Zcash is a privacy-preserving cryptocurrency providing anonymous value transfer using zero-knowledge cryptography. The protocol provides the option for transactions to be either shielded, in which case they will be completely anonymous, or transparent, in which case they will be visible on the Zcash blockchain. pays out a portion of its block rewards, called the "Founder's Reward", to fund protocol development. It currently allocates the Founder's Reward to the Electric Coin Company and the Zcash Foundation who develop and steward the Zcash protocol respectively.
Created in 2013, Zcash, previously known as “Zerocoin”, was initially suggested as an experimental privacy extension to Bitcoin using advanced mathematical techniques called "zero-knowledge proofs". Due to the Zerocoin protocol's novelty and computational intensity, however, Bitcoin core developers deemed it impractical for implementation into the Bitcoin protocol. Subsequently, with additional improvements to the protocol that resulted in substantially more efficient zero knowledge proofs, Zerocoin's founding scientists from John Hopkins in collaboration with researchers from MIT and Tel Aviv University created a new protocol called "Zerocash" (Zcash). Upon recruiting it's CEO, Zooko Wilcox, to head the project and raising over $3mm in venture funding through two fundraises, the Zcash protocol began development under the Zcash Company, with the objective of building the Zcash protocol into a full-fledged cryptocurrency. In 2017, a separate entity, the Zcash Foundation was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the mission to build internet payment and privacy infrastructure for the public good, primarily serving the users of the Zcash protocol and blockchain In 2019, the Zcash Company rebranded to the Electric Coin Company.
Zcash was conceived from the observation that Bitcoin could not offer strong privacy guarantees, with transactions recorded in a public decentralized ledger, from which significant information can be deduced. At the core of Zcash technology are zero-knowledge proofs, which allow transaction data to be validated without revealing information about the amount and the parties involved. With Zcash users can selectively share address and transaction information for auditing or regulatory compliance through the use of view keys and payment disclosure. Through the use of zero-knowledge proofs, Zcash aims to create a truly fungible, privacy preserving cryptocurrency.
Zcash is built on strong science and audited by third parties. It is an open-source protocol, built by a security-specialized engineering team, and originally based on Bitcoin Core's codebase.