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Monero vs ZCash - Most Comprehensive Guide On Privacy Protocols

Monero vs Zcash, which one is better? Which one nails privacy?

Cryptocurrencies were touted by its proponents as being privacy-centric, which also offered anonymity. 

But are cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Monero, Zcash really private? 

Bitcoin transactions are publicly available and in the future, there’s a good chance that computer programs will exist that can link a user’s public address with their real identities.

Privacy coins, cryptocurrencies that hide data of their users, were created for this very reason, to create a truly privacy-centric peer-to-peer payments network. 

In today’s crypto market Zcash and Monero have proved to be the two most significant privacy coins. These two coins have established their ability to conduct secure transactions time and again in the decentralized ecosystem. 

Although their end objective is the same, their methods of operation differ significantly. This article discusses their differences in terms of their underlying protocol, cryptography, and Monero mining and Zcash mining. 

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the Price and Volume charts, Monero vs Zcash.

Monero Price & Volume (XMR) Vs Zcash Price & Volume (ZEC)

monero vs zcash price and volume chart

Source: InWara’s Market Intelligence platform

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From the graphs, it's clear that Zcash has significantly higher trading volume and when compared to Monero, indicating that Zcash is the more popular among the two among cryptocurrency investors.

Monero vs Zcash - Underlying Protocol

Monero

The first real-life implementation of CryptoNote, Bytecoin was launched in July of 2012. CryptoNote acts as the application layer protocol that runs various decentralized currencies. 

Bytecoin had promise but almost 80% of the coins were already published. Thus it was decided that the bytecoin blockchain will be forked and the new chain will be called Bitmonero which eventually became Monero which means “coin” in Esperanto.  

In this new blockchain, a block is mined and added every two minutes.

The Monero address is a 95-character string and all the Monero transactions by default by are private. Monero comprises two private keys and two public keys.

  •     The public view key is used to generate a one-time stealth public address through which the funds will be sent to the receiver. This key makes the first part of the Monero address.
  •     The public spend key helps the sender participate in ring transactions and also verifies the signature of the key image. This makes the second part of the Monero address.
  •     The private view key allows the receiver to scan the blockchain to find the funds sent to them.
  •     The private spend key creates that key image which enables transactions.

Zcash

Zcash also was started as a fork of the Bitcoin blockchain with a maximum supply of 21 million October 2016. Initially named the Zerocoin protocol, before it was changed to the Zerocoin system and finally Zcash. 

Zcash gives you a choice between normal transparent transactions and shielded private transactions. The choice depends on the parties involved in the transaction. The private shielded address is z-addr. 

The utilization of zk-SNARKS or Zero-knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Arguments of Knowledge is what gives Zcash such a high level of privacy.

Zcash allows you to conduct four different. Types of transactions:

  •     Private: Shielded sender and shielded receiver.
  •     Shielded: Open sender and shielded receiver.
  •     Deshielded: Shielded sender and open receiver.
  •     Public: Open sender and open receiver. 

Monero vs Zcash - Cryptography

Cryptography provides the transactions with end-to-end encryption which gives them the required privacy. 

Monero

The three pieces of cryptography that Monero uses are:

  •     The privacy of the sender is maintained in Ring Signatures.
  •     The privacy of the recipient is maintained through Stealth Addresses.
  •     The privacy of transactions is maintained by Ring Confidential Transactions.

Ring Signatures maintain the sender’s privacy by merging signatures to form a unique signature. ring size is determined for the signature and random outputs of the same value are taken from the blockchain. 

For bigger transactions, the ring sizes are larger and hence transaction fees are higher. 

An added advantage to this form of transaction is that permission to use the output from previous transactions is not required. In a ring signature transaction, the decoys that are generated are equally likely to be the actual output

Stealth Address uses the sender’s public view key and public send key to allow the receiver’s wallet to create a unique one-time public key address(P). The computation of the one-time public key is done using:

P=H(rA)G+B

r = random scalar chosen by the receiver

A = receiver’s public view key

G = Cryptographic constant

B = receiver’s public spend key

H () = The Keccak hashing algorithm used by Monero

The private spend key which is available to the sender allows him/her to unlock the Monero from a random distribution of data. The private spend key of the sender(x) is also used to calculate the image(I).

I=xH(P)

The two main things that we can understand from this equation are:

  •     It is not feasible to derive the one-time public address from the key-image ‘I’ and hence the sender’s identity will never be exposed.
  •     The value of P is constant which means that since the value of x is constant for a user the system will never be able to generate multiple values for ‘I’ thereby making the key image unique for every transaction.

Ring Confidential Transactions shield the value of the actual transaction that a sender transfers to a receiver. 

The transaction amount is broken down and each part is assigned its own ring signature and. Added to the blockchain. Although this safeguards the sender’s privacy it made the transactions visible to everyone and hence the Ring CT was implemented. 

This hides the transaction amounts in the blockchain. This eliminates the need for the transaction to be broken down to lower denominations and allows the wallet to pick up ring members from any ring CT output.

Zcash

zk-SNARKS are used for its cryptography. zk-SNARKS means Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non- Interactive Arguments of Knowledge.

When it comes to a zero-knowledge proof there are two parties involved the verifier and the prover. It states that without telling what the actual knowledge is the prover can prove the verifier about a certain knowledge. 

If the Zero-Knowledge proof needs to work then it needs to satisfy. 3 parameters:

  •     Completeness: If the announcement is genuine then a fair verifier can be persuaded of it by a legit prover. 
  •     Soundness: If the prover is untrustworthy, they can't persuade the verifier of the soundness of the announcement by lying. 
  •     Zero-Knowledge: If the announcement is valid, the verifier will have no clue what the announcement is.

Let’s take a look at an example where there are two parties the prover and a verifier where the verifier is color-blind. 

The prover has two red and green billiard balls and the colorblind people can’t tell the difference between the colors. The verifier accepts that both the balls are of a similar shading, while the prover needs to demonstrate that the hues are both the equivalent. 

The verifier takes both the balls and conceals it despite his good faith. Presently, he can either switch the balls in his grasp or keep them as it stands. After he is finished exchanging the balls (or not), he displays them to the prover. 

The prover can see the genuine shade of the balls and will know in a flash whether the switch has been made or not. 

The verifier would then be able to rehash this test the same number of times as he needs before he is happy with the way that the prover wasn't lying about the shade of the balls. 

Looking into the three properties of the ZKP in the examination given above: 

  •     Fulfillment: Since the announcement was valid, the legit prover persuaded the genuine verifier. 
  •     Soundness: If the prover was deceptive, they couldn't have tricked the verifier in light of the fact that the test was done on numerous occasions. 
  •     Zero-Knowledge: The prover never observed the verifier exchanging the balls in his grasp  

Monero vs Zcash - Mining  
Monero Vs Zcash

Source: InWara’s Market Intelligence platform

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When comparing the mining difficulty and network hash rate of Zcash and Monero, the sudden dip in both these parameters in Monero’s graph is likely the first thing you’ll notice. 

Monero had Hardforked in March 2019 and the sudden dip is a consequence of this event, the idea behind the hardfork was to stop the propagation of ASICs. 

Monero 

Monero has a protocol that is ASIC-resistance. It uses the CryptoNight algorithm which based on CryptoNote. Cryptocurrencies which are incorporated by CryptoNight cannot be mined using ASICs. 

The properties that make CryptoNight ASIC-Resistant are:

  •     It requires 2 MB if faster memory to work. 
  •     It is built to be CPU and GPU friendly as it is built to take benefit of AES-Ni instruction sets.

It has a cleaver protocol to keep their mining profitable. Totally, there are around 18.4 million XMR tokens and it is projected that the mining will go on till 31st May 2022. 

Later on, that system will be designed in a way that 0.3 XRM/min will be continuously emitted which has been done so that the miners will have the incentive to continue mining so that they wouldn’t have to depend on the transaction fees after all the tokens are been mined out. 

A majority of miners prefer joining a Monero mining pool over using their own Monero mining hardware.

Zcash

ZCash block mining is done through equihash. It is a Proof-of-work algorithm from Alex Biryukov and Dmitry Khovratovich which is based on the Generalized Birthday Problem. 

The birthday issue is a standout amongst the most well-known paradoxes in likelihood hypothesis. In the event that you meet any outsider out in the city, the odds are low for both of you to have the same birthday. 

Expecting that all the days of the year have a similar probability of having a birthday, the odds of someone else sharing your birthday is 1/365 which is 0.27%. 

An integral motivation behind why equihash is being utilized is to make mining as ASIC unfriendly as could be allowed. 

The issue with monetary standards like Bitcoin is that the majority of the mining pools hoard the mining game by contributing a great deal of cash on ASICs to mine however much bitcoin as possible. 

Making your mining ASIC hostile implies that mining will be increasingly democratic and less centralized.

In the privacy space, Zcash and Monero are both very exciting projects. To achieve their goal they both utilize fascinating cryptography.

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