An illustration of a man and woman reaching out towards a Zcash shield logo

Zcash – it’s like Bitcoin, but private

When I was younger I remember an old friend of my dad’s came to the house. It was back when you accessed the internet via a dial-up connection and spending time on the internet meant that you couldn’t make phone calls.

The man in question was holding a pink pig. Not a real one. A plastic one. It was a device that sat between your computer and your phone line. When you dialled up to the internet, the device apparently found the cheapest internet provider to connect to at the time.

I’m not sure if it worked. And, to be honest, it sounds like I’ve just made this up — but I seem to recall it happening. I also seem to remember being very skeptical of both the device and the man. It felt like the salesman was part of a pyramid scheme.

When I talk to people about cryptocurrency, I sometimes feel like that man.

I’m not saying cryptocurrency is a scam. It seems like anything can hold a value of wealth if enough people believe that it has such value. But, what I am saying is that you shouldn’t base any investments from the contents of this post.

How I didn’t get rich from Bitcoin.

The logo for Bitcoin

Back in early to mid 2010 – shortly before I moved to Oslo, Norway – I was sat at home browsing the internet. I read somewhere about this thing called Bitcoin and looked it up. The website didn’t really give much insight into what it was, or what I could use it for. It all looked a little geeky to me and I passed on it.

Around that time, I would visit and quite regularly. They were simple lists of free and open-source apps. And come 2011, Bitcoin appeared on there.

This was the second time I would encounter the term Bitcoin and so I checked it out once more – this time downloading the app and following online instructions to “help run the network” by generating coins whilst your computer is inactive.

It reminded me of programs like SETI@Home – the program that would use your computer’s processing power to analyse radio signals, searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Only this was… money?

The program was busy “generating coins” and I had it running on-and-off for around three weeks before I dipped back into it. I had questions. What was Bitcoin? Where could I use it? Is it like Habbo Hotel credits?

I couldn’t find the answers I wanted. Bitcoin felt to me like a lot of churn for no reward. My computer was busy generating coins, but they were worthless. Nobody accepted them. Nobody had even heard of it. I kind of wished they were Habbo Hotel credits. And so, that was that. I deleted the app.

The generated coinage disappeared. No stress.

Dogecoin: it’s got a dog on it!

The logo for Dogecoin. It's basically a dog on a gold background with the letter D infront of it.

Fast-forward to the end of 2013 to early 2014. I was working at Opera Software and it was nearing summer holidays. This was my next encounter with cryptocurrency.

Dogecoin was a cryptocurrency that sprang into action. The founder of Dogecoin created it as a joke but it quickly became used on social media sites like Reddit to tip other users who posted funny comments or imagery. And I liked funny comments, funny images, and /r/dogecoin.

Over the summer vacation, I hooked up around five machines in the Opera HQ offices to the Dogecoin network and set them to work, generating Dogecoin.

I am pretty sure I didn’t configure the machines correctly and one week-and-a-weekend later, I had around $30 USD worth of Dogecoin to send to people who had been typing funny things on their computer keyboards.

Finally — cryptocurrency had value.

I even purchased the domain and created a website to help others get set up with Dogecoin. Not that the site exists anymore. Nor do I own any Dogecoin. But Dogecoin made cryptocurrency fun and therefore interesting.

2017: cryptocurrency went to the moon!

In late 2015, I joined Microsoft. By the start of 2017, it was safe to say I owned a grand total of zero cryptocurrency. After my initial foray into Bitcoin six years prior, then my giddiness over Dogecoin, I had bowed out of the cryptocurrency scene and all but forgotten about it.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrency was making a move. A colleague of mine at the time had become heavily involved in cryptocurrency. His name was Vincent. He was involved in setting up what I will claim here to be Norway’s first Bitcoin ATM… though I am not sure if that is factually correct. It could be.

After talking with Vincent, I ended up purchasing a specially made device to store cryptocurrency — a Ledger Nano — and started swapping some of my Norwegian cash for digital cash.

Come December 2017, everyone was doing it. Bitcoin was the buzzword that you could not avoid. Where one Bitcoin would have cost you $700 USD just 12 months prior, the price had sky-rocketed to the dizzy heights of $20,000 USD per Bitcoin.

A smart me would have checked out then. A smarter me would have kept hold of the Bitcoin I had in 2011 when it was worth way less than $100 USD per coin.

Such is life. I can’t see into the future.

Introducing Zcash

Now that we have fully-established how bad I am at investing in things — I shall mention Zcash. It’s like Bitcoin, but private.

Many people believe that one of the advantages of Bitcoin is that it’s private. This is wrong. In fact, Bitcoin is the opposite. It’s mostly public. Whenever you send some money to someone using Bitcoin, that transaction can be seen by everyone.

If I know your Bitcoin address, then I can see how much money you have and where you send it to. And where you received it from.

That’s why Zcash was created.

With Zcash, you get the choice of whether to make your financial history public or private. This brings digital currencies closer to physical cash. You can make a purchase without having to share your bank balance or past purchase history.

As a concept and guiding principle, I really like this idea that the option of privacy is built-in. It’s all too common that new technology revolves around harvesting your data and knowing everything about you.

In the event that cryptocurrencies become more widely adopted, would you be comfortable knowing that I could see how much you earn, and when you earn it? That you’ve been shopping at your local sex shop? Or that maybe you regularly donate to a certain political party or religious organisation?

Zcash is a digital currency that helps keep your private life private.

I’m not telling you this so that you go out and pile all your savings into Zcash. I don’t want to be the man who arrived at my childhood home with the pink internet pig promising to save you money by parting with your money. Besides, whilst I am quite happy for you to send me cryptocurrency, there aren’t many other places you can spend Zcash right now.

What is important to know is that there is a more private option than Bitcoin. And it’s called Zcash. Just remember to be a good citizen and declare your earnings accurately to the tax man.

If you ever want to chat cryptocurrency, please reach out on your favourite messenger app of choice, on email, or in the comments below.


3 responses to “Zcash – it’s like Bitcoin, but private”

  1. […] the week, see previous Links of the Week posts or stay tuned for future updates. You can also read this blog post about cryptocurrency that I recently […]

  2. […] readers of my blog might remember that I’ve posted before about cryptocurrency and, more specifically, the privacy-focused coin […]

  3. […] readers of the blog might be aware of my fondness for Zcash. And so, it’ll be no surprise to find out that I’ve been helping Zcash app Nighthawk […]

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