Max Supply: 21,000,000
Mining Algorithm: Equihash
Block Time: 2 min 30 seconds
First Announced: May, 2017
Horizen Project Summary
- Revolutionary sidechain architecture opens a up a myriad of potential real-world use cases.
- Horizen makes use of a unique Cross-Chain Transfer Protocol allowing for decentralized sidechains (separate blockchains pegged to the parent blockchain, in this case Horizen’s ) to be run simultaneously.
- ZEN is Horizen’s native cryptocurrency and is a crucial part of the Horizen platform ecosystem.
- Through solid partnerships, Horizen plans to implement their technology in the real world.
Evolving significantly since the release of ZenCash, Horizen has undergone a series of changes and development since the rebrand. The most notable changes are outlined in the latest whitepaper. This whitepaper builds upon the core fundamentals outlined in the original whitepaper. As a result, the latest whitepaper is a must read for anyone looking to get a more technical understanding of Horizen’s vision.
The Horizen ecosystem is crucial to realizing the team’s vision. It consists of several parts, each part playing a vital role within the Horizen platform.
ZEN has been a vital part of the project since its inception in 2017. Horizen employs ZEN, its native cryptocurrency, as a base layer for all operations. ZEN in-itself has several distinguishing features. In a nutshell, ZEN combines the best from Bitcoin and Zcash (the first privacy coin) and implements it within the ecosystem.
Unchanged since the original launch in 2017, ZEN is a proof-of-work cryptocurrency. In short, transactions on proof-of-work blockchains are processed by cryptocurrency miners. This decentralized consensus method has numerous advantages and disadvantages. Learn more about proof-of-work.
ZEN currently uses the Equihash (n=200, k=9) consensus algorithm. Zcash, the first privacy coin, was the first cryptocurrency to employ Equihash. At the time of launch, Equihash (n=200, k=9) was ASIC (Learn more about ASICs) resistant, thus keeping the network as decentralized as possible.
In May 2018, the first Equihash ASICs were announced, virtually pushing GPU miners out of the market. At the time, many Equihash cryptocurrencies forked to change their algorithm to Equihash (n=144,k=5). This parameter modification increased the minimum memory needed to mine the algorithm by over ten times. Therefore, traditional Equihash ASICs would be unable to mine this modification of Equihash.
Unlike those cryptocurrencies, Horizen decided to maintain Equihash (n=200, k=9). As a result, Horizen would support ASIC mining. There were several reasons that led to this decision.
- ASIC mining would bring in more hashpower, further securing the network as 51% attacks are less likely as total mining power increases.
- Engineering efforts were better spent of development of the sidechain architecture rather than modifications to the mining algorithm.
- Forking to a new algorithm would result in a period of vulnerability while miners made the switch.
- Forking would result in widespread inconvenience for both end users (ZEN holders) and platforms (exchanges).
Put simply, the advantages of switching algorithms were not worth it.
It is also important to note, that algorithm switching can be revisited in the future using the Governance model (ZenDAO).
One of ZEN’s most prominent features, is privacy. As Horizen is a Zcash fork, it inherited Zcash’s privacy technology.
ZEN features optional shielded transactions which, -mask the sender, recipient, and value transacted. Zk-SNARKs are the core to these private transactions. Developed by the Zcash team, zk-SNARKs are a form of zero-knowledge cryptography.
Zero-knowledge proofs are exactly what they sound. Using zero-knowledge proofs, transactions are confirmed and validated without ever sharing information, hence zero-knowledge. Thus, zk-SNARKs allow transactions to be verified without sharing personal and sensitive information. This innovation in privacy was carried over to Horizen as it forked and implemented Zcash’s privacy features.
ZEN offers two types of addresses:
- T-Addresses – These addresses function as normal addresses without shielding capability. In order words, transactions without privacy features.
- Z-Addresses – Also regarded as shielded addresses, Z-Addresses facilitate private transactions.
Unlike Zcash and other privacy cryptocurrencies, Horizen uses this privacy technology and builds upon it. Using zk-SNARKs, Horizen has developed a unique platform, greatly distinguishing it from the original privacy coin itself, Zcash.
Horizen’s in house R&D team working in combination with the engineering team, have brought many innovations to market. Horizen’s github repository has been very active, always a promising sign. To summarize, the team has been producing amazing results in the dark with much more to come in the near future.
The primary use case for the Horizen ecosystem is based on top of Horizen’s sidechain architecture. This revolutionary development will allow various sidechains to run in conjunction with the mainchain, opening the potential for a myriad of real-world use cases.
At the center of this architecture is the main Horizen chain. The mainchain is stable, established, and secure, therefore allowing sidechains to be operated on top of the mainchain. These sidechains will work independently from one another. As a result, the mainchain will not need any information from the sidechains, staying true to the principal of privacy. In addition, this architecture allows for an unlimited amount of sidechains, which in turn means, theoretically unlimited scalability.
Sidechains are operated and maintained by Secure and Super nodes. In return, these nodes receive rewards from the mainchain as well the potential to receive rewards from the sidechain itself. This incentive structure promotes the creation of more nodes, which in turn, increases Horizen’s total sidechain capacity.
After over 20 months of non-stop development, the Horizen team is close to bringing their vision to market as beta release for the sidechain architecture is due to be released in March 2020.
Cross-Chain Transfer Protocol
Developed in-house, the Cross-Chain Transfer Protocol (CCTP) is a crucial part of the new sidechain architecture. This protocol is what allows sidechains to stay connected and communicate with the parent chain (Horizen). Therefore, all sidechains must use this protocol in order to ensure functionality.
As outlined in the whitepaper there are two types of transfers via the CCTP:
- Forward transfers – Transfer from mainchain to sidechain.
- Backward transfers – Transfer from sidechain to mainchain.
CCTP works by burning the coins in the originating chain and recreating them in the destination chain. Essentially, coins can be transferred between chains without requiring a direct connection.
As mentioned earlier, sidechains aren’t bound to the same rules as the mainchain. Moreover, sidechains can choose their own consensus protocols and parameters. As a result, there are very few limits as to what a sidechain can be, opening up many opportunities.
In addition to all of the previous innovations, Horizen has also developed a unique platform for sidechain developers. Although, this platform is called the Sidechain SDK, it offers and is much more than a software development kit. As sidechains are full blockchain applications, developers would have to implement and develop consensus, network layers, wallets, and much more. The sidechain SDK, does all of that, and allows developers to focus on whats really important, specific data and customization tailored to the use case of the sidechain. It is undoubtedly clear, the team places ease of use and scalability among its core focuses.
ZenDAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) will be a sidechain application on the Horizen platform. This voting organization will consist of all ZEN holders, who will be able to vote on a given topic.
IOHK, Horizen’s partner, developed a treasury system governed by ZenDAO. Using this system ZEN holders will vote on project proposals submitted by community. This form of governance, is representative of the team’s strong dedication to decentralization.
Moreover, this decentralized form of governance can be employed for other substantial network changes. For example, as mentioned above, in future; algorithm changes can be decided via community census using decentralized governance.
ZenChat is a secure messaging application taking advantage of Horizen’s privacy and security features. Users are able to send direct messages or create group chats, with the protection of Horizen’s robust security and privacy protocols.
ZenChat is ideal for clients in countries where information is regulated, thus the need for decentralized private messaging clients
Horizen Multi-tiered Node Infrastructure
Horizen features one of the largest node networks in the cryptosphere. As a result, Horizen’s blockchain is reliable, secure, and fast. Furthermore, a multi-tiered node network allows Horizen to employ their sidechain technology as well as deploy dApps.
- Run Horizen’s core instance
- Maintain an up-to-date copy of the blockchain.
Full nodes are normal nodes that keep a copy of the latest blockchain and provide up-time and reliability to the blockchain. Although, these nodes do not receive a reward, they are crucial in maintaining the blockchain.
- Must hold at least 42 ZEN.
- Able to perform challenges in less that 200 seconds.
- Maintain 92% reliability.
Secure Nodes are crucial to the Horizen network. Unlike full nodes, secure nodes serve a unique purpose beyond maintaining the latest blockchain. Moreover, Secure Nodes have TLS encryption which enable secure inter-node communication, hence the “secure”.
Secure Node Operators collectively receive 10% of all block rewards.
- Must hold at least 500 ZEN.
- Able to perform challenges in less that 150 seconds
- Requires 8GB of memory or higher
- Requires at least 100GB of storage capacity
- Maintain 96% reliability.
Super Nodes are essential to Horizen’s sidechain implementation. To clarify, Super Nodes have the features of Secure and full nodes as well as the ability to host multiple services. Super Nodes will host crucial sidechain services with their greater resource allocations.
Similarly to Secure Nodes, Super Node Operators collectively receive 10% of all block rewards. However, since Super Nodes have higher requirements, theoretically, there should always be less Super Nodes, and thus, each node receives a higher reward than a secure node.
Horizen’s partnership with Horizen Labs is an integral part of pushing this now developed technology to the masses. Horizen Labs is a software development company, separate from Horizen. Their primary focus is developing and tailoring Horizen technology towards large scale enterprise. Moreover, with their own engineering and software development team, Horizen Labs develops applications and tools that allows businesses to take advantage of these innovations, enabling them to be more competitive within their respective industries.
Horizen Labs themselves, boast several major partnerships which will be crucial in bringing Horizen technology to the masses.
Input Output Honk Kong (IOHK)
IOHK or Input Output Honk Kong is one of Horizen’s notable development partners. As well as being a corporate partner, IOHK collaborates with Horizen to conduct extensive research.
IOHK has collaborated with Lancaster University to develop a prototype of ZenDAO. As we mentioned above, within this prototype, ZEN holders are able to vote in a decentralized fashion. The research and findings are published in IOHK’s research paper.
Academic and Corporate Partners
Horizen has a diverse portfolio of partnerships. These academic and corporate partnerships allow Horizen to implement their ground-breaking technology seamlessly.
A list of current academic and corporate partners can be found in the whitepaper.
Horizen Roadmap/Future Plans
Horizen has come a long way since its launch back in 2017. With the transition from a currency to a full-blown platform, the Horizen team has been very active and persistent. In addition to the current progress, Horizen has bold visions and plans for the future.
By Q4 2020, Horizen plans to have launched several sidechains operating seamlessly in addition to mainchain improvements. View the detailed roadmap.
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