For those who don’t know, Zcash is a privacy focused cryptocurrency, much like Monero. Zcash has been designed to use strong scientific protocol to ensure enhanced security and enhanced privacy. By protecting privacy and ensuring security, Zcash is considered one of the truly secure cryptocurrencies. If we take Bitcoin as an example, Bitcoin transactions are publicly visible, though transactions are somewhat anonymised, these transactions can be traced. With a simple analysis, users of the Bitcoin blockchain can then be identified. With Zcash however, transactions are publicly visible, however though using intelligent algorithms, transaction data is kept totally confidential. According to the Zcash website: Shielded Zcash transactions are completely private.
"Like Bitcoin, Zcash transaction data is posted to a public blockchain; but unlike Bitcoin, Zcash ensures your personal and transaction data remain completely confidential. Zero-knowledge proofs allow transactions to be verified without revealing the sender, receiver or transaction amount. Selective disclosure features within Zcash allow a user to share some transaction details, for purposes of compliance or audit. Zcash also allows for transparent transactions, to accommodate for wallets and exchanges that don’t support private transactions.”
This is composed by a number of z-addresses and t-addresses, masked addresses that are encrypted by the Zcash network:
“A Z-to-Z transaction appears on the public blockchain, so it is known to have occured and that the fees were paid. But the addresses, transaction amount and the memo field are all encrypted and not publicly visible. Using encryption on a blockchain is only possible through the use of zero-knowledge proofs. More information on these proofs and Zcash’s implementation of zk-SNARKs is available. The owner of an address may choose to disclose z-address and transaction details with trusted third parties — think auditory and compliance needs — through the use of view keys and payment disclosure. Transactions between two transparent addresses (t-addresses) work just like Bitcoin: The sender, receiver and transaction value are publicly visible. While many wallets and exchanges exclusively use t-addresseses today, many are moving to shielded addresses to better protect user privacy.”
If this is all getting a bit complicated for you - basically, Zcash is very private, and very secure. This is great for users of the currency, but is not good for those authorities that are trying to make cryptocurrency less private. Zcash Sapling announcement As stated, the latest announcement from Zcash comes with the launch of the Zcash Sapling Network, a new ultra secure protocol that now uses shielded addresses, improving the performance of the Zcash network massively. According to the official Zcash announcement:
“We’re happy to announce that the Zcash Sapling network upgrade activated today at block height 419200. Sapling introduces new shielded addresses with significantly improved performance: a time reduction of 90% for constructing transactions, and a memory reduction of over 97%. Sapling activation, occurring on the momentous occasion of the currency’s second birthday, brings us one step closer to widespread adoption of an open, permissionless and private payment system. Immediately upon activation, zcashd users were enabled with Sapling addresses. The ecosystem will need time to integrate the new addresses as demand permits. Meanwhile, the Sapling upgrade brings other tangible benefits to users, such as parameters generated by an improved ceremony and the BLS12-381 curve, which benefits all shielded address users.”
The introduction of shielded addresses has been implemented to give everyone better access to a more private and more secure decentralised network. ZCash want to empower everybody, giving them access to a secure network that doesn’t mean they have to compromise their security or the integrity of their data:
“Making shielded addresses ubiquitous is at the heart of our mission. ‘Empowering everyone’ is more than just words to our team. In fact, it is the light that guides our sense of purpose and direction as we continue to innovate, create and experiment. We look forward to future milestones, outlined in our operational roadmap, that showcase how privacy is a pathway to economic freedom and opportunity.”
We should mention that with the roll of of Zcash Sapling, there are a few issues with the masking of values of transactions, though this is something that Zcash are currently addressing, in short, as it stands, transactions on the network are masked, but the value of the transactions for now, are not:
“Currently, funds cannot be transferred from legacy shielded addresses to the new Sapling shielded addresses without revealing amounts. This allows us to audit the monetary base of ZEC held in shielded addresses. We are developing a tool to automate the migration of funds in a way that allows users to minimize the impact on their privacy. We recommend that users wait for the release of this tool, if feasible.”
It’s a very exciting time for Zcash and a very exciting time to be a part of the Zcash network. Privacy coin cause headaches for the authorities, but for us, the people and the crypto-community, it does seem as if they have our best interests at heart.