Nov 7, 2019 at 15:15 UTC feature
Electric Coin Company (ECC), the firm led by zcash creator Zooko Wilcox, officially shared the zcash trademark with the Zcash Foundation (ZF) on Wednesday.
Sources with knowledge of the trademark negotiations told CoinDesk talks were more complicated than either party originally expected, especially with regards to the mutual ability to veto trademark usage.
And while the branding issue may seem trivial to some observers, the process took months – becoming a bellwether of the privacy coin’s decentralized aspirations.
“It’s a novel agreement, for which there appears to be no precedent,” ECC announced Thursday , highlighting one provision in particular:
“No party has independent authority to declare that a specific chain of Zcash can actually be called Zcash. There must be agreement from both parties, and neither party can unilaterally override the will of the community.”
Wilcox told CoinDesk last week the zcash trademark negotiations were emotionally painful. He likened it to watching a baby bird leave the nest.
“As a person, I am devoted to zcash and can never stop working for zcash and all that it means for humanity,” he said. “As the ECC, of course, we can only work for the community if they hire us to do so.”
Since his startup spearheaded the launch of this privacy coin in 2016 , Wilcox has been the de facto public face of the cryptocurrency. To him, the trademark agreement is a sign of the project “rapidly moving to a status where I don’t have the power to make something happen or stop it from happening.”
However, it’s hard to imagine what the nonprofit would look like completely separated from ECC, since zcash founders are now its main source of funding.
Wilcox personally became wealthy from the zcash founders’ reward, which delegates a portion of newly mined coins to the founding team. Along with other co-founders, Wilcox donated to the independent Zcash Foundation , as a type of checks-and-balances entity apart from the for-profit startup ECC. Several academically minded zcash co-founders, such as Andrew Miller , became foundation board members.
“I’ve pledged half of all the money I expect to see in the world to fund the foundation,” Wilcox said.
Yet even with the best intentions, this trademark struggle was, according to Zcash Foundation director Josh Cincinnati, part of the political growing pains associated with decentralization.
“You have to make these small tactical decisions every day that might loosen grips of power you might be accustomed to or comfortable with,” Cincinnati told CoinDesk. “It requires a lot of risk and faith in the community to take the reins properly.” Governance
While many people in the crypto industry still turn to ethereum co-founders Vitalik Buterin and Joseph Lubin for funding and cultural guidance, the zcash community is publicly signaling it wants to create a different governance structure.
At least four independent entrepreneurs and venture capitalists submitted their own public proposals for the network’s October 2020 upgrade, when the original founders’ reward funding mechanism will expire.
The reward system won’t expire on its own. The reality is that both firms currently dominating network development, ECC and the ZF, will push necessary upgrades the community will adopt that redirect that cash flow. The community is currently grappling with where those funds will go in the future.
“We hope they [ECC] use the same data and if there’s divergence we’ll need to work it out with them,” Cincinnati said. “Users are free to fork off of course … if they don’t like the outcome. It’s important to note that neither ZF nor ECC could get away with flagrantly ignoring what the community wants.”
Based on proposals and social media chatter, what the community wants is a peaceful transfer of power from benevolent leaders to a participatory republic. And that, based on centuries of political history, tends to be the hardest deliverable.
“The unique governance model in zcash is that it’s community-driven and it’s self-funding,” Wilcox said. “Anything that’s not self-funding is at risk of capture.” Proposals
Several proposals suggest the new developer fund should be managed by a new, third-party council with rotating members determined by democratic voting.
“I think it’s important to have an entity that doesn’t have these conflicts of interest. That [board members] actually have investment experience,” Autonomous Partners founder, ZEC holder and proposal writer Arianna Simpson told CoinDesk. “While I appreciate the academic lens and the role that professional cryptographers have to play in the community, I don’t think that is sufficient, in terms of skill set.”
The trouble is, where will all these new candidates and voters come from? According to Zcash Foundation communications manager Sonya Mann, roughly 64 community members participated in electing the foundation’s board in 2018, which took considerable outreach and work on the nonprofit’s part.