What would a Zcash Proof-of-Stake transition appear like?


By Nathan Wilcox

ECC not too long ago shared our motivations for why we consider Zcash ought to transition from the present Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus protocol to a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) protocol.

A profitable transition would essentially require help from Zcash customers, a respectable governance course of, and a properly designed technical migration course of. This put up outlines what the technical migration course of may appear like on the prime stage.

Quick takeaways

If you don’t have time for the complete put up, listed below are some key particulars I’d wish to convey:

  • I’m pretty assured that switching to PoS wouldn’t require altering the Zcash issuance price or 21M cap.
  • A transition would in all probability take two or extra years, and the primary protocol modifications are unlikely to occur within the subsequent 12 months.
  • ECC is targeted on product-led improvement of a hybrid PoW-PoS protocol, previous to any attainable transfer to full PoS, with out disrupting our efforts on enhancing shielded cell UX, NU5 and Halo deployment, ZSAs, and different non-product efforts.

A phased transition

A possible migration may happen in levels ranging from the present PoW protocol, then introducing a brand new PoS part to enrich the PoW system in a hybrid protocol, after which lastly transitioning absolutely to pure PoS.

We are targeted on first transitioning to a hybrid protocol for a number of causes:

  • It can be decrease danger than a direct transition of the core consensus protocol as a result of it will retain many of the properties and ensures of PoW.
  • It would retain use case and infrastructure community impact, akin to miners, wallets, and different providers.
  • It would enable the brand new PoS part to be confirmed out first on mainnet earlier than counting on it solely.
  • It might enable modularizing and compartmentalizing the protocol and node implementations.
  • And it will observe the final phased method of Ethereum’s transition towards PoS, which the Zcash group may study from previous to committing to such an necessary transition.

ECC’s product method

For this transition to a hybrid consensus protocol, ECC’s first focus is on consumer and product analysis as a part of our user-focused product technique. That iterative course of will inform a set of fascinating properties of the protocol. After these are properly outlined and we’re assured within the product technique, we’ll set concerning the technical analysis and design of the protocol.

Some of our main product analysis questions on transition to a hybrid protocol are as follows:

  • How would the brand new consensus protocol influence present use circumstances and related customers, particularly shielded cell pockets utilization, PoW mining, change markets, {hardware} gadget help, and clear utilization?
  • While nonetheless nascent, the identical use case investigation will likely be wanted for a way this transition would work together with use circumstances launched with Zcash Shielded Asset (ZSA) help.
  • What new use circumstances may different hybrid protocol designs allow? The most blatant is a few form of PoS validation and delegated staking.
  • What dangers and alternatives would such a transition current round financial coverage, coin distribution, governance, group engagement, developer engagement, and broader mindshare, past particular use circumstances?
  • How may different approaches influence ZEC as a retailer of worth, a way of change, an inflation-hedge, a cost mechanism, and for different utility?
  • For all the above, how do the impacts differ throughout geography, cultures, and populations?

Drilling into the technical properties, we intend to research consumer wants across the following:

  • If the Zcash issuance price is preserved, what design constraints does this impose, and what are the impacts for ZODLers, transactors, miners, validators, and stake delegators?
  • What privateness and scalability wants will validators and stake delegators have?
  • How scalable can stake delegation be made, and the way properly can or not it’s supported in cell shielded wallets?
  • What dangers, prices, and advantages will totally different designs have for charges, scalability, light-client help, and privateness?
  • What alternatives and dangers would a transition to a consensus protocol with absolute finality convey?
  • Do any present consensus protocols meet our necessities, or do we’d like novel analysis, akin to round privateness or scalability?

Timeline

ECC is within the means of very early analysis on this transition. This form of transition is more likely to take a number of years, and in the meantime we’re targeted on nearer-term priorities, such because the profitable roll-out of NU5, which incorporates the brand new Halo ZK proving system, enhancing cell shielded pockets usability and adoption, and help for Zcash Shielded Assets.

In the absence of different priorities, if all Zcash builders have been solely targeted on this transition, my off-the-cuff, optimistic schedule estimate can be 2-6 months of analysis and design, adopted by at the very least two community upgrades. This would put the near-term certain on hybrid deployment about 18 months out. Once we incorporate all present priorities, akin to ZSA help, it’s doubtless any transition can be pushed out to the 2-year mark or later.

This would offer ample time for the Zcash group to debate and digest ECC’s work on this transition, in addition to time to look at Ethereum’s transition, interact with product distributors for brand spanking new use circumstances (instance: validators), and for ECC to develop our personal merchandise in tandem with protocol improvement.

Next Steps

As we’ve described, our subsequent step on this venture is targeted on product analysis, particularly of present and potential new use circumstances. If you’re a consumer with perception into these circumstances, all of Zcash can profit from sharing wants, considerations, and necessities. We’re fascinated about listening to from miners and pockets builders, particularly with expertise of hybrid PoW-PoS consensus programs. We’re additionally to listen to from validators and protocol builders from a number of PoS or hybrid PoW-PoS networks to realize a comparative perspective and listen to what their wishlist for a brand new protocol may appear like.

Come be part of Zcash group improvement calls listed on the ECC Events Calendar, be part of the Zcash R&D Discord, or contact the ECC product workforce straight by emailing [email protected]. We look ahead to collaborating with you!

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