When I left my prestigious job as General Counsel of a large VC-backed software development company to join a relatively small blockchain project named Horizen (formerly ZenCash), my friends and family couldn’t get it. They didn’t understand why I would give up a good, stable, position for something unknown and seemingly risky.
To give you a little background, Horizen is a fork of a fork of a fork from Bitcoin (like cousins twice removed). At its core, Horizen uses the same open-source blockchain protocol as Bitcoin. It’s a proof of work consensus algorithm that rewards miners for verifying transactions, forming new blocks and securing the network.
Horizen’s native coin, Zen, is used to power the Horizen blockchain. Zen is currently ranked as the 75th largest cryptocurrency, with a market cap of approximately $90M. It’s available on most of the larger crypto exchanges, including Binance, Bittrex and OKEx, under the ticker symbol ZEN.
For me, joining the Horizen project was a no-brainer. It is the world’s most exciting blockchain project right now, and there are at least 7 key reasons why.
1. Privacy via Cutting-Edge Cryptography
In addition to using Bitcoin’s core protocol, Horizen uses ZK snark cryptography for additional privacy. This cryptography standard was first integrated into Bitcoin’s protocol by Zcash, an open-source project that Horizen collaborates with frequently.
The benefit of adding ZK snark cryptography to Horizen’s blockchain protocol is that it supports “shielded transactions.” This means that it is possible to send Zen from User A to User B without disclosing the sender, recipient or transaction amount to the world.
Whereas Bitcoin only provides pseudo anonymity, Horizen can provide total anonymity. Because of this feature, Horizen is considered a leading privacy project, with Zen one of the world’s leading privacy coins.
2. Responsible Privacy
Although Horizen believes that everyone has the right to privacy, it also believes that exercising this right is optional and that users should be able to choose when and where to do so. That’s why Horizen offers its users a range of privacy options.
While users can choose complete privacy, they can also choose to share their information with specific users or for specific purposes. For example, with Zen you could allow a lender to see your financial information for a mortgage. Some users even let their transaction histories be public, which is how major exchanges send and receive Zen.
3. Treasury DAO
Horizen has a unique governance model that ensures the project’s sustainability and encourages greater involvement from its community. Unlike some projects that rely on voluntary contributions from developers and others, Horizen uses its treasury funds to hire the team needed to build and maintain the platform. It is the existence of this treasury that allows the project to have such a robust and exciting product roadmap, as well as hire top notch team members.
But consistent with its desire to be a community-driven project, Horizen is in the process of implementing a Treasury DAO to determine how those treasury funds are spent. This means that Horizen will allow all Zen holders to vote on-chain on which proposals should be approved and funded.
This on-chain liquid democracy voting protocol is cutting-edge technology and the result of significant R&D investment. The protocol was developed in conjunction with IOHK, the world’s leading blockchain R&D firm, which happens to be led by Charles Hoskinson one of Horizen’s original advisors.
By implementing a Treasury DAO, Horizen’s governance model aims to appeal to a broad voting base under the motto “One Coin, One Vote.” To encourage greater voter participation, Zen holders will also be paid to vote.
This is a revolutionary governance model that has no existing parallels in the “real world”. If it succeeds, just imagine how this model could be applied to other areas, such as the political arena.
4. Tokenomics: A New Block Reward Split
On top of its governance structure, Horizen also has a unique token-based economic system, sometimes referred to as “Tokenomics”. Tokenomics is the concept of creating incentives for stakeholders through the blockchain to encourage their participation in a project. Every project has these incentives, whether intentional or not.
Whereas Bitcoin gives 100% of its block reward to its miners, the Horizen team has created a more distributed incentive program to incentivize a wider variety of stakeholders. Thus, in Horizen the block reward is split between miners (70%), Secure Node operators (10%), Super Node operators (10%) and the Treasury (10%).
This ensures that all of Horizen’s major stakeholders are financially incentivized to participate in the platform, which helps to create a more sustainable ecosystem.
5. World’s Largest Node Network
Thanks to the economic incentives given for Secure Node and Super Node operators, Horizen has the most nodes of any blockchain network. More than 20,000 of them which is significantly higher than even the biggest players in the space, including Bitcoin and Ethereum.
This is important because nodes are needed to validate transactions. The more nodes a blockchain platform has distributed across a widespread and decentralized network the more secure and resilient it is to attack. So in sum, more nodes spread all over the world means more stability.
Clearly with the right financial incentives, more individuals are willing to dedicate time and computing resources to running nodes. And by having so many nodes, Horizen has established one of the most secure, distributed and resilient networks in the world.
6. BlockDAG and Side Chain Protocol
We’ve all heard stories about long blockchain confirmation times and how blockchain pales in comparison to the Visa or Mastercard network in terms of the number of transactions that can be processed per second. While a 10-minute confirmation time might be fine for most transactions, it definitely doesn’t work when buying a coffee at Starbucks.
To fix this problem, Horizen turned (once again) to its partner IOHK. With IOHK’s assistance, Horizen is building a revolutionary blockDAG (directed acyclic graph) and side chain network that will drastically increase Horizen’s scalability. This means a huge number of transactions will be processed in near instantaneous manner, making Zen appropriate for every sort of purchase. Even a coffee at Starbucks.
Moreover, Horizen’s side chain infrastructure will support decentralized applications and smart contracts. In layman’s terms, this means third party applications will run on Horizen’s network, creating a huge Horizen ecosystem, much like that on Ethereum. Horizen is already in conversations with a number of enterprises that want to build applications on Horizen’s side chains. These include projects focused on the transfer of secure and protected data, like credit card information or protected health information.
7. Radical Usability
Unlike most blockchain projects that are built by engineers for engineers, Horizen understands that widespread user adoption will not happen until blockchain products and services are consumer grade.
That’s why Horizen is focusing its resources to build user friendly products and services. To quote CEO Rob Viglione, “If our users have to understand what a directed acyclic graph is to use our products we’ve failed.” So expect lots of cool products and services to launch on the Horizen network. Products you won’t even know are running on a blockchain.
Hopefully, by now you can see how exciting the prospects are for Horizen. There’s a reason why this project has the world’s most passionate community. If you’ve ever gone to a blockchain conference, Horizen fans are everywhere!
I didn’t realize how passionate the community was until I attended Consensus 2018 in New York. Everywhere I went I was stopped by strangers and told “I’m a huge Horizen fan!” Or “Horizen is my favorite project!” It was surreal. I’ve been legal counsel to a number of very interesting software development companies, but none had a community that was this strong or this committed.
Like most of Horizen’s community members, once I was exposed to the project I was hooked. Decentralization. Resiliency. Personal freedom. Liquid on-chain democracy. These aren’t just buzzwords at Horizen. They represent Satoshi’s original vision for blockchain and they are being brought to life through Horizen.