Zcash just keeps getting better and better. With every new upgrade, every new value pool, every new cryptographic breakthrough, Zcash becomes even more secure, more useful, and more special.
Summer of 2018, I was at a campground in the mountains of New Hampshire, and I found myself with other Zcashers, talking about the Sapling upgrade.
Sapling was a new value pool within Zcash that changed the way Zcash could be used. At that time, private Zcash was only done on PCs. There might have been one wallet. If you were brave, you did Zcash through the command line. Sapling was cool because it made zero knowledge proofs efficient enough for a phone, enabling mobile wallets, so anyone could carry a private bank in your pocket, anytime anywhere.
Fast forward to spring of 2022, and Zcash took another big step forward.
At block number 1,687,104, Zcash users agreed to the NU5 upgrade, a new standard for financial privacy, which included 1) a new proving system, 2) a new value pool, and 3) a new address type.
1. Halo2 — Zcash now uses a Halo proving system. This is upgraded cryptography — lighter and faster verifiable proofs without the need for a trusted setup. No longer do we need to trust a group of people didn’t collude or weren’t compromised at the creation of Zcash, because that old proving system has been replaced by Halo2.
2. Orchard Protocol — This sounds like a Mission Impossible movie, but it’s actually Zcash’s third shielded pool, after Sprout and Sapling. Orchard uses Pallas and Vesta curves for advanced scalability and privacy. These pasta curves have properties that are optimal for recursive proof systems, meaning maybe someday compression of the blockchain size.
3. Unified addresses — A unified address (UA) is a single future-proof address compatible across all Zcash value pools. When you send ZEC from a unified address, your address will remain shielded, even if the receiver only supports transparent addresses. You can also feel confident receiving to a UA, from any other Zcash source. No more worrying about if something is a shielded-only app or a transparent-only app. This makes Zcash easier to use.
If you’d like to try out this latest upgrade, several Zcash wallets support Halo, Orchard, and UAs.
If you get it set up, feel free to test it by sending a memo and let me know what you think of this article. My UA is u194pu6v02tq2qls07aavukzvjgzfur5n9cptp2z22l9zhrdrlv6xfhhtcch3nht37uht0g5hjfj5t470m9er8pt67xm8hrgrx9j8xmahcwgwmtaesjqgcvlk8yfz5rp73ngmz60sxsxxgv2aenfa58g6ggvr5j3upadqyn8gr5p92azkzggpj2gmn4z9sg9qked28l026pp476gfs85a