast, the question may be unresolved: How/ Where/ When can I experience the benefits of this world class protocol layer upgrade?

As we look forward to the next major upgrade, I believe that topics/ strategies around Scheduling, Scoping, Communication, and Access should be primary drivers for our ongoing activities. There are many other areas for improvement that I’ve been thinking around, I’ll update this thread along the way.


I think it’s important to ask this question, and to investigate what actual effects NU5 had for Zcash users, for developers in the Zcash ecosystem, and for Zcash adoption and public trust. What goals were set prior to development, did we hit those goals, and were there other goals we should have set instead?


communicating before the respective feature or function is 100% ready is also not beneficial.

People in today’s world expect lightening fast sync times and transaction execution. If we don’t have that, people will just immediately think it doesn’t work. we can’t have people waiting 2 minutes let alone 30 min to sync. There has to be a better way. we have also seen countless examples of people who know what they are doing not able to access coins. So even when we get upgrades that should be a positive, the perception is it doesn’t work. and when people think it doesn’t work based on real world, empirical use, it doesn’t matter what we say in marketing, the perception of quality is based on real world use and people don’t care that we tell them it’s great or it’s private…so when the marketing message does not align with the real world use, it’s a major problem.

hopefully we have learned the wallet performance is central to all upgrades. (one core ECC wallet with working SDKs, not more).

so many solid reasons to deprecate the old pools that outweigh maintaining them. We should be using the carrot and stick approach. Move into the new pool and get rewarded. high fees if you stay in the older pools. eventually. we need to just force it.


NU5 was a net negative on the project actually. Yes, it removed the trusted setup and all the other cool tech but wallets broke and many third party providers who built Zcash into their services have still not fixed their broken Zcash backend. I suspect they never will.

ECC senior devs are focusing on the wrong things. Deeply disappointing.


Because they’ve never worked for a product driven org. They have no practical industry experience. This is why Zcash will always and forever be a professor coin.

It also doesn’t help when the people running the project have no incentive to deliver any value since they will continue to get free money, regardless of the outcome.


I agree, up to a point. NU5 increased the agility of protocol development since we no longer have to run a trusted setup to make circuit changes. This means we can now make improvements to the Zcash protocol—and make security fixes—much faster. This benefit shouldn’t be discounted.

That said, in my opinion, NU5, taken on its own, was a net negative—it forced ecosystem developers to re-write a lot of code for Orchard support, along with the other resulting breakage you mentioned, which had significant costs, and it did nothing by itself to improve performance or UX. It’s an incredible technical feat, and a major contribution to humanity’s knowledge and abilities, but it did not directly advance any of Zcash’s goals, at least not considering the amount of time, money, and effort that was invested into it.

In my opinion, the opportunity cost to developing NU5 was unreasonable given the urgency I perceived at the time, and I was among the few people who objected to it, favoring the development of anonymous communication features, which could have solved the scanning/syncing performance issues, as well as—as I recommended in the previous link—focusing on more basic low-hanging-fruit UX improvements, like developing libraries and protocol improvements that would make Zcash competitive with PayPal’s API.

I’ve repeated many times—and never felt heard—that Zcash has invested in deep, technical protocol improvements that have not translated into better usability and more-marketable products. I’ve said many times that the way to do this is to design a product first, prove that it’s marketable by trying things and seeing what works, and then making the deep technical changes to make the product a reality. Our historical strategy of making deep, expensive, technical changes in a hope we’re heading in the direction of a product people want doesn’t work; I’ve learned this lesson over and over from watching friends try to build something first and then market it, it just doesn’t work that way.

My hope for the NU5 retrospective is for the community to learn this lesson. I think if it’s solidly learned, Zcash stands a chance at changing course into a direction that ends up helping the millions (billions?) of people who need private censorship-resistant transactions.


Zcash Foundation/ecc has a pattern of ignoring people who are informed with the underlying tech and call them out in places they can improve upon. You and @hanh come to mind in particular.

It’s really sad how hard they try to act like a grown-up company (OKRs, board of directors, advisors, anyone?), when they would get a lot further if they launched MVPs and iterated more quickly. Instead, they iterate slowly, break things, and still get lapped by new projects with more agile teams.

Speaking of which, what does the board even do? Maybe it’s time for a cleanse a la OpenAI.


I’ll say this again.

Anyone who is currently, or who has ever, advised the Zcash project teams needs to be shown the door.

The catastrophic results speak for themselves.

It’s time to End the Perverted Incentives that are intrinsic to the Block Reward model (free funding at the expense of ZEC holders and back-room directed discretionary activities).


Furthering the point above.

Now, the community will be subjected to a Bootstrap advisory controlled, ECC/Bootstrap only(?) self-evaluation event?

This shouldn’t come as a mind-boggling conclusion. If everything stays the same, the outcomes will stay the same.

Does Zcash deserve:

  1. badly missed schedules
  2. cost over-runs
  3. scope creep
  4. constant double work & reinvented wheels
  5. conflicting narratives
  6. pay without performance
  7. elevated regulatory risk
  8. decision making conflict of interest

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

The unnecessary drama between Bootstrap and ZF is beyond comical at this point… except that it’s not funny because people have invested real money into this. The kind of inflammatory behavior and poor decision-making we’ve seen over the past years is absolutely unacceptable and your call for current leaders to be removed is understandable. For me to return to working on Zcash I would need to see a heartfelt public apology from our leaders that demonstrates an understanding of the harm they’ve caused, or a change in leadership.

I do think that a private venue would be more conducive to an effective retrospective, allowing people to speak more freely and have more controversial opinions heard, but this should have been done years ago after NU5 launched, and there should also be an open retrospective for the wider community, like the one we now have scheduled. This continuing drama is frankly embarrassing.

It’s a shame that such potent engineering talent working on such an important mission is being squandered by pointless drama and poor strategy.


In the words of Han Solo… “it’s true… all of it”.

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Of course it is. All the criticism of Zcash hasn’t been in jest. Zooko/his family (and friends who have “board” positions) have been looting the treasury on the backs of those who were misled into thinking this would ever be something other than a test-tube experiment.

Tm3k is the most public example of someone who got absolutely rekt by empty promises and misguidance.

The only way this turd survives is through a complete transformation starting with the disbandment of the entire board along with the “foundation” and probably even the ECC.

PoS and Zashi are last-ditch efforts for the ECC/the “foundation” to justify their dev fund slice, and it’s comical that more people don’t see it as such.

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yes----we really should be talking about creating a simplified org structure with zec holder voting and a clear path real decentralization. So that means removing orgs from block rewards funding, and creating a way for real decentralized entities to fund themselves by creating products they can directly connect with customers.

if people want their own orgs, then they should come up with products to sell to customers. Get funding; and start building. It’s really insane all anyone wants is blank check funding from zec holders with no way to show how zec holders ever get repaid and no strings attached. I believe the survivors in this space longer term will be the projects generating revenue based on some type of fee or burn mechanism. The rest will flame out.

Anyone who wants can have all the control they want, they just need to fund it and request existing orgs to create a fee structure for their project. if customers want it, they make money. we seem to have a culture of people who want control and it’s disguised as decentralization (as a buzz word). we have too many orgs already. we really only need 1 org and voting.

how can we put a stake in the heart of more proposals to create more orgs designed to feast off block rewards? It’s really just insiders fighting for control. They don’t want to fight for governance and voting because they really want the money without governance. There silence for coin weighted voting is a pretty big tell (as they say in poker).


This “Communication and Narrative” sounds a lot like Education to me, so perhaps Zcash Media and ZecHub could help improve upon this :bulb:

Contrarian: Both don’t have enough distribution to matter. Unless Zcash Media was embedded next to the BUY button on exchanges, most normies aren’t going to seek this kind of information out. And to be honest, most of them shouldn’t even need to be concerned with it.

Again, how intimate are you in the details of the cash you spend on a daily basis (aside from a cursory understanding)? That’s how simple Zcash could be.


I appreciate your viewpoint, but when I first learned about Bitcoin, it was anything but simple. I’m happy to try our best in any manner the community sees fit. I’m not pretending education is a silver bullet but it does have its place.

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Who’s at fault for this though? Certainly all the red tape I’ve been seeing isn’t all because of ECC and ZF?

I think you’re underplaying the importance of NU5 because of the many micro hiccups that have been occurring. At the end of the day full nodes never had serious issues – its just the education is lacking to use them.

I think this thread should focus on tangible steps community members can take to improve things.


Good callout. However, keep in mind that Bitcoin has had years to educate people on using crypto. But going further, I think the current Zcash problem is its narrative.

As of now, I think many people buy it to make money from it (investment), a second cohort buys it as a store of value, and a much smaller demographic uses it as a currency.

The namesake (Zcash) wants to convey to the population that it is a replacement for “cash”, however, you have the chicken and the egg problem with not enough retailers accepting it, so it can’t truly fulfill that narrative.

At the same time, if its value continually declines, and no one can spend it, it’s neither a store of wealth, investment, or currency.


No one denies the importance of NU-5 and Halo 2.

However, I think that when only 1 wallet works after an upgrade, it is not a micro hiccup.
If my memory serves well, the last time everything was ok was back in Q1 2022.
Full nodes have had serious issues: they crashed, they ran slowly, etc. The ECC engineers worked hard to fix these problems, but let’s not forget it happened.
I am sorry but I have to disagree with you on the education part. Even though I know how to run a node, the hassle is just too big for me. And clearly, the drop in number of full nodes shows that I am not alone. In short, the spam was allowed to operate for far too long.

I appreciate your positive attitude though.