In support of our strategy of delivering a first-class user experience to ZEC, ECC has worked on planning a product roadmap – driven by the development of the internet, industry research, community sentiment and market opportunities. Our research has particularly focused on commercial wallet models and user experience, Zcash Shielded Assets (ZSAs), Proof of Stake, and cross-chain interoperability.
Based on this work, it has become clear that The best way for ECC to contribute to the Zcash community over the next three years is to publish an official ECC wallet in addition to a highly interoperable Zcash protocol that uses the proof-of-stake consensus.
This blog provides context, our rationale for our decisions, and a three-year high-level roadmap. Our vision is far-reaching and our roadmap aggressive, but it is achievable and requires separate but integrated workflows with key decision points along the way, including feature prioritization, platform and tool selection, and go-to-market plans.
We expect others in the Zcash community to have a vision for and act upon other community priorities, which may include helping ZSAs. For those interested in learning more about our research and thinking about ZSAs, and why we don’t particularly prioritize them right now at ECC, please check out our companion blog. While our focused efforts will serve to support our roadmap as detailed below, we support and applaud the work of other developers who are thoughtfully adding features to Zcash.
ZEC and the future of the internet
The next generation of the Internet, commonly known as Web 3, is just around the corner. In this new internet everyone is sovereign. There are no central gatekeepers who decide who can participate. There are no kingmakers who determine who wins and who loses.
People gain more control over their information. It is a world where anything can be proven without unnecessary disclosure.
In Web 3, a person can bypass banks and their underwriters and get a loan from dozens or hundreds or thousands of other people around the world who choose to lend assets at a certain rate that everyone agrees on.
It is a place where a person can offer collateral of a certain value without disclosing what that collateral is and where a person can store collateral in shielded pools without revealing who it belongs to. It’s a place where someone can prove they paid off a loan without ever revealing who they are or how much was borrowed.
Banks and credit card companies as we know them are becoming increasingly rare. Anyone can get a return, with or without a custodian.
This revolution extends beyond finance.
More and more people are using both specialized and composable solutions that include domains and blockchains. It is evolving into a collaborative system where people work together because it is in their own best interest.
This Internet will be based on an interoperability structure in which distributed capabilities can be put together in multi-chain applications. This does not mean that all systems have to share data with all other systems. In some cases, we may just need to prove fact to another system while relying on zero-knowledge cryptography for granular privacy.
In this Internet, ZEC will be a critical resource for economic well-being and will be used in solutions to protect privacy and freedoms. But for that we need to work together to make it easier to use ZEC within and across this new structure.
Mission and focus of the ECC
ECC’s mission is to empower people with economic freedom. In support of this mission, we build and support technology to enable people to access a fair and open currency within a framework that protects freedom, dignity, consent and security.
As mentioned earlier, we’ve evolved our product strategy from being development-driven to being market-driven and user-experience-driven, and our only focus is on delivering a first-class user experience to ZEC. The language we use here is key: ECC’s product focus is on the ZEC asset and we intend that ZEC will occupy a central place in the fabric of Web 3.
ECC develops and supports products for the ZEC users of today – and tomorrow. The next iteration of this is a suite of products called Halo Arc, which includes: Zcashd, ECC Reference Wallet, ECC Wallet SDKs, and various libraries. The specific products that ECC supplies will evolve over time as the ZEC utility evolves.
Why this roadmap
Our product roadmap planning was driven by market research and insights into the future of the internet, our vision for ZEC, and market needs.
Through this work it became clear that the best way for ECC to contribute to the Zcash community over the next three years is to publish a commercially available wallet in addition to a highly interoperable Zcash protocol that has a proof-of-stake -Consensus uses.
There are three key product benefits included in this plan:
- An official ECC wallet
- Proof-of-stake consensus
An official ECC wallet
The formal release of a wallet product will allow ECC to interact directly with ZEC users, quickly introduce new features that may or may not require changes to the protocol, and iterate and develop new protocol-enabled functions in collaboration with the ECC core team to test. We will expand our mobile and infrastructure teams with the intention of releasing the first official ECC wallet in 2022. We will continue to build and publish an SDK for other wallet developers, and the code will be open source.
At the beginning of the year, Zooko presented in a blog post the possibility and advantages of moving Zcash from proof of work to proof of share. Benefits include reducing downward pressure on the price of ZEC as most miners today liquidate ZEC immediately for BTC or Fiat.
This shift will also increase the utility to ZEC through capabilities that include revenue generation through staking and a possible path to on-chain governance mechanisms for ZEC hodlers.
We saw the impact of Zcash’s introduction of ASICs miners in 2018. Activity in the Zcash chain quickly declined 80% as many Zcashers were forced to abandon their GPU miners as a means of acquiring ZEC.
Interest in earning ZEC from mining-related activities is still strong today. ECC has been surveying visitors to the pages z.cash and ECC for several months. Over 50% of the visitors to z.cash and 20% of the visitors to the ECC site have identified themselves as miners.
The move to proof-of-stake offers other benefits, including reducing the ZEC energy footprint, providing a possible path to on-chain governance mechanisms, and supporting interoperability by including issues with finality approached by proof-of-work transactions are discussed below.
Shortly after Zooko’s post, ECC CTO Nate Wilcox outlined what a transition might look like and what next steps are possible. It was number 1 in the ECC-Coin holder survey, number 2 in the Zfnd-ZCAP survey, and received strong support on social media.
As the performance of the Zcash ecosystem grows, we believe that ECC is uniquely positioned to do this demanding job with the quality and speed it should be done and that it will be well received by current and future ZEC owners will.
We believe the move to proof-of-stake can be achieved within three years if we can focus our time and efforts and hire additional talent.
As highlighted above, we believe ZEC will be a crucial element of the emerging internet. While we are considering moving to the Proof of Stake, some interesting options arise that will make cross-chain interoperability more accessible.
Using a platform such as the Cosmos stack to support the stake proof, for example, offers the potential to make ZEC transportable across chains and to release innovations, since other developers and organizations can build on a known stack for Zcash.
By using a very trustworthy and used platform like Cosmos to lead Zcash to the proof-of-stake, we would immediately see the advantage of cross-chain interoperability with other projects participating in the platform.
Where we don’t focus dedicated efforts
We also explored other focus areas of interest to the community, but chose to exclude them from the ECC roadmap. That doesn’t mean the Zcash community should give it up. On the other hand! We trust that when there is a market need, others in the community will do much more than ECC can do on its own.
These areas include Zcash Shielded Assets (ZSAs), programmability, and scaling.
We spent a lot of time with ZSAs and published an accompanying post on our results. While there are exciting opportunities for ZSAs to exist, we believe that it is best for ECC to focus on the roadmap outlined here and support the complementary efforts of others in the community to bring ZSAs to life. The interoperability work that we are prioritizing can also be important to achieve widespread adoption of ZSA.
Programmability is another area of interest for ECC and others in the community. Although the potential is high, we believe that building interoperable bridges with other smart contracting platforms such as Agoric, Ethereum or Solana could be a better and faster way to realize its benefits.
We also spent time discussing scaling. Make no mistake, we will be devoting resources to scaling it up, but it will be something woven into the user-centric work rather than a separate and standalone effort.
Timetable by year
we have developed a high-level roadmap for the next three years. It’s aggressive but achievable, and requires separate but integrated workflows with key decision points along the way, including feature prioritization, platform and tool selection, and go-to-market plans.
The following workstreams and results are mapped by year. Workstreams include:
- User experience: What ECC wants to offer as a user-oriented goal
- protocol: What ECC wants to deliver within the Zcash protocol that supports the user experience
- Campaigns: Complementary go-to-market campaigns
- Geographies: Where ECC intends to spend more time on implementation and regulatory efforts