The announcement that Gavin Wood and Jutta Steiner’s company is building an alternative client for Zcash comes on Day 0 of Devcon.
Parity Technologies will be working with the Zcash Foundation to create independent Zcash node software.
Announced today, October 30, 2018, the technical partnership appears to stem from the success of Zcash as a privacy-oriented protocol and its successful implementation of zero knowledge proofs. The release confirms an overriding goal for Parity and Zcash: “Both organizations understand the importance of robust financial privacy, and believe that a cryptocurrency built around zero-knowledge proofs can help secure that fundamental freedom.”
Parity Technologies will be contributing “significant resources” to the project, which it hopes will be a “bridge” on Parity’s primary new blockchain project, Polkadot, when Polkadot launches in 2019.
Polkadot is Parity’s solution for blockchain interoperability, something which must be achieved for blockchains to serve as a global underlying technology. Features of Zcash may prove useful in Polkadot’s build. Parity CTO Fredrik Harrysson says the partnership will familiarize Parity’s engineers with “zero-knowledge cryptography.”
The Zcash Foundation, which serves the Zcash community but is separate from Zooko Wilcox’s Zerocoin Electric Coin Company (Zcash Company), will also add its own engineers to the project, potentially hiring new talent. Once the new node has been created under Parity, it will transfer to the Zcash Foundation. Zcash users will in the future be able to use whichever original or new Zcash protocols they choose to. Zcash Foundation Executive Director Josh Cincinnati said:
“An independent node implementation provides more options for Zcash miners and users, which promotes healthy decentralization of the cryptocurrency protocol as it matures.”
Harrysson says the technical collaboration will bolster cryptocurrency “as a tool for financial privacy.” Cincinnati backs the sentiment, declaring, “Technologies that prioritize privacy allow all people to transact without fear of censorship or reprisal.”
For Zcash users, the existence of a second, compatible client increases security and protects if one node has a bug. In September 2018, a bug was discovered in Bitcoin Core, yet a week after an update was released some nodes were still running old software. Without an alert system, node operators were relied upon to discover the update’s existence themselves and upgrade. A high proportion of Bitcoin Core was left vulnerable to attack, something that multiple, compatible clients could address by providing alternatives.
Multiple implementations, as well as giving choice to users, also allows more choices for developers if different programming languages are used. The new Zcash protocol will use Parity Bitcoin as a starting point, and the Rust programming language. Again, this will go toward Parity’s long-term goals of creating interoperability between blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The new software will also improve decentralization for Zcash by leveraging the governance leadership style of the Zcash Foundation. Both existing and new protocols will be similar in creation, at least to begin with. Zcash Foundation and Zcash Company will also need to agree on adding or taking away features in the future. Zcash founder Wilcox is supportive of decentralization. When he announced the formation of the Zcash Foundation, Wilcox wrote of Zcash Company: “It would not be appropriate for a single for-profit company to have this much power over the evolution of the Zcash technology.”
Zcash technology is envied in the space, particularly it seems by Ethereum developers. Parity Technologies is Ethereum-based and founded by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood. Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has also been known to praise Zcash’s work, especially with usable zero-knowledge proofs.