To start the interview, could you please tell us a little bit more about your background and explain us the reasons why you came to work on the Zano project ?
After graduating from Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation, I’ve been working in antimalware industry for about 8 years, my background related to architecting and developing antimalware/internet security products, mostly in C++. Beside this, I had a lot of experience coding network protocols, including decentralized ones.
Could you explain the long history of Zano, and the relationships with Monero, Aion and Boolberry?
The long history started at the end of 2012, I was involved in developing a technology known as CryptoNote (Bytecoin) as a lead developer. It was the first ever blockchain project which was not a fork of Bitcoin, with a unique codebase that was built from scratch to provide protocol-level privacy, it was quite challenging project with a lot of new theory and math behind the algorithms, so I had to spend a bunch of time educating myself. There I met a person known under the nickname “Nicolas van Saberhagen”, the mathematician who invented the whole thing – new protocol based on ring signatures. With other team members we’ve been working hard to create new technology, to start a new era in blockchain – era of privacy.
In 2014, due to a difference of opinion over the Bytecoin launch, after fulfilling my contractual duties, I left to continue refining my work with new, independently-launched CryptoNote-based project, Boolberry. As a first step in CryptoNote technology’s evolution, this project brought a series of innovations such as “Pruning Signatures” – technology inspired by the ideas of Gregory Maxwell, and later adopted by Bitcoin (as BIPs 141, 142, 143, 144 and 148, and activated only in 2017) – it’s been implemented in Boolberry in 2014.
After several years dedicated to the enormous task of re-implementing Boolberry core into something new, we’ve completely re-architected the groundbreaking CryptoNote codebase to make it more efficient, scalable and extensible. In fact, the total amount of added/rewritten code exceeds the entire original CryptoNote codebase that Boolberry contained.
In December of 2018, we presented Zano.
As said – the key feature of Zano is a new core, with unique PoW/PoS consensus specially designed for CryptoNote, something that was never done before with privacy protocols. Besides this, we have implemented a platform for integration of additional features into Zano network, and on top of that platform we have implemented multisig-based escrow contracts and a decentralized marketplace platform. HTLC-based Atomic Swaps were recently added with the latest hard fork.
At this moment Zano focused on Zarcanum (https://eprint.iacr.org/2021/1478.pdf), a revolutionary technology that was invented in collaboration with another researcher (koe), and which makes it possible to build PoS on top of hidden amounts schemes, which was considered impossible before. And together with Zarcanum we’re introducing Zano Confidential Assets – opportunity to run tokens on top of Zano platform, preserving privacy and decentralization
Relationship with Monero :
Fork of CryptoNote called Monero(or BitMonero) was launched by user “thankful_for_today” in 2014, and later had been took over by group of individuals who had natural interest to new technology and saw opportunities. As I could see, it’s been a lot of drama and negativity between Bytecoin and Monero during first months, and when my project appeared on the scene (1 month later than Monero), I’ve got a lot of negativity from Monero community too, especially from individual known as “Fluffypony”(Riccardo Spagni). It was ridiculous, because same time Riccardo was writing negative and offensive comments about me, he was copying my commits and stealing my ideas. Even now, after he built his name on top of my work, he continues to make aggressive and negative statements about me.
On the other hand, Monero managed to get attention to our tech, consolidated around it with good developers and mathematicians, funded research and did a great improvement of technology, I believe at this moment Monero is the biggest privacy-focused project in industry, and it’s a great example of community-driven organization.
We have a lot of respect to Sarang Noether (Aaron Feickert) and all great work that he done for Monero, during last year we had a chance to collaborate with him during our research on Zarcanum paper, as well we’ve been enjoying collaboration with another great researcher from Monero – koe, originally we hired him for peer review of early versions of Zarcanum, but it ended up with bouncing ideas and he did a great contribution to this paper.
I believe it’s a great example on how projects like Zano and Monero should work together by joining efforts on making privacy in crypto widely used and deliver great technologies!
What are Zano key features?
* upcoming confidential assets platform
* Unique Hybrid PoW/PoS consensus, which secure transaction history (and upcoming Zarcanum as a true revolution in privacy PoS)
* Features like escrow-based transactions and HTLC-based atomic swap
Zano has very experienced developers. Could you explain the choice of the cryptonote protocol rather than Zk-Snarks or Mimblewimble? and why did you choose a mixed POW / POS consensus and not masternodes for example or just POW?
CryptoNote is something that I built from scratch, and I truly believe that this is most advanced privacy tech present in the industry at this moment, for many reasons. We are keep improving it and I believe at some point it will become industry standard for privacy-focused projects.
Talking about consensus model, CryptoNote originally was PoW, and by time of it’s launch it was believed to be the only possible consensus model for privacy coin, but we faced obvious problem: double spend attacks became a reality and the cost of double spend attack is quite easy to estimate and it’s a big problem. Early PoS models were not perfect, and were vulnerable to number of attacks. By the end of 2014 it became clear (at least for me) that CryptoNote needed PoS, which means deep refactoring of the core codebase, and we spent a few years mastering this hybrid PoW/PoS, and keep improving this technology with our latest research.
(Masternodes is something that we do not consider as a decentralized option at this moment).
Is the Zano network more secure than lowcap altcoins that are only proof of work?
Yeah, that is the point, I believe PoS naturally provides more effective protection against 51%, by making it way, way more expensive, compared to PoW (due to the nature of the market, including lowcap projects)..
What is Zano’s business model? How are you going to finance the development of Zano?
Our goal is to make Zano development funded with staking rewards produced by the foundation wallet. For example, during the past year the dev fund staked about 77000 coins, while we spent only 72000 coins on project expenses. This is possible if the price of the coin is above $3, which is not always true, unfortunately (last year was a good year). These funds are fully transparent and could be tracked by adding the auditable wallet in the Zano app. More details as well as manual how to add it could be found in the following article https://blog.zano.org/zano-development-update-12-11-2020-auditable-wallets-bug-fixes-foundation-fund-transparency/
Why Cryptonote protocol? Why Cryptonote original?
First of all, Cryptonote has a trustless setup. No one has a « magic secret key » to generate or burn coins.
Second of all, the technology behind it (original Cryptonote Protocol) has been described by Satoshi Nakamoto himself (check fig. 2) [figure 2 – source: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=770.msg9074#msg9074]
Have you planned another governance in the future, like Dash or Decred ? What will be the role of the community in the future?
We don’t have a governance model as such since it’s really hard to accommodate all needs and we’re trying to make our decision using our best judgment. Most of them couldn’t even be a voting subject due to its complexity, like sowle’s recent work on Zarcanum or our Hybrid PoS/PoW consensus. We do however try our best to explain our reasoning behind every decision made to our community and always open to constructive criticism.
Ideally we’d love to see more community engagement on the marketing side of things, we’re happy to support any initiative but there’s only so many hours in a day and we have to focus on things we do best, research and development.
Can you tell us more about the development of the marketplace? Do you think it can really work and that users will use it?
Well, that’s quite a sensitive subject. It definitely can work, and it’s been working just fine, until we… disabled it. In early phases we implemented it as part of UI, but later we came up with the understanding, that this might be used for illegal stuff, and due to the decentralized nature of the marketplace, we won’t be able to control/moderate it. We decided to disable this on the project launch phase and to decide later, how to solve this potential issue, but further analysis showed that most likely that marketplace will be used for illegal activity, and no one from Zano team is willing to be anyhow connected to “dark marketplace”. We are still thinking about making this option available for third-party services, where Zano will be used as a platform, and then moderation will be responsibility of those services, but it is still subject for consideration.
You talk about improving Zano’s privacy in your roadmap. Is this a new technology, which has not yet been developed, other than Zk-Snarks, Mimblewimble, Lelantus?
We’ve been working on new technology based on a unique log-size ring signature ( https://github.com/hyle-team/docs/blob/master/zano/Lin2-Xor_Lemma_and-Log-size_Linkable_Ring_Signature.pdf ), but after deep analysis of performance and size estimates, compared to latest researches like Seraphis or Lelantus Spark, we decided to focus on creation proper PoS, compatible with hidden amouns(and come up with Zarcanum). On the first stage it will be used with CLSAG, and with the next stage will choose between Seraphis or Lelantus Spark, to adapt Zarcanum for it.
You work a lot on research and development in the field of privacy technology. Can you tell me about Zarcanum? Do you think it is possible to implement proof of stake on a Zk-Snarks technology?
Traditional Proof-of-Stake consensus implies that the more coins you have, the more chances you have to find a block and to receive a reward. To achieve this, a miner needs to prove the ownership of a coin and disclose its amount, so blockchain verifiers can ensure that the difficulty is inversely proportional to the amount each time he or she finds a block. However, modern privacy blockchains use technologies that hide sensitive data, such as amounts, from blockchain observers. For instance, Confidential Transactions (proposed by Gregory Maxwell in 2015) hides transactions amounts by replacing them with cryptographic commitments. This approach makes PoS blocks verification very challenging because you don’t know amounts anymore as soon as they are encrypted. Zarcanum is a cryptographic protocol that aims to solve this problem. It can be considered as zero-knowledge proof that PoS consensus is satisfied without revealing amounts or other sensitive transaction data.
zk-SNARKs is an extremely powerful technology, and it certainly can be used in a Poof-of-Stake system. However, the possibility and feasibility of using Zarcanum in a zk-SNARK-based private blockchain require additional research, partly because it uses real arithmetic operations.
How is the team organised as of today (nb of people, tasks repartition etc…)?
At this moment Zano team is: 2 core developers(me and @sowle), product(Pavel), community manager (@Gigabyted) and content/community manager (@orsonj).
@sowle, being a person with proper mathematical education, more focused research tasks, combined with core development tasks. I(crypto_zoidberg) do coding and coordinate work of all part time contributors and freelancers. Pavel(@ravaga) focusing on product tasks as well as performing business development.
What are the plans and objectives of Zano for 2022/2023 ?
We obviously will spend a lot of time on integrating Zarcanum into testnet and then into mainnet. We’ll continue constant ongoing research focused on optimizing and improving privacy tech in 3 main directions: ring size(decoys set), performance and size. Beside this we are really excited about confidential assets platform: this would bring a lot of innovation to industry and help to build new projects on top of Zano.
What is the goal of Zano ? What are your strategic directions?
The goal is to create a reliable and efficient financial instrument in which privacy is ensured at all levels.
The privacy sector is very competitive. Do you think there is still room for a project like Zano?
Well, we started this history of privacy sector with CryptoNote, and recently we created first PoS on hidden amounts, which opens new era for privacy projects, I believe we are already a noticeable part of it, at least from technology perspective. And talking about tokenisation – this is a whole new page in this history and we’re happy to pioneer here too.
What does protecting privacy in cryptocurrencies mean to you?
For me cryptocurrency without privacy is the same as walking naked. Finance is a very private part of everyone’s life. Unless someone feels ok with nothing on.
If you were to compare yourself with other altcoins, which ones are closest to Zano intentions?
I believe Zano and it’s team so unique so It’s hard to compare it with any other project.
Which projects do you like the most in cryptos? why?
For some people it might sound contradictory, but I really liked Monero (beside personal conflicts with some people), they have a great community of researchers and keep innovating in privacy area, and this is done mainly with support of community(Monero don’t have pre-mine, like other projects). Also we find a very interesting Firo project, recently we found out that they are also working on confidential assets and ideas that they use not that far from our approach(but still it’s quite different tech). Another project that raised my interest is Solana, for their focus on transactions throughput(scalability) – huge problem for crypto at this moment, and Solana have interesting approach to address this problem.
Those responses were written by Zano team: Andrey(aka crypto_zoidberg), sowle(aka Valeriy Pisarkov) and Pavel Nikienkov(aka ravaga)
THANKS TO ZANO TEAM FOR TAKING THE TIME TO PARTICIPATE! I WILL BE FOLLOWING THIS PROJECT CLOSELY!
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If you want to know more about Zano:
Website > https://zano.org/
Discord > https://discord.gg/wE3rmYY
Telegram > https://t.me/zanocoin