The rapid pace of innovation in the blockchain space often makes it challenging to keep up with the key players and emerging sectors that make up this ecosystem.
In just under 12 years, the Web3 revolution has expanded from a single asset in Bitcoin to a $2.5 trillion asset class of cryptocurrencies and now to a fully formed ecosystem that encompasses virtually every industry and sector of the modern economy.
This article will walk you through the various stakeholders that make up the blockchain and crypto ecosystem and explain how Horizen fits into this complex web of tech innovators, advocates, regulators, operators, and end-users.
First is an introduction to Horizen and why we feel best suited to guide new users and builders through this expansive space.
Horizen’s history in the blockchain ecosystem
Horizen is a zero-knowledge-enabled network of blockchains that encompasses all of the qualities that make blockchain technology and the crypto ecosystem what it is today.
We’ve designed a solution that enables developers and businesses to custom build private or public blockchains on the industry’s most secure, scalable, and privacy-preserving platform.
Our connection to this space dates back to as early as 2010 when our founder Rob Viglione first discovered Bitcoin as a US Air Force Physicist with an eagerness to explore alternatives to the current global financial system.
As Bitcoin introduced the world to a new form of sound money, it also popularized using decentralized and distributed networks to store and exchange value.
Satoshi’s ambitious goal to decentralize the global financial system would inspire many entrepreneurs and early adopters like Rob to build new solutions that would iterate on the existing design of Bitcoin to achieve greater privacy, faster transaction speeds, and better customization.
From these iterations came newer blockchains like Zcash (est. 2016), which pioneered the integration of zero-knowledge proof cryptography to enable truly private transactions on the blockchain, and Ethereum (est. 2015), which sought to decentralize the internet itself by creating an infrastructure for the launching of decentralized applications.
In the enterprise world, we saw the launch of Hyperledger (est. 2015), the first customizable toolkit for companies to develop their own private blockchains.
While these projects have morphed into dominant players in the industry, they largely remain tethered to their specializations and are limited in their capacity to apply solutions that serve the complex needs of industries like supply chain, healthcare, and the public sector.
From Rob’s discovery of Bitcoin in 2010 to the launch of Horizen in 2017 and our flagship product Zendoo’s mainnet release in 2021, Horizen has taken inspiration from the developer communities, academic researchers, startups, and advocates of this ecosystem to form a solution that satisfies all of the core tenants of blockchain technology (decentralization, security, privacy, and scalability) without compromising any one.
Our journey throughout this process has taught us about the ins and outs of the blockchain ecosystem and how newcomers can navigate this space to succeed as developers, investors, entrepreneurs, or end-users.
Who are the key players in the blockchain ecosystem?
The majority of our interactions in this space involve working with people and organizations who belong to the following eight key roles: developer communities, researchers, operators, service providers, investors, end users, regulators, and advocates.
Developer communities are the lifeblood of the blockchain ecosystem. These groups collaborate in open-source environments to build and design new blockchain infrastructures and decentralized applications.
Open-source developer communities enable large groups of semi-organized individuals to contribute to a project. Typically, access to these projects is based on provable skill and merit, where those who have the right expertise and/or contribute the most to a project (in terms of submitting or reviewing code or conducting other important tasks) are granted more rights in dictating the direction of the project.
Communication among developer groups is primarily done through forums, email, or messaging platforms like Discord or Telegram.
The skills required to become a high-quality blockchain developer vary widely, from knowledge of coding languages like Python, Solidity C++, and Java, to a deep understanding of distributed systems, open-source software, database architecture, and cryptography. Many top developers and founders are also highly adept at game theory, financial engineering, economics, and even philosophy.
The development and maintenance of public blockchains require coordination by large groups of autonomous individuals. Therefore, it is important to understand how to design incentives that encourage people of different talents to build and contribute to a blockchain.
HDE is a platform that offers incentives for developers to make open-source contributions to the Horizen Ecosystem.
HDE provides a range of technical and non-technical tasks from GitHub that anyone can contribute to and be rewarded with bounties of up to $5,000 or more.
Tasks range from publishing and reviewing code to creating/editing videos, writing articles, and even performing translations for white papers and other documentation.
Submitted tasks are reviewed by administrators who provide timely feedback and support.
What differentiates HDE from other developer communities is the ease in which new users can navigate our platform to find tasks to work on and guiding resources. We also broaden the scope of people who can contribute by including lots of non-technical tasks for content creators.
In the future, we plan to develop a system for submitting proposals and supporting approved proposals through crowdfunding.
Platforms like Github serve as the main repository for developer communities building open-source projects. One way to assess the level of activity on a blockchain project is to look at how many commits its Github codebase has accumulated.
To date, Horizen’s Github has over 11,000 commits.
Examples of other popular blockchain developer communities include:
- Bitcoin Core Contributors
- Ethereum Developer Community
Horizen’s HEAP program provides an opportunity for developers to gain exclusive and early access to Horizen’s newest releases and product features before they are publicly available.
This means that developers can gain early insight into upcoming new technologies and products, and provide critical feedback that could be helpful in shaping the final version of our software releases. Developers can also gain access to tutorials, webinars and product demos.
The testnet for our scalability protocol Zendoo is currently available for developers to access and begin experimenting with.
Developers can launch a blockchain on testnet in just 4 simple steps:
Why should developers build on Horizen?
Horizen’s blockchain platform empowers developers to build world class blockchains and Dapps with the help of an SDK that is designed from the ground up to scale, preserve, secure, and connect.
Let’s break down what each of these components mean.
Scale refers to the ability for your dapp to achieve high transaction throughput while maintaining a high degree of security and not compromising decentralization. This sensitive balance is commonly referred to as the blockchain scalability trilemma.
Horizen solves the scalability trilemma through the invention of an innovative scalability solution called Zendoo.
Zendoo is a scalability protocol that enables developers to build independent and highly customizable private or public blockchains that are interoperable to Horizen’s highly secure proof-of-work main chain. In the future, these blockchains can be set up to work with any consensus mechanism, including PoS, PoH, pBFT, DAG, etc.
This means developers can pick and choose which consensus rules will give them the fastest transaction confirmation times, the most secure, or both.
In fact, developers can technically build on top of an infinite number of blockchains on Horizen with different consensus rules, giving them a greater capacity to scale without the common challenges of network congestion that occur on single blockchain Dapps.
Preserve refers to preserving privacy when transacting on the blockchain. As many people know by now, blockchains are pseudo-anonymous in nature, meaning transactions can still be traced based on the sender and receiver’s public keys, and details such as amounts sent or stored in wallets are visible to the public.
Using zero-knowledge proof cryptography, we enable transactions that occur on a blockchain to be verified without revealing any details about the transaction or relying on any third party validator.
This means that private companies can leverage the security and decentralization of public blockchains while preserving sensitive information.
Our privacy-preserving auditing solution called zkAudit has enabled companies like Celsius Network to securely verify proof of community assets in near real-time without revealing identifiable information or relying on costly 3rd party auditors.
Secure means ensuring that funds and sensitive data are kept safe from hackers. Horizen achieves this by anchoring its main chain to a modified version of the PoW consensus mechanism, enabling the network to achieve Bitcoin-level security and beyond.
Our PoW consensus mechanism enhances protection against 51% attacks by introducing a penalty system for delayed block submissions. Our network is supported by the largest node infrastructure with no single point of failure, providing resilience and reliability.
Connect refers to the ability for blockchains to communicate and transfer value between each other using Horizen’s novel Cross-chain Transfer Protocol (CCTP). This interoperability enables developers to operate multiple blocks at once while creating the ability for diverse and expansive ecosystems to be formed within the Horizen network.
In the next post, we will cover the research side of the blockchain ecosystem, and how Horizen is engaging with top researchers and academic institutions to develop the most cutting edge solutions for achieving blockchain scalability.