Electric Coin Company (ECC), the company led by zcash creator Zooko Wilcox, officially shared the zcash trademark with the Zcash Foundation (ZF) on Wednesday.
Informed sources of trademark negotiations indicated that discussions with CoinDesk were more complicated than expected by one or the other of the parties, particularly with regard to the reciprocal veto power of the parties. use of the mark.
And while the branding issue may seem trivial to some observers, the process took months, becoming an indicator of the decentralized aspirations of privacy protection.
"This is an innovative agreement, for which there seems to be no precedent," said ECC Thursday, highlighting a particular provision:
"No party has independent authority to declare that a specific Zcash channel can actually call Zcash." Both parties must hear and neither can unilaterally override the will of the community. "
Wilcox told CoinDesk last week that the zcash trademark talks were emotionally painful. He likened this to watching a baby bird leave the nest.
"As a person, I am attached to zcash and I can never stop working for zcash and all that this means for humanity," he said. "As a CEC, we can only work for the community if it hires us."
Since his startup launched the launch of this private room in 2016, Wilcox has become the de facto public face of cryptocurrency. For him, the trademark agreement is a sign of the project "moving quickly to a status where I do not have the power to make things happen or prevent them from happening."
However, it is hard to imagine what the non-profit organization would look like, completely separate from ECC, since the founders of zcash are now its main source of funding.
Wilcox became personally rich thanks to the zcash founders award, which delegates some of the newly minted pieces to the founding team. Along with other co-founders, Wilcox donated to the Zcash Independent Foundation, as a Verification and Balancing Entity, apart from the for-profit ECC start-up. Several co-founders of zcash, such as Andrew Miller, became members of the board of trustees.
"I have promised half of all the money I am expecting to see in the world to fund the foundation," Wilcox said.
Yet, even with the best of intentions, this brand-name struggle was, according to Josh Cincinnati, director of the Zcash Foundation, part of the growing political challenges associated with decentralization.
"You have to make these small tactical decisions every day that could loosen the clutches of power you are used to or with which you are comfortable," Cincinnati told CoinDesk. "It takes a lot of risk and confidence in the community to take the reins properly."
While many people in the cryptography industry are still turning to Ethereum co-founders, Vitalik Buterin and Joseph Lubin, to get funding and cultural advice, the zcash community is publicly indicating that "we are in the dark." she wants to create a different governance structure.
At least four independent entrepreneurs and venture capitalists submitted their own public proposals for the network upgrade in October 2020, when the original founders' rewards funding mechanism will expire.
The reward system will not expire alone. The reality is that the two companies that currently dominate the development of the network, ECC and ZF, will push the necessary upgrades for the community to adopt this redistribution of these cash flows. The community is currently trying to find out where these funds will go in the future.
"We hope they (ECC) will use the same data and in case of discrepancy, we will have to solve the problem with them," said Cincinnati. "Users are free to offer courses … if they do not like the result. It is important to note that neither ZF nor ECC can get away with blatantly ignoring what the community wants. "
On the basis of proposals and discussions on social networks, the community wants a peaceful transfer of the power of benevolent leaders to a participative republic. And that, based on centuries of political history, tends to be the most difficult result to obtain.
"Zcash's unique governance model is that it is community-based and self-financing," said Wilcox. "Anything that does not self-finance risks being caught."
Several proposals suggest that the new development fund should be managed by a new board of thirds, with rotating members determined by a democratic vote.
"I think it's important to have an entity that does not have these conflicts of interest. This (the board members) really has investment experience, "said Arianna Simpson, founder of Autonomous Partners, ZEC Holder and Proposal Writer. "Although I appreciate the academic aspect and the role that professional cryptographers have to play in the community, I do not think that's enough in terms of skills."
The problem is where will all these new candidates and voters come from? According to Sonya Mann, the Zcash Foundation's communications officer, about 64 community members participated in the 2018 board of directors' election, which resulted in considerable awareness and outreach work. part of the non-profit association.
"If we had a robust voting system, resistant to both Sybil and anonymous, we would not even have that conversation," Mann told CoinDesk.
For his part, Simpson was clear that the CEC and ZF should both receive funding in the foreseeable future.
"I think that part of the animosity towards Zooko is misplaced," she said. After all, she had been personally appointed by Wilcox to the Board of Trustees in the last election of 2018. (In the end, voters chose among others Clovyr's CEO, Amber Baldet.) These days, Mr. Simpson continues play an active role in community governance by participating in public forums.
"Over time, their roles should decrease, but that's not the case now," Simpson said. "I think the risk with zcash is that nobody does the work. I think all this work needs to be done centrally. "
Indeed, a study published in August by Electric Capital revealed that less than 40 developers regularly contributed to zcash. (In comparison, the study found that Bitcoin regularly had more than 100 developers and Ethereum about 1200 developers.) If zcash is to thrive, these numbers need to increase significantly without the current teams being paralyzed.
Another nominator, Chris Burniske of venture capital firm Placeholder, told CoinDesk:
"(ECC) is one of the most talented technical teams in the industry and they deserve to be funded to exploit the promise of the zcash protocol."
Organisms in evolution
The co-founder of Electric Capital, Avichal Garg, told CoinDesk that the zcash community was turning to other string chains – such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and even Decree – to take governance lessons. He compared cryptographic communities to evolving organisms defined by their environment, stating:
"The environment in which Bitcoin has evolved and grown has changed, if only for the reason that exists now. I do not think (zcash) will look like bitcoin. I do not think it will look like Ethereum, with a foundation, ConsenSys and thousands of developers. "
Looking back, the bitcoin community has diversified long before there is much public and market attention to the asset. Ethereum has grown much faster because co-founders such as Lubin and Buterin have given priority to evangelism and spending their own money to encourage external experiences, Garg said. Wilcox probably did the same thing, but with a smaller fortune.
"There must be a chain (bitcoin) that says," We are the value chain that never changes, "said Matt Luongo, CEO of the Thesis Cryptography Development Studio, about Bitcoin. that this is an opportunity for zcash to say, "Look, we are different, we are not just a chain of professors or a research chain, we are at the forefront of privacy protection technology."
But Placeholder's Burniske said that another ingredient is needed.
"As Ethereum showed us, these networks thrive thanks to third-party investments. It's not the only technology that runs a network, "said Burniske. "To get a third party investment, you have to give the floor to those parties. The zcash community is trying to find the best way to do it. "
Unlike Decred, a smaller cryptographic community gathering a few dozen developers without relying on a volunteer leader or corporate structure, Burniske said a "slightly more centralized form of governance" "could be more acceptable for businesses.
"Although Decred and zcash are good value-added alternative stores, zcash, given the anonymity obtained with zk-Snarks, offers many interesting professional and business applications," Burniske said.
Without a chef?
Despite differing views on how zcash should evolve, a real anomaly in space, all interviewees agreed that Wilcox has so far done an excellent job of respecting privacy.
There also appears to be a strong community of people interested in participating in the open source project, as evidenced by some 200 people who attended the zcash annual conference in June.
However, some people would like Wilcox to play a less central role. "For (zcash) to actually work, it can not be about it," said Garg of Electric Capital.
And that, concluded Wilcox, has always been the goal.
Josh Cincinnati speaks to Zcon 2019, image via Zcash Foundation