Today, we’ve kicked off our brand new AMA session and taken a closer look at Horizen, the most secure interoperable blockchain ecosystem with a sidechain platform focusing on scalable data privacy and enabling businesses and developers to custom-build their own public or private blockchains using its unique sidechain technology, Zendoo.
We were joined by Horizen's CEO Rob Viglione, BD Manager Vano Narimanidze and Communications Manager Erica Hamilton.
Horizen is all about extreme communication across the board; whether that's in our tech or in how we operate as entities within the ecosystem.
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Q1: With the explosive growth in the community, you’ve launched the Zenvangelist Ambassador Program to extend your outreach. Congrats on that! How can the program shift the current community’s narrative & what is your notion of community in the first place?
Rob: [Erica Hamilton] is the brain behind the Zenvangelist program and I have to say I'm super excited for it! The idea is for passionate community members to design their own ambassador programs; basically to decide for themselves the best ways they can contribute to Horizen.
So the main point is that the Horizen Zenvangelist program is meant to empower the community to grow itself on its own terms. That's the $ZEN way of doing things [smiling].
Q2: The team’s constantly working on integrations with major exchanges, and now Coinbase is believed to be considering listing $ZEN. What opportunities may this listing bring besides expanding the community & is there anything the team can do to accelerate the process?
Rob: Coinbase remains a super professional organisation and team, so there's no guarantee of a listing, but should we get listed it'd be a major jump in access to $ZEN for US persons. This is a really big deal for us, as it greatly opens opportunities for our community.
Q3: The project’s been actively solving issues of scalability and has no intention of stopping, planning to implement a scaling technology called Directed Acyclic Graph, or DAG, to the Horizen ecosystem. What is this encouraging approach supposed to tackle?
Rob: Horizen is aiming to be the blockchain infrastructure for the world, and that means we need real scalability. We have to entirely rethink blockchain architecture for the things that will matter for real traction: scalability, security, and low costs.
This is what Zendoo is all about: a totally decentralized sidechain solution that can allow for up to 1000 blockchains to operate in parallel within the Horizen ecosystem. Early on we were thinking of a DAG for extreme mainchain scalability, but now we're going with Zendoo and a massive sidechain ecosystem.
Q4: Horizen enables developers to create their own blockchains for NFTs. What makes you stand out among everyone tapping into the NFT market & what benefits does the interoperability aspect provide? How easy is it for a newbie to create an NFT with Horizen?
Rob: We're actually one week away from finishing the development of Zendoo, which is our programmable sidechain system and what devs would use to launch their own dapps, including NFTs.
What makes Zendoo and the Horizen Labs Latus implementation so powerful is that we use zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) for cross-chain security, SNARKs for data privacy, and recursion for state succinctness. Those are a lot of buzzwords that ultimately mean high security, massive scalability, flexibility of design, and a competitive infrastructure marketplace that drives fees down to cost. This makes our tech unique for large scale blockchain projects, like NFTs, as just one example
Vano: And regarding interoperability, there is a lot of freedom for devs in Zendoo. This freedom makes it possible for developers to build platforms that are compatible and interoperable with existing NFT ecosystems as well.
Rob: And being able to code your applications in Java makes life a lot easier for most of the world's devs in not having to learn new languages.
Q5: How does it feel to be the first in the blockchain industry to design a totally decentralized sidechain protocol to have the best of all crypto worlds? And if you were to explain it to a newbie, what are the advantages of combining proof-of-work with proof-of-stake mechanisms?
Rob: I'm super proud of our team for building the Zendoo protocol, in particular with Alberto Garoffolo for designing it from scratch and building a team that could execute such a complex piece of software.
The benefit of a hybrid PoW and PoS model, like the Latus implementation of Zendoo, is that we have a much more secure system that makes it exponentially more costs to circumvent. With Latus, a malicious agent would have to take over the majority of block forgers, they'd have to somehow circumvent a SNARK circuit, and then they'd have to undermine a PoW mining network on the mainchain side.
Q6: How many TPS on a sidechain and what will the fees be? Could you talk about the economics of holding ZEN if you have built a sidechain?
Rob: Performance estimates for Zendoo are something like 20k TPS across 3 million transactions per 2.5 min avg mainchain block; we get this scale by being able to operate up to 1k sidechains in parallel.
Vano: That's amazing performance estimates!
Rob: With Zendoo, the economics of $ZEN shift dramatically from being a simple cryptocurrency to being:
1. The "gas" of our massive programmable blockchain platform network.
2. The stake in all of the PoS sidechains.
Q7: You once called Zendoo an asymmetric protocol meaning developers don’t need any changes to be made to the mainchain to operate but they “need to closely track the main blockchain”. Could you elaborate on that and on the examples of how the Zendoo SDK can be extended to support new functionalities?
Rob: Correct, the power of Zendoo is that it's just a cross-chain [communication] protocol and doesn't impose strong constraints on what exactly is communicating with the Horizen mainchain [smiling].
In this sense, you can have any type of blockchain consensus on the other end; our sidechains can be PoS, PoW, PoWhatever. They don't even have to be blockchains communicating with the mainchain. The Horizen mainchain doesn't have to know anything about what's on the other side other than it is sending info back in the proper format.
Horizen Labs is building a specific Zendoo implementation called Latus that is a modified version of Ouroboros Praus PoS consensus. We've made it succinct with recursive SNARKs, but otherwise, it is a standalone blockchain. Devs can program our Latus blockchains in Java using data boxes that allow for custom logic. Devs will program their blockchains to do what they want upon launching them, and then can upgrade their chains with new functionality over time as you would upgrade any other blockchain
Q8: Horizen is all about communication – not only between chains but also between the community. What is your goal with launching ZenChat? Do you think of always having it as a perk for Horizen’s users since it’s embedded within your wallet, or entering the global market one day?
Rob: You're right, Horizen is all about extreme communication across the board; whether that's in our tech or in how we operate as entities within the ecosystem.
ZenChat was one of the first app ideas we had in 2017 upon launching Horizen. The idea was to use the messaging field in a shielded transaction in a way that allowed people to send private messages. This didn't end up being the messaging protocol we wanted to scale to production.
In general, I'm not much a fan of [permanently] storing private messages on a public blockchain, even if they're encrypted. Encryption can always be broken in time and you don't want your private messages to be revealed in the future. So how we see private messaging apps develop in the Horizen ecosystem in the future is still to be discovered.
Q9: In March, Horizen had a mandatory upgrade to the core software ZEN 2.0.23. How important were those performance improvements for the ecosystem community? Are there more updates in the pipeline or now the team’s mainly focusing on Zendoo?
Rob: Our main focus is completing Zendoo (next week!), getting key components into third-party code audits, integration testing, system testing, community testing, and then migrating to mainnet. There's still so much work ahead of us, but the finish line is in sight [smiling].
That said, we've been making performance improvements to the Zen code base along the way and each release is important in its own way. A lot of work goes into any production release.
Q10: To cultivate collaboration among developers & incentivize initiatives, Horizen launched HEAP & HDE programs. Is it right to assume that HEAP is mainly aimed at testing & HDE – at developing? Are there any challenges that you as the core team & the participants had to face?
Rob: Correct, HEAP and HDE were launched specifically to turbocharge community development within the ecosystem. These programs are still in early stages, but we've had phenomenal interest in pre-registering devs.
The early tasks added to HDE were mainly related to deploying Zendoo on testnet with our beta SDK, but we're in process of adding a bunch more dev tasks to help grow our dev toolset. We even use HDE to promote non-dev tasks, like those related to the Zenvangelist program.
In the end, it's really about organizing, facilitating, and incentivizing community participation at all levels.
Q11: Striving to develop the most secure ecosystem, Horizen continues to perfect security measures, releasing a mandatory upgrade to Sphere that is said to be a launching point for additional services on the network. Could you dwell upon what’s in store for the users or partners?
The most exciting thing on the "horizen" is finishing Zendoo and getting it into production. This is the huge pivot for Horizen going from a cryptocurrency to a utility on a massive programmable blockchain system.
Q12: What are your key approaches to conducting internal & third-party security audits in general? Did the infamous 51% attack make you revamp them?
Erica: We always follow best practices and do internal code reviews as well as third-party audits for critical software. Recently, our mainchain audit results have been published by Coinspect. We are also planning to do third-party audits for Zendoo before it is made public and for Sphere by Horizen, before we make it open-source.
Rob: We have many processes for code quality and take security extremely seriously. Besides rigorous best practices in software dev with design, coding, code reviews, unit tests, integration tests, system tests, we also have a policy of running new code through well-respected auditors. We're about to hand off key components of Zendoo to third party code auditors in the coming weeks. There will be normal find/fix from audits, then rigorous testing before we migrate to mainnet.
Q13: Some say compliance is often overlooked by crypto companies. How did your partnership with the GDPR compliant LTO change your perspective on this case if it did & are there any steps taken in this direction?
Horizen is all about security and privacy, the ultimate being that individuals ought to own their own data. Partnerships with groups like the LTO Network are great in that they have high standards for commercial engagements and our tech can facilitate.
Q14: Let’s dust off some of the Horizen projects like ZenPub – a service that allows users to publish data from a shielded address via the IPFS. Are there any plans on revamping it or changing the concept?
Rob: It's a great question! Our focus for the last few years has been entirely at the protocol development level, which means Zendoo and tools to empower developers using it. To the extent that either the Foundation team or Horizen Labs builds specific apps, they'll likely be to provide core infrastructure, like a voting system DAO. Other apps, like a publishing app are better left to other teams that join the ecosystem and use the tools we create.
Vano: ZenPub and similar apps are also great candidates for sidechains where they can scale well too.
Rob: Exactly, and we've just realized that to build a real protocol, we need many other people to build in the ecosystem; not just the Foundation or Horizen Labs. This is why we're focusing on tools to empower others to build specific apps.
Q15: We now talk a lot about the usage of crypto with some serving solely as utility assets & others being widely used both within & outside projects’ ecosystems – like $ZEN. What are the most widespread as well as out-of-the-box use cases? May bringing off-chain data extend the list?
Rob: One of the most interesting out-of-the-box use cases we have for Zendoo is with the Celsius Network in creating a proof of reserves application. It uses ZKPs to privately prove near real-time reserves that Celsius has direct access to. This probably isn't what people have in mind when they think of a sidechain [smiling].
Q16: Do you see ZEN become companies & governments’ instrument for rewarding communities participating in certain activities or coming up with municipal initiatives, for example? Have any institutions reached out to you to build on the Horizen blockchain?
Rob: Absolutely we do! And if not $ZEN directly, it will at least be the gas powering apps with specific reward tokens to incentivize community engagement. We don't have a specific government project right now, but the tech is perfect for such a use case. With Zendoo you can launch your own L1 that has $ZEN and the ability to issue its own tokens
Now, on the other hand, for companies, we have several extremely promising use cases in which $ZEN will be the gas for commercial blockchains that issue and use their own tokens for consumer engagement.
Q17: And the last question to wrap things up! Could you talk a bit about short-time goals for Horizen Labs and Horizen ZBF? Any new products or integrations besides the one and only... Zendoo?
Rob: Ha! Zendoo is super cool, but if I'm being forced to talk about other things... Horizen Labs will be announcing some incredible partnerships in the near future where you'll see Horizen used as the blockchain backbone for incredible use cases at scale.
Was that vague enough? Sorry! But seriously, we have some great things in the pipeline [that] I can't wait to make public. We're hitting an awesome inflection point for the project where we're finally able to build sophisticated applications using our platform.
Our product team is finishing Phase 1 of our proof of reserves system with the Celsius Network. We're crafting an awesome use case with IOTA on the IoT side for community incentives, and we're done with the blockchain side of a "game chain" with a prominent gaming engine co.
We're building out a new dev center in NYC, which will bring on several new dev teams to build out our SDK as a product, build products with the SDK, house a team of dev evangelists, and build internal products like mobile wallets. You have HDE ramping up for broader community dev participation along with the team of dev evangelists we're building, which is just freaking cool.
StakeHound recently launched StakedZEN ($stZEN) on Ethereum to bring $ZEN to DeFi. What else? It's hard to keep track of all the cool things going on Horizen these days as the project really just takes off. Vano: Meanwhile, anyone interested in a technical deep dive into Zendoo, please have a listen to a recent episode of Zero Knowledge Podcast where Alberto Garoffolo and Anna Rose dissected the Zendoo protocol and Latus sidechain proposal in great detail.
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