One of the projects I’m following closely in my scarce free time is ZenCash. It’s been a while since I covered cryptocurrency related topics; if you remember I wrote earlier this year about mining zCash, then about the ZenCash project, and finally about the TREZOR wallet. It helps from time to time to diverge from data center topics, to better dive back inside later on.
How has ZenCash thrived so far? let’s do a review of how things are moving along now nearly 5 months after its launch.
Putting privacy-centric in practice
ZenCash is a privacy-centric cryptocurrency and its core development team takes this motto to the letter. First of all, yesterday a major merge to the code happened: TLS integration is now supported. It’s an important step towards the even more important implementation of Secure Nodes which are currently in alpha, and will move to beta within 1-2 weeks. Secondly, ZenCash now also supports sending secure messages through its wallet.
I will develop the current progress below:
This is a major step for ZenCash, and a prerequisite for the implementation of Secure Nodes. TLS Integration means that all the data exchanges taking place on the ZenCash network will be encrypted. My expectation is that TLS would become the de facto standard and that there wouldn’t be a two-speed network where part of the traffic is encrypted while another part remains in clear. I need this point to be confirmed however.
In terms of privacy, beyond TLS the ZenCash network can also operate behind TOR, however TLS just encrypts traffic between two endpoints and doesn’t go through TOR entry / exit nodes that might be monitored or even compromised by a third party.
Secure Nodes are being tested extensively and will soon move out from the alpha stage into the beta stage. A prerequisite for Secure Nodes moving into beta was TLS integration being available. There should be an announcement on these matters within 1-2 weeks. Secure Nodes are the next step to increasing network privacy and anonymity by:
- ensuring all network communications are encrypted between nodes
- maintaining the full ZenCash blockchain
- providing certificate-based encrypted connections for ZenCash wallet applications
The proceedings of 3.5% of each ZenCash block mined (block value: 12.5 ZEN) will be distributed among Secure Nodes for operating the network, so there’s a good opportunity of income by operating multiple secure nodes. I’m looking forward to try this once Secure Nodes move to Beta. And here, using an EC2 instance might be a way to go… here we are, data center stuff!
Secure Text Messaging
This feature was introduced in version 0.73-1 of the Swing Wallet UI (more info on wallets below) and allows one-to-one secure messaging. This is leveraged through the memo field of z-transactions (shielded transactions) if I’m correct. Group messaging and IPFS integration are not yet in place but are on the developer team’s roadmap.
The current officially supported wallet is Swing Wallet UI. A new wallet called Arizen is under development. There is also a mobile ZenCash wallet for Android in beta version. As a side note the ELEOS wallet has been deprecated for a while now due to stability issues – you can continue using it but a switch to Swing Wallet UI is strongly recommended. There is also a web-based wallet called MyZenWallet.
The ZenCash project has secured lately a wider adoption of this cryptocurrency with exchanges, instant conversion systems (Evercoin) and various organizations diving into it. I absolutely love Evercoin, it gives me Shapeshift-like abilities for buying ZenCash: no need to log into a site, put an order, wait etc. – I want my ZenCash and want it now. On another hand, the listing of ZenCash in Cryptopia is also a positive move for those who do not seek immediate exchange but look at selling/buying ZenCash at the best rates. I’ve used Cryptopia in the past to buy zClassic and I loved the functionalities.
ZenCash is now integrated with CoinPayments, an important step in driving broader adoption through merchants. Ledger and Bisq integration are in the works, and now you can also use ZenCash to consume services from TorGuard (anonymous VPN, Proxy and Email). Let’s hope that the adoption curve will continue upon this trend with increased momentum.
Governance and Development Team
In those matters, the ZenCash team has seen an influx of team members in Operations, Advisor and Core Team functions. The involvement of Charles Hoskinson and his IOHK development team into the project is generally seen as a strong mark of credibility.
The core contributors (some of whom have been around since Day 1 and before) are also delivering very high quality work, looking at the steady pace of innovation. The ZenCash Slack is very active, especially the #developers and #securenodes channels and are a testimony of all the hard work being put into this project. If you don’t have access to the Slack, go here to request access.
The mining community is very active and thriving around ZenCash. The #miners Slack channel can give an idea of the many topics being discussed. A list of mining pools is maintained here alongside with blockchain explorers, places where ZenCash can be traded and other delicacies.
The total mining hashrate of ZenCash has increased lately thanks to ZenCash valuation, which took a serious bump following Bitcoin rise above the 5000 USD, before falling back with all the other altcoins, but still maintaining itself at very decent levels. That valuation is of course reflected in mining calculators such as whattomine.com and others.
ZenCash leverages the equihash algorithm so miners equipped with potent GPUs can switch from Ethereum single or dual-mining towards ZenCash mining. The miner software used are the same as for mining other equihash cryptocurrencies (whether zCash, zClassic, or Hush) so there are no major difficulties in switching. And of course, I recommend to choose your pool wisely i.e. not only in the selfish (and legitimate) interest of self-profit, but also in distributing hashrate among multiple pools. Psyrax, one of the avid project supporters, has put together a great pool distribution chart here.
I’ve been trying several pools and a lot of them have great features. I’m currently mining with MineZ.Zone (’cause Rick & Morty) but found myself also well with miningspeed, although both are very wildly different in terms of hashrates. I don’t know other pools, so the best you can do is look at the list of mining pools provided above and do your own experiments.
ZenCash: what’s next?
It’s hard for a mere mortal like me to make predictions on ZenCash roadmap. It’s clearly important for ZenCash to increase its adoption in order to further fund development. The innovations being currently delivered are on the right path for this to happen.
In my eyes, integration with a hardware wallet is crucial. I don’t know about Ledger, but on the Trezor side, all efforts within SatoshiLabs are focused towards the development of the Trezor 2, so any eventual integration is dependent on the Trezor 2 being brought to market, because of development priorities within SatoshiLabs (my take on it, not an official comment neither from ZenCash nor from SatoshiLabs).
The ZenCash project is very transparent on development and provides regular updates on a bi-weekly basis via their Youtube Channel. You’ll find these under the “Live Stream” name and as you can guess these updates are indeed live streamed.
Many people with whom I discuss about cryptocurrencies react either with strong enthusiasm or strong skepticism. One thing is sure, for many people who are late to the game, the Bitcoin investment opportunity (the real one, the one that made you a millionaire today by buying lots of Bitcoin 3 to 6 years ago) is well behind us. You may invest into it and hope that in 5 years you’ll get a 1000% return if not more, but the entry cost is prohibitively high.
For that reason I believe it makes sense to invest early into ZenCash. This cryptocurrency is currently undervalued, especially looking at what’s in the long run on their roadmap. As I wrote this article, ZenCash (cryptocurrency code: ZEN) was valued slightly under 7 USD. My target is to see ZenCash at least around 15 USD within a month from now, with a potential target around 20 to 30 USD around December. But don’t take me too seriously, I’m in no way an investor or an expert, just an enthusiast.
The introduction of TLS, Secure Nodes and Encrypted Messaging are significant improvements and also strong differentiators when comparing with zClassic or zCash. I can’t comment on zClassic, but zCash seems to have a very strong scientific research background (and they do deserve a lot of credit), while ZenCash seems to focus on real-life application of scientific concepts developed by the zCash team. I would welcome and hope for stronger collaboration between both the zCash and ZenCash projects, there is a lot of potential for synergies and mutual improvements.
With a strong roadmap and a very positive community, ZenCash seems to be on the right path to success. Let’s wish them to continue delivering against their roadmap and in making a decisive impact in the world of cryptocurrencies, privacy and freedom.