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zooko
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I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:07 am

Hi! My name is Zooko. I've been privileged to spend almost all of my adult life working on the things that I love and care about: technology that protects and empowers people.

At age 19, I joined the cypherpunks mailing list. At age 21, I went to work at DigiCash under David Chaum. Next I contributed a little bit to PGP (not much — just helped port it to HP-UX), worked under Eric Hughes, where I met Bram Cohen, then Bram and I were two of the four engineers who built Mojo Nation. I co-invented ZRTP with Phil Zimmermann, then I co-invented Tahoe-LAFS with Brian Warner. More recently I've been a co-author on BLAKE2 and SPHINCS (the most well-known of my co-authors on that one is Daniel J. Bernstein). At some point in my journey Aaron Swartz, Mark S. Miller, and I came up with an idea that Mark Miller named “Zooko's Triangle”.

(If nothing in that paragraph makes sense to you, don't worry about it.)

Today I'm the CEO of the Zcash Company. We just announced Zcash (formerly known as Zerocash and Zerocoin), and released the "alpha" technology preview code for other developers to start learning it, contributing to it, and building on top of it. Here's my initial blog post about what Zcash is and why we're creating it: https://z.cash/blog/helloworld.html

We've received tremendous support from the community, for which I am deeply grateful. Here are some quotes from members of the community affirming that they too believe that privacy is important and that we have a chance to do something about it: https://z.cash/buzz.html

There has been some mostly positive and mostly accurate press coverage of it. Here are a couple of my favorite pieces in the press:

* “Zcash, an Untraceable Bitcoin Alternative, Launches in Alpha” by Andy Greenberg (Wired)
* “Zcash, a Privacy-Focused Alternative to Bitcoin, Launches Technology Preview” by Giulio Prisco (Bitcoin Magazine)

I will start at 19:00 UTC this Monday, Feb 1, trying to answer every question to the best of my ability. I look forward to meeting you and talking about Zcash. Please bring all your questions!

(I'll have only three hours at that time — I have to do something else at 22:00 UTC — but I can circle back and try to answer any lingering questions later.)

UPDATE: I just posted a blog post describing the corporate structure and funding model: https://z.cash/blog/funding.html
Last edited by zooko on Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:57 am

Has there been any research into doing zcash pegged 1:1with bitcoin to avoid having to compete with bitcoin's liquidity and allow both technologies to grow together?

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:05 am

Hi Zooko, thanks for doing this AMA! I'm a long time fan and appreciate you coming and answering questions here.

To my question, can you explain at a high level or in laymen terms what makes zcash more anonymous or untraceable than bitcoin? What properties does it have and how is it able to achieve anonymity?

Feel free to get technical too also, if you want to explain it better that way.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 11:26 am

What did you learn from Bitcoin?

Can Zcash remain decentralized?

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:49 pm

Will there be ICO? If so - whats planned to raise in it?
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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 4:26 pm

How soon could we be able to buy zcash?

Are there any nodes running zcash core? Is there only a testnet or also a mainnet? Node count? Blockchain explorer? Binaries? Will you be doing a branch off of 0.12.0 as well?

Thoughts on zcash as a sidechain in the future?

What could I (or other people interested in helping) do to help zcash? Serious question. I am interested in helping.

How does the zcash community best communicate? What forums/channels? Is there a slack channel we can join?

Will you be speaking at any upcoming events? Are there any dates we should put on our calendar?

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 4:36 pm

I've wondered this for a long time:
You were in the cypherpunks group, involved in digicash, mojo nation (we tallked then btw), then involved with other stuff.
Then the digital cash dream appeared in 2009. Why weren't you entranced and immediately sucked in? :)
Very few of the original cypherpunks seem to have entered the space and that surprises me.
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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 4:46 pm

Hey Zooko,

1: Zooko is rare name. Where does it come from? :)

2. How many Zerocoin will be distributed?

3. Can you give us some details about mining-algo and so?



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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 5:51 pm

Hello Zooko,

I'm interested in reading your goals and motivations for taking on anonymity in general or anonymous digital cash specifically as your priority project?

Haven't you seen the new laws coming (eventually in all Five Eyes countries I've heard from reliable sources) that will ban end-to-end encryption?

To that end do you expect to support a viewkey or other way that users individually or a global backdoor, so that Zcash can be compliant with the lurch towards a 666 NWO which seems to be rapidly taking form now (and I assert will accelerate with the full global contagion sovereign debt collapse 2017 -2020)?

I am all for the ideology, but I am also pragmatic. We as society may have to fight with social networking and the political-economic revolution of a DIY economy, e.g. self-publishing, 3D printing, etc.. I have been looking at the concept of a decentralized social network. Any comments?

Sincerely,
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Edit: please be aware of a rebuttal by ArticMine (afaik is a Monero/Cryptonote developer) to my question about a possible ban on end-to-end encryption, also note the desire for an answer concerning registration with FinCEN for your plans to fund your corporation or foundation with an 11% royalty on currency emission (creation). Note I also mentioned that FinCEN issue in the "Fundamental challenges?" thread at the zcash forum. I have suggested you consider doing an ICO instead, and I think it would be wildly successful. IANAL so please do consult your own counsel, yet I will will make you aware of a thread of discussion I launched about whether crypto currencies are illegal unregistered investment securities under the Supreme Court "Howey test" in the USA. It seems likely that ICOs are illegal if openly offered to unsophisticated USA investors unless the ICO is registered with the SEC. The "Howey test" seems to be misconstrued by most interpretations and the Supreme Court explicitly stated that no obfuscation of the economic facts would diminish the efficacy of the intent of the securities law protection. Also there is some discussion about the interpretation of the FinCEN guidance which is an orthogonal issue to SEC regulations. The EU may have other regulations as well.

Edit#2: Zooko if you have time, please read this single forum post of mine. It should be self-explanatory.
Last edited by shelby3 on Mon Feb 01, 2016 4:04 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Sun Jan 31, 2016 6:13 pm

Hi Zooko,

1. When do you propose the full launch of zcash will be?
2. Will there be a genesis block available pre-launch to the public?
3. Where do we buy zcash from?
4. Which exchanges will zcash be available?
5. Is there a hard limit to the amount of coins produced for zcash?

thanks for your interesting project
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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:50 am

Good morning from Southeast Asia.

I would like to ask what are the options left available for a bitcoin user who doesn't use a smartphone and sticks to older generation 2G type basic phones without cameras and internet Wi-Fi for QR codes (for personal reasons like budget, wants to avoid the stronger wifi radiation or doesn't want to become a smartphone addict) and his wallet is limited to his desktop PC.

Thanks.
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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 2:35 pm

Hey there,

I was wondering, aren't you afraid Zcash launching as a for-profit company, they (governments) will try to shut you down. Even if the company is in no way related to users activity on the Zcash blockchain, you know if they decide they don't like you, they'll pass a law or whatever, they have all power.

Thanks

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 6:24 pm

What's the current status of the trusted setup necessary to boot the thing? Have your crypto wizards come up with some secure multiparty computation scheme or are we just going to have to trust you? Or is it going to be an unedited video where someone goes and buys a computer for cash at bestbuy and then a committee of people take turns punching keys....
Also curious about the FinCEN concerns and mining algos but I'm sure you'll get to those.
Thanks!

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:10 pm

Hey zooko,

* I'd love to see a simpler example of ZK-proofs to get the idea.
I don't understand how they protect from double spending right now.

* How far are you from choosing your Proof-of-* scheme?
I heard your team is quite fond of what Etherum is doing.

Thanks for this AMA!
Henry

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 7:59 pm

Premines are usually not seen in the brightest light. The issuance model in my opinion is very important and to think 10% of a new currency will automatically be dived up seems ludicrous. This was one of the biggest problems when people get into ethereum. It seems like you're dead set on a premine because of your investors. Have any thoughts to at the very least since you are set on a premine to set aside some small percentage of rewards in the way CLAM did for bitcoin users?

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:04 pm

How is anyone forbidden to fork and issue competitive zcash without builtin mining for Zcash?
Why are you putting yourself in a position of a trusted third party?

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:07 pm

Has there been any research into doing zcash pegged 1:1with bitcoin to avoid having to compete with bitcoin's liquidity and allow both technologies to grow together?
We investigated that pretty thoroughly, for a couple of months after the sidechains paper came out. We ultimately decided not to go ahead with it, because sidechains aren't here yet! Bitcoin is currently incapable of accepting inbound transfers of value from a sidechain.

I definitely think of Bitcoin and Zcash as more cooperative than competitive. In the medium-to-distant future we might integrate with each other by techniques like sidechains or embedded-consensus. In the short-term Atomic Cross Chain Swaps are already possible, and that's the chain-linking technology that I'm most excited about because it is already here.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:20 pm

To my question, can you explain at a high level or in laymen terms what makes zcash more anonymous or untraceable than bitcoin? What properties does it have and how is it able to achieve anonymity?
The high-level answer is like this:

Bitcoin is a global, shared, append-only ledger, right? And so is Zcash. The entries that get appended to that ledger — the transactions — basically say "From Address", "To Address", and "Amount Transferred". The difference between Bitcoin and Zcash is that in Zcash those three values are encrypted, so that they aren't publicly readable by default.

(The person who made a transaction could still make it be publicly readable, by publishing the decryption key, or could share the decryption key with selected parties to make it readable to them without making it readable to the world. That's what we call "selective transparency".)

So far so good.

Now the cryptographically challenging part is: how do we enable the miners and full-nodes to reject invalid transactions? This is where the zero-knowledge proofs come in. With zero-knowledge proofs, the creator of a transaction can include a proof that the transaction is valid (i.e. isn't a double-spend) without revealing anything about the encrypted "From Address", "To Address", or "Amount Transferred".
Last edited by zooko on Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

zooko
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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:22 pm

What did you learn from Bitcoin?
So much. Bitcoin was and is a revelation. We've all learned so much from Bitcoin, both about what we formerly thought was technically impossible, and about what people value and care about.
Can Zcash remain decentralized?
I sure hope so! We're engineering it for that! But, like Bitcoin, Zcash is an experiment in making something new that never existed before, and we can't know what the results of an experiment will be before we do it.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:23 pm

Will there be ICO? If so - whats planned to raise in it?
After you posted that question, but before the AMA began, I posted this new blog post about it: https://z.cash/blog/funding.html

There will not be a crowd-sale or "initial coin offering".

Let me know if that blog post answers your questions.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:28 pm

Has there been any research into doing zcash pegged 1:1with bitcoin to avoid having to compete with bitcoin's liquidity and allow both technologies to grow together?
We investigated that pretty thoroughly, for a couple of months after the sidechains paper came out. We ultimately decided not to go ahead with it, because sidechains aren't here yet! Bitcoin is currently incapable of accepting inbound transfers of value from a sidechain.

I definitely think of Bitcoin and Zcash as more cooperative than competitive. In the medium-to-distant future we might integrate with each other by techniques like sidechains or embedded-consensus. In the short-term Atomic Cross Chain Swaps are already possible, and that's the chain-linking technology that I'm most excited about because it is already here.
I am afraid you have not understood the horrific technical implications of sidechains. I believe you do not yet understand well block chain consensus issues. I may be mistaken about what you do and don't know, but based on that you didn't admit that sidechains are fundamentally flawed, then this is troublesome. I am not trolling you. Smooth and I and others at Bitcointalk.org have analyzed this issue.

I originally applauded sidechains until I understood all the technical implications that revolve around chain reorganizations.
Last edited by shelby3 on Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

zooko
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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:30 pm

Hi there! You asked a lot of questions. Good ones. ☺
How soon could we be able to buy zcash?
We're focused on launching the live, permanent, secure Zcash blockchain as soon as possible. There is a ton of engineering work left to do — security and privacy hardening and auditing, performance tuning, RPC API improvements, etc. etc. I currently estimate that the real, permanent genesis block will be live in July of this year.
Are there any nodes running zcash core? Is there only a testnet or also a mainnet? Node count? Blockchain explorer? Binaries? Will you be doing a branch off of 0.12.0 as well?
Testnet only: https://github.com/Electric-Coin-Compan ... i-get-some
Thoughts on zcash as a sidechain in the future?
Please see my earlier reply in this thread. Maybe Zcash and Bitcoin can grow into each other in the future.
What could I (or other people interested in helping) do to help zcash? Serious question. I am interested in helping.
Yay! Thank you! First of all I'd ask you to join our community, educate others, facilitate constructive and friendly conversation. Second, start figuring out how to integrate Zcash into your business, products that you use or would want to use, etc., and communicate to us and to the rest of the community what would be required to make that work.
How does the zcash community best communicate? What forums/channels? Is there a slack channel we can join?
There's a forum: https://forum.bitcoin.com/

UPDATE: Whoops, that's the wrong link. I meant https://forum.z.cash. (Although https://forum.bitcoin.com is cool too. ;-)) Thanks to Sean Bowe for pointing this error out to me.

Let me know if you think we should do something different.
Will you be speaking at any upcoming events? Are there any dates we should put on our calendar?
Good question! I'm scheduled to speak at Consensus 2016: http://www.coindesk.com/events/consensus-2016/

Where *should* I be speaking to reach the most people who care the most about privacy and security in an open and permissionless financial system?

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:44 pm

I've wondered this for a long time:
You were in the cypherpunks group, involved in digicash, mojo nation (we tallked then btw), then involved with other stuff.
Then the digital cash dream appeared in 2009. Why weren't you entranced and immediately sucked in? :)
Very few of the original cypherpunks seem to have entered the space and that surprises me.
I love this question. ☺ I was entranced and sucked in by Bitcoin pretty early. A post about it on my blog is probably one of the earliest posts about Bitcoin: https://web.archive.org/web/20090426214 ... oney%5D%5D

I used Bitcoin a lot, wrote a few blog posts analyzing parts of the Bitcoin ecosystem, contributed a little bit to development (for example I looked for security issues in the code and privately reported a security issue), chit-chatted on bitcointalk.org and #bitcoin-wizards IRC channel, and I immediately started fantasizing about what else might be possible now that we saw how Bitcoin was possible.

The reasons I didn't launch a major initiative of my own before Zcash are two-fold:

1. I was busy building and supporting Tahoe-LAFS (https://tahoe-lafs.org and https://LeastAuthority.com).

2. The Zerocash protocol wasn't invented yet. Once I saw that (invented by our Science Team), I thought: Now this is important enough to be worth committing years of my life to.
Last edited by zooko on Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:45 pm

Where *should* I be speaking to reach the most people who care the most about privacy and security in an open and permissionless financial system?
http://freedomfest.com/

Also "Let's Talk Bitcoin".

If you want to target Bitcointalk.org's investors, then perhaps you ought to be arranging a discussion with me since my viewpoint on anonymity coins is respected there. I am reasonably impartial since I am not an investor nor developer of any of the anonymous coins, nor even an altcoin developer on a released coin.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:57 pm

UPDATE: I just posted a blog post describing the corporate structure and funding model: https://z.cash/blog/funding.html
It is quite unfortunate to read you've only raised $1 million in exchange for 11% of the coin supply. Ethereum raised several $millions and with my endorsement surely you could have raised well in excess of $1million for 10% of the coin supply in an ICO where the coins would be more widely and fairly distributed amongst many speculators who then promote your coin for free!

And you would have avoided the FinCEN regulations that apparently will require all miners to register as MSBs because you are requiring the miners to transfer value to your foundation or corporation. Readers note IANAL so consult your own attorney.

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 8:59 pm

1: Zooko is rare name. Where does it come from? :)
I was on the cypherpunks mailing list, where we were inventing all kinds of ideas about how pseudonymity could protect people from the threat of coercion while still preserving reputation and accountability. I decided I'd try it out — practice what I preach — so I made up a completely arbitrary string "Zooko", chosen to be unique so that could kibo for it, and to be easy to pronounce.

As soon as I started posting under that new pseudonym, I was insta-doxed by Adam Back, who wrote something like "Hey we haven't heard from Bryce in a couple of weeks, and now there's this new 'Zooko' person who writes just like Bryce did.".

But the next thing that I learned is that pseudonyms are sticky, because I started gaining positive reputation under that name so I couldn't bear to stop using it. Now everyone calls me that all the time.

(Turns out I was totally wrong about it being easy to pronounce.)
2. How many Zerocoin will be distributed?
21 million! See the blog post I just posted this morning: https://z.cash/blog/funding.html
3. Can you give us some details about mining-algo and so?
In the current testnet it is unchanged from Bitcoin, but we plan to change it before launching the real blockchain. I'm planning to choose a memory-oriented Proof-of-Work, and a RAM-oriented one instead of GPU-oriented one, if we can find one that fits into all of our security and engineering requirements.

A delightful idea would be to make it possible for cell-phones to be miners, so that a billion people all around the globe would have an equal ability to run a miner. There are a lot of reasons that might prove impossible, but it is worth thinking about!

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:15 pm

Hello shelby3! Thanks for the questions.
I'm interested in reading your goals and motivations for taking on anonymity in general or anonymous digital cash specifically as your priority project?
I care deeply about personal privacy, personal and organizational security, and about the decentralization and sharing of power.

At this critical stage of human history we need a permissive environment where we can perform many experiments and make different kinds of mistakes, and fortunately we have that, in the Internet. The Internet has enabled many wonderful experiments. Bitcoin is one of the most wonderful of them. Zcash is another.

I wrote more about this on my introductory blog post for the Zcash project: https://z.cash/blog/helloworld.html
Haven't you seen the new laws coming (eventually in all Five Eyes countries I've heard from reliable sources) that will ban end-to-end encryption?
Yes, I have. I have followed that kind of development pretty closely for a long time. Since the original "Crypto Wars" in the 1990's, in fact.
To that end do you expect to support a viewkey or other way that users individually or a global backdoor, so that Zcash can be compliant…
In Zcash, the creator of each individual transaction gets complete control over who can view the contents of the transaction. This is accomplished by each transaction being individually encrypted by an encryption key known only to the creator and the recipient.

There is no other mechanism by which any party can gain the ability to view the contents of transactions other than getting the decryption key from the creator or the recipient of the transaction, or from someone else who has previously received the decryption key. This is a simple, implementable, secure, and understandable mechanism for controlling who can see what. We call it "selective transparency".

Does that answer your question?

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:21 pm

Hello, Atzek_btc. Thank you for your questions!
1. When do you propose the full launch of zcash will be?
As you probably know, it is damned hard to predict how long it takes to finish software engineering work. It is, if anything, even harder with security and privacy engineering than with anything else. So, I'm probably wrong, but I think we'll have the real permanent blockchain ready to launch in July of this year.
2. Will there be a genesis block available pre-launch to the public?
There is currently no way for the public to acquire Zcash before the launch. See also: https://z.cash/blog/funding.html
3. Where do we buy zcash from?
4. Which exchanges will zcash be available?
I don't know yet. Write to your favorite exchange and ask them to support Zcash. ☺ And tell me what they say.
5. Is there a hard limit to the amount of coins produced for zcash?
Yes, there will be exactly 21 million Zcash: https://z.cash/blog/funding.html

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Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:25 pm

Good morning from Southeast Asia.
Hello! Pleased to meet you, SOF. What country do you live in?
I would like to ask what are the options left available for a bitcoin user who doesn't use a smartphone and sticks to older generation 2G type basic phones without cameras and internet Wi-Fi for QR codes (for personal reasons like budget, wants to avoid the stronger wifi radiation or doesn't want to become a smartphone addict) and his wallet is limited to his desktop PC.
This seems to be a question about Bitcoin, rather than about my project, Zcash, but nonetheless I'm very interested to hear about it. In principle, it would be possible for you to run a full node on your desktop, and to use your basic phone to communicate with your desktop in order to learn about incoming payments and initiate outgoing payments.

But, that's just in principle — I don't know what kinds of products are actually available that would allow you to do that.

loonix
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:28 pm

Re: I'm Zooko Wilcox, CEO of the Zcash Company. Ask me anything!

Mon Feb 01, 2016 9:33 pm

Hi Zooko

So there is a large following of Monero(XMR) at the moment with respect to digital private currency with a lot of research and publications backing the initial well received CryptoNote whitepaper. It has the added benefit of being a completely different codebase than Bitcoin and also uses adaptive blocksizes (one of the core Bitcoin issues) and an elegant emission that will also ensure network security after a majority of coins have been mined.

Does Zcash enhance any of the offerings via Monero? How does Blocksize come into the picture and what about transaction fees and mining incentives post emission of majority of coins.

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