Hi Zcashers! I’ve actually been involved with Zcash for a long time - right when Zcash originally launched, under the alias “lustr0”, I wrote the first version of the Zchain explorer (although I no longer operate it) - and I’ve long been a fan, and occaisionally a user, of the Zcash network. In this post, I represent the Anoma Foundation, and I’m going to discuss our upcoming plans with regards to Namada and Zcash. Before I do that, though, let me first explain a bit about what these entities are.
The Anoma Foundation is a non-profit organisation charged with the stewardship of the Anoma ecosystem. The foundation is seated in Zug, Switzerland, and the current board members are Awa Sun Yin, Adrian Brink, and Christopher Goes (myself). You can find the registry entry here. The foundation is currently coordinating the launch of the upcoming network Namada, an early chain in the Anoma ecosystem, and plans to propose a genesis block for Namada in spring 2023. Namada is a proof-of-stake layer-1 blockchain designed to provide asset-agnostic shielded transfers for any interoperable crypto-asset (initially any asset from the Ethereum or Cosmos ecosystems). Namada builds on the Sapling circuit originally developed by the Electric Coin Company - we’ve added multi-asset functionality and assets conversions which are used to implement shielded set rewards. You can learn more about Namada here and about our circuit development work here (we also posted about it on the Zcash forums awhile back).
As part of launching Namada, we’d like to give kudos to Zcash and lay the groundwork for many potential areas of future collaboration. The rest of this post describes several ideas for doing so that we’ve brainstormed together with the assistance of members of the Zcash community. Now, we’d like to reach out and to get an idea how the Zcash community feels about this and would be delighted if you could provide some feedback. This post is just a proposal, so please ask questions, express opinions, and make suggestions (also, check out the list of specific questions at the end of the post below).
Namada couldn’t have come into existence without the technical contributions and socio-economic programme of the Zcash community, and we would like to give material thanks back to the Zcash community in addition to verbal credit. This material thanks takes two forms. First, Namada plans to earmark some tokens and inflation for the benefit of the Zcash ecosystem, either in the form of a donation to the Zcash Sustainability Fund or in the form of a grants pool. We hope that this contribution will help align the interests of both networks and encourage continued collaborations in the long-term. Second, Namada plans to airdrop some tokens to existing Zcash holders. We hope that this airdrop will provide a little bit of retroactive public goods funding directly to folks who have financially supported Zcash development in the past by holding & using the asset. Let’s dive a bit more into each of these forms in turn.
First, the Anoma Foundation plans to make a genesis block proposal with a portion of the Namada genesis supply, and a portion of recurring inflation per annum (with Namada’s continuous public goods funding mechanism), dedicated to the benefit of the Zcash ecosystem. Initially, these funds will be used to establish a grants pool, operated in collaboration with Zcash ecosystem participants, that will fund projects which benefit both the Zcash and Namada ecosystems. This grant pool will be organised on the basis of specific RFPs, starting with an RFP (request for proposals) for a Zcash ↔ Namada bridge (see below). Later on, more RFPs may be added for specific project opportunities - we may put up some ourselves, and members of both the Zcash and Namada communities will be able to submit RFPs for consideration. At first, these earmarked funds will be escrowed by the Anoma Foundation, staked (thus accruing staking rewards), and used to pay out for successful grant applications. In the future, we hope to be able to hand stewardship of this funding stream over to the Zcash community by, for example, incorporating it into a future iteration of the Dev Fund or the Zcash Sustainability Fund, where distribution is subject to the Zcash community’s consensus.
To spell that out in a bit more detail, we understand that the Zcash community is considering implementing the Zcash Sustainability Fund. We also understand that the Zcash Sustainability Fund has not yet been implemented and would need to go through a process of Zcash community governance before being accepted as an upgrade to the Zcash network. Should the Zcash community choose to implement and activate the Zcash Sustainability Fund or some similarly flexible pay-in/pay-out mechanism, these funds could be paid into it (further context), and then out to whatever recipients the Zcash community decides upon. We’d like to make clear that the Anoma Foundation does not take a position on whether or not the Zcash community should choose to implement and activate the Zcash Sustainability Fund - we’re excited about the idea, and we’d be happy to contribute to it, but that decision is up to Zcashers - Namada will dedicate this pool of funds to the Zcash ecosystem and we’ll do our best to help out either way.
Second, the Anoma Foundation plans to make a genesis block proposal with a direct airdrop (allocation of NAM, the Namada staking token) to current Zcash holders. We would like for this airdrop to cover all ZEC, including both transparent and shielded. Transparent and Sapling pool ZEC are straightforward. We’d like to airdrop to Orchard ZEC as well, and we’re currently investigating the legal requirements of doing so. A snapshot date has not yet been decided, but it will be after the publication of this post. The snapshot date shouldn’t matter much because Zcashers do not have to do anything in advance anyways. Airdrop rates will be calibrated such that shielded ZEC receives slightly more than transparent ZEC (so there’s no time like the present to shield your ZEC ). Depending on engineering timelines, as there are several moderate-complexity programming efforts requried, these distributions may happen at various times, possibly after the mainnet of the Namada blockchain later this spring.
Another way that the Anoma Foundation would like to contribute to the Zcash ecosystem is by facilitating the establishment of a bridge between Zcash and Namada. We think this is important because it will allow Zcash and ZEC to connect to and flow to and from other chains, increasing both individual freedom for users of ZEC and collective reasons for the Zcash ecosystem and other ecosystems to collaborate. Through Namada, Zcash & ZEC can connect to the Cosmos ecosystem and the Ethereum ecosystem, and through those nearly everywhere else. We also think that a bridge to a proof-of-stake system in particular may be appealing, since it will allow Zcashers and ZEC users to experience what proof-of-stake is like (and even what different variants of it are like) before committing Zcash to a particular proof-of-stake upgrade path.
The technical details of this bridge are not yet entirely fixed, and we aim to come to consensus between relevant stakeholders including the Electric Coin Company, the Anoma Foundation, and Axelar, but we do have some preferences:
- First, the bridge should be “trust-minimized” in the IBC style, such that only a quorum of a large validator set is trusted, where that validator set is constrained by proof-of-stake incentives and slashing for misbehaviour (as opposed to a bridge with a small, fixed multisignature).
- Second, it should be possible for ZEC to flow across the bridge and then through the bridge to any IBC-enabled chain, in the permissionless sense of the IBC protocol.
- Third, the bridge should integrate seamlessly with z-addresses. A fully private bridge in the near-term is probably infeasible since it would require substantial changes to the Zcash protocol (further context), but the bridge should make it as easy for users to use z-addresses when they are on the Zcash side as possible - specifically, it should allow users to send to a Zcash shielded address from the Namada side of the bridge, and to send from a Zcash shielded address to the Namada side.
Heliax has already published a rough architectural sketch for how such a bridge might look here, but a final design and implementation is subject to consensus among all the relevant stakeholders.
The Anoma Foundation would be happy to coordinate development of such a bridge directly, but we think it’d be even better if a third party with interest in both Namada and Zcash steps up to develop the bridge. For this reason, we plan to propose an initial RFP for a Zcash ↔ Namada bridge as part of the grants program described above, where funds would be paid out to any party or parties who implement a bridge between Namada and Zcash satisfying the above desiderata.
So, if Zcash and Namada are bridged, what does that mean for Zcash users and ZEC holders? Namada aims to provide a sort of “proof-of-stake as-a-service” for Zcashers, such that ZEC can be used as a means of private payment on Namada similarly to how it is used with Zcash today, just instead with proof-of-stake. Zcashers can send ZEC to Namada, send private transactions there, and pay fees in ZEC - they don’t need to acquire any other asset. Using ZEC on Namada, Zcashers can benefit from Namada’s fast-finality BFT consensus system and modern proof-of-stake security, and they can also receive shielded set rewards. We think this is an appealing option because it makes whether or not to use proof-of-stake consensual for individual Zcashers - Zcashers can choose to use Namada or not, try out proof-of-stake for themselves, and collect information to inform future Zcash development paths, all without any proof-of-stake upgrade or economic changes to the Zcash blockchain itself.
Namada stakers, in turn, receive some ZEC in fees (for transactions on the Namada chain which pay fees in ZEC), which gives them both a reason to support Zcashers using ZEC on Namada and a reason to care about the Zcash network and ZEC asset themselves. Namada governance has the option to adjust ZEC shielded pool reward rates and the grants pool / Zcash Sustainability Fund contribution in correlation with ZEC usage on Namada in a win-win feedback cycle, further aligning the incentives of both networks (subject, of course, to what the Namada and Zcash communities decide).
For privacy-conscious users and Zcashers, using the current sort of trust-minimized blockchain bridges - such as IBC - comes with an unfortunate trade-off: a loss of privacy. Even between internally private systems such as Zcash and Namada, the bridges themselves must be public in order to preserve autonomy: each side of the bridge needs to monitor the balance of the other side, to prevent inflation in the case of Byzantine behaviour. For a more detailed explanation, see this post. Preserving both privacy and autonomy will require clever protocol design, collaboration between bridge designers and cryptographers, and possibly relying on recent advances in cryptography such as FHE. We’re very interested in research & development collaboration on future private bridging systems for the mutual benefit of the Zcash and Namada communities. Privacy and autonomy are both essential for a free world, so now it is on us as protocol developers and cryptographers to find good ways to preserve both.
The Anoma Foundation understands that the Zcash community is considering a transition to proof-of-stake. We want to be clear that we are neutral on what the Zcash community should do - that’s up to Zcashers. As researchers and developers of proof-of-stake protocols, however, we would like to make our proof-of-stake research & implementation work available under mutually acceptable, standard open-source licenses and conduct presentations / answer questions as to whether or not this proof-of-stake work fits the Zcash community’s requirements (and what options are possible in the proof-of-stake design space). It’s up to the Zcash community to decide what approach makes sense, but we would like to make our work available and attempt to explain it clearly. If the Zcash community decides upon a path that incorporates some of our research or engineering work, we would be happy to collaborate with relevant entities directly to share designs or code. For an overview of some of the proof-of-stake design space options and our understanding of how they might or might not meet the Zcash community’s requirements, please see this video.
Thanks for reading all the way through !
Namada hasn’t launched yet, and this is only a summary of our current understanding of the Namada & Zcash communities and a proposal for where we could both benefit from technical and operational collaboration. You’ll also notice that this proposal doesn’t detail exact amounts. Before committing to this plan, or to specific amounts, we would like to ask the Zcash community as to what y’all think! In particular, the Anoma Foundation seeks consent - we would never want to contribute to the ZSF, conduct airdrops, build a bridge etc. if the Zcash community doesn’t like this idea (for whatever reason) - we want to push areas of collaboration which the Zcash community is onboard with, and focus on those the community is most excited about. In that spirit, we have five questions for Zcashers:
- How do you feel about the Zcash Sustainability Fund proposal? Are you generally onboard with the idea of the Sustainability Fund in general, and if other chains such as Namada contribute to it, are you onboard with that?
- How do you feel about airdrops? Airdrops can feel spammy, but they can also be a good way to give back to the individuals who have supported Zcash by holding ZEC, and a good way to encourage community collaboration. Would you be onboard with an airdrop? Do you have any concerns?
- How do you feel about a Zcash ↔ Namada bridge? Are any particular features or aspects of the security model really important? Which other ecosystems or applications are you most excited about bridging ZEC to? Is anyone interested in implementing such a bridge (and receiving a sizeable bounty for doing so)?
- Who in the Zcash community might be interested in collaborating on private bridges research and proof-of-stake research?
- Who else in the Zcash community should we be talking to? Is there anywhere else Namada could help Zcash out that we’ve missed here?
We’d love to hear your feedback here on this thread (or by DM if you prefer).