Horizen: Q&A

Robert Viglione — CEO

1. How Horizen is different from Monero, ZCash, ZClassic, and the other privacy coins?

Horizen is building a full application platform with a privacy-oriented currency as our first product, so the system is entirely different from other privacy coins like Monero or Zcash. Our cryptocurrency, on the other hand, resembles Zcash quite a bit because we’re a fork from their technology. We use zero knowledge cryptography, which is different from early privacy coin technology that uses a variety of mixing technologies to essentially scramble inputs to obfuscate outputs. Zero knowledge technology completely shields all aspects of a transaction, inducing sender, recipient, and amount; all you can see publicly is that some valid transaction has occurred.

2. Why the above differences will position better Horizen in the long term?

Currency and payments have wide value around the world, especially those that are privacy preserving, but we see a much broader opportunity constructing an application ecosystem around the currency than simply focusing on the currency. Using zero knowledge cryptography within an application ecosystem has tremendous value in preserving user data and ultimately empowering individuals to monetize their digital footprints.

3. How will Horizen simplify the usage cryptocurrencies for mass adoption?

Our goal is radical usability and an obsession with user support. Everything we do now is focused on making the user experience easier, but admittedly, we have a long way to go. For starters, we have two great new products being released in October that are designed for simplicity. We have a 24/7 help desk where users can speak to actual human beings, and we set up a product UX/UI division to ensure all future products are designed with the mass market in mind.

4. How does Horizen benefit from the partnership with IOHK?

IOHK is an R&D powerhouse within the blockchain industry and right now we’re working on future technologies that will significantly differentiate Horizen. With IOHK, we’re maturing R&D and prototyping an on-chain liquid democracy voting system, and building the next generation of chain technologies called directed acyclic graphs (DAG) that go beyond blockchain in important ways that enable massive scalability.

5. How will Horizen simplify the usage sidechains for institutional users and individuals?

The sidechain system we’re building is fully generalizable so that enterprise users or any other developers or businesses that want to experiment with blockchain without recreating their own entire network, can build on our system in a simple and secure way. Besides offering a straightforward API-like system for new sidechains to connect to the Horizen mainchain, we’ll also be offering integration services and support to make it easy and maximally productive.

6. Following the 51% attack Horizen suffered, what was the impact, how it was fended off and what actions were taken in order to avoid them in the future?

The first thing we did to halt the 51% attack was encourage all of our exchange partners to significantly increase the minimum number of block confirmations before releasing deposits. Once the immediate threat was over, we turned our attention to designing an engineering solution that modifies our consensus rules to make such an attack much more costly — and hence, less likely — in future. This high priority coding project just recently matured, passed all internal and public testing, and has already been pushed to a software upgrade this week.

7. What long term solutions to avoid threats is Horizen working on?

We’re improving our code and internal processes every day to strengthen the project and our organization. The 51% attack mitigation change to consensus is one major example, but on the back end we’re constantly evaluating internal processes, team member security, and making sure we’re hardening everything against future threats. With respect to engineering, new developments like our sidechain architecture, or even new ways in which we’re reimagining basic blockchain technology, couple sound economics and proper incentives to make sure stakeholders (or nefarious actors) find it exceedingly costly to mount attacks.


8. How Horizen managed distribute ~30% of ZEN supply across sectors?

What we realized from Bitcoin is that there are many more stakeholders than just miners to a healthy public blockchain project. There are developers, marketers, coin holders, people who run full node versions of our software, and so on. Each stakeholder group needs the proper incentives to grow the system, or else things become unbalance. Our first approach to balancing incentives was to split the block reward across different groups. The way we stand now is that miners get 70% of block rewards, two different classes of full node operators collectively earn 20%, and we have a Treasury pool that gets 10%. The Treasury funds our team, R&D projects, marketing initiatives, and basically everything we do to grow the network, so it’s a critical component of our architecture.

9. How the Horizen network will benefit from implementing Super Nodes? What impacts will they have on the network?

The node system is an important part of our architecture. There are many projects that offer “masternode” type systems in which qualifying node operators earn a portion of block rewards, typically in exchange for locking up, or staking, coins. Our system is about much more than locking up coins, we’re designing the entire sidechains system to leverage the node network. Qualifying secure and super nodes will have the choice to act as sidechain certifiers, and having the largest node network in the industry is a big value proposition to future partners. Further, we’re designing dApps that node operators have a choice to host on their systems for a revenue split. Again, having the largest node network that can host such dApps is a big value proposition for our network.

10. Wouldn’t it be better to have less block rewards for miners better for decentralizing Horizen as it is an important philosophy?

That’s a great question and I’m sure there’s more research and experimentation that could go into figuring out optimal reward splits across stakeholder groups. Even then, I’d imagine the ratios to be dynamic and dependent on many state variables that differ by project. That said, there’s nothing magical about 100% or 70% or x% of rewards going to miners; the key is that coin rewards times the price per coin has to exceed the cost of mining plus some risk-adjusted required rate of return to make it worthwhile for miners. Balance this with what we think are minimum targets for network hash rates and you can come up with some rational estimate for reward split to miners. Beyond that it would make sense to divert rewards to other stakeholders for both efficiencies in growth and for purposes of decentralization. However, to be clear, we have no plans at the moment to change block reward splits for Horizen.

11. Is there a specific reason why it needs to be 70% of rewards for miners or is an arbitrary number?

No, none at all! This was just an approximation of a value we thought would be sustainable from both the real economics of mining and from a behavior perspective in that expectations tend to be sticky and the prior block reward for miners was 88%. Going too far below that, even if there are good reasons for network health and decentralization, becomes partially an exercise in politics. We’re happy with the 70% mining reward and the other stakeholder splits, at present.

12. Are there plans in the future to completely move away from POW into full POS?

We don’t have plans to abandon POW right now, but of course our scientists and engineers are already considering alternatives. We have to consider all options for innovation and growth, and there are some excellent reasons to consider POS, or even other alternatives. Our first experiment with POS will be on our sidechain system. Our mainchain will remain POW, but our first sidechains are being designed as POS systems for massive transaction throughput and to leverage our large node network as certifying agents. Future R&D will explore POW alternatives, but for now we feel POW is the most secure and battle tested system.

13. How teams like Zcash and Horizen collaborate?

We want to always maintain an open and collaborative posture with any project in the industry, especially serious innovators like Zcash. We’ve had some collaboration in past with Zcash as they are an extremely transparent, ethical, and intelligent team. One thing we’re currently joining is a sort of joint emergency response task force with Zcash, in which we share critical bug information, patches, and come together to overcome serious issues if they arise. This is something that Nathan Wilcox is pioneering and we fully support.

14. How will ZenHide work, will it be similar to sentinel.co?

Our first thought with ZenHide was to integrate domain fronting so that users could access the Horizen network securely without hostile actors observing that connection. As content delivery networks (CDN) have backed off on enabling domain fronting types of services, we’ve had to rethink our product offering. We have another option in the planning phase that is similar to sentinel.co, but details are still need to be finalized before we make it public.

15. How will ZenPub compete with current working blockchain producst like bit.tube,and po.et?

ZenPub is the last of our original product offerings that we have yet to scope, resource, and initiate a project. The original idea was a light version of, say, FileCoin, or some other distributed file storage system that leverages our large node network. The point would not be to replace such a dedicated system, but to offer a light version that could be used for specialized purpose. It’s still an idea on the table, but we’ve yet to take steps to resource and execute on such a project, as we’ve diverted resources to improve wallet projects, improve Nakamoto consensus to protect against 51% attacks, and build our sidechain system, among other engineering priorities.

Thankful to Robert Viglione for his time, and to Dean Steinbeck for facilitating the contact, an honor for me to share a Q&A about Horizen.

Is my opinion that Horizen is an amazing project, but please DYOR before investing, do not trust anyone to do Fundamental Analysis for you, you are the sole responsible of where you chip in.

Horizen is easily one of the best privacy-oriented cryptocurrency platforms due to its governance model, decentralization, focus on R&D internal and external (IOHK), and ease of use amongst many other differentiating characteristics from the pack, if any team can pull this off its Horizen’s team.

If you want a few more in depth reasons why Horizen will succeed on its goals, read my buddies Dean Steinbeck article below:

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