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Zcoin is a privacy-focused cryptocurrency project that was the first to implement ideas from the Zerocoin project whitepaper written by a group of academics in 2013. By using RSA encryption and zero-knowledge proofs, the project aims to allow users to remain anonymous when sending or receiving payments. Zerocoin was proposed as a way to avoid the pseudonymity in Bitcoin that allows transactions to be traced to a specific user and creates the potential for specific coins to become tied to illicit activity. The project competes directly with Zcash, which is based off a follow-up whitepaper from the same group that proposed Zerocoin. Though they both use zero-knowledge proofs, Zcoin believes that by using well-known RSA technology they can provide more security than the newer zK-SNARKs cryptography used in Zcash and create a more simple setup process compared to Zcash, which requires multiple human participants to generate pieces of the initial network keys from different geographic locations. Zcoin is a rebranding of the earlier Moneta project, which was created from a fork of Litecoin. Founders Poramin Insom and Gary Le launched Zcoin with backing from private investors including Roger Ver, Tim Lee, and Startup Chile, an accelerator run by the Chilean government. Le also helped fund the project with a grant he received through a Thiel Fellowship.
Zcoin is based on a fork of the Bitcoin Core codebase and uses Lyra2z as its mining proof-of-work algorithm making it mineable by GPUs and to a lesser extent, CPUs. The team plans to release a new mining algorithm based on Merkle tree proof of work (MTP) in the second quarter of 2018, after delaying this integration in 2017. MTP integration aims to create an efficient and decentralized CPU mining network. New blocks are created every ten minutes and the difficulty is adjusted every six blocks. In Dec. 2017, Zcoin initiated a hard-fork to allow for the addition of new non-mining nodes known as Znodes. These nodes are responsible for storing blockchain data which is necessary in the Zcoin network due to the relatively large amount of computational resources and storage needed to facilitate the cryptographic verification process. Nodes are required to stake 1,000 Zcoin (XZC) tokens as collateral and receive a portion of mining fees for their services. In an effort to ensure fair distribution of rewards nodes are shuffled in rank based on when they last received a block reward, with the most recent recipient moving to the bottom of the list. The next node to receive a reward is selected randomly from the top 10% of the list. Nodes must meet certain activity requirements based on the overall size of the network and the confirmations on the collateral transaction. There are currently more than 2,900 active Znodes in the network. Zcoin’s privacy is particularly focused on dissolving the ability to associate certain coins with distinct addresses from the past, thus eliminating traceable coin histories within the network. Using zero-knowledge proofs, users prove that they burned a specified amount of XZC without divulging which particular token within the network was destroyed. Upon XZC burn, a “Zerocoin” is minted by the user, which has no transactional history. When a coin is spent it appears the same as any new coin that had entered the network through a block reward. Unlike other privacy-focused cryptoassets, Zcoin has an auditable supply, due to the fact that the number of coins originally burnt are not hidden. While this can add transparency by allowing others to check that users are using a legitimate process to create new coins, it creates the ability for third parties to see addresses for large holders on the network.
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