Horizen Leadership Q&A Ep.1 – Sidechains and Sidechain SDK


Horizen is designing Sidechains and a Sidechain SDK to allow developers and enterprises to quickly and affordably spin up their own blockchains. The Horizen team is close to our next sidechain engineering milestone. 


About this Sidechain Q&A

The Q&A you are reading today was sparked by Telegram community member Joker. Horizen co-founders, Rob and Rolf, and Rowan our Director of Business Development took turns answering his questions. 

The questions and answers were so interesting, we wanted the entire community to be able to read them! This is the first part of the conversation. Please stay tuned for the rest!

The Q&A

Q I’m interested in the design principle of the sidechains. Are you planning to run smart contracts on the sidechains?

A We’re going to develop and run sidechain applications on the supernodes to start with, such as the governance and voting sidechain, and the node tracking and payment sidechain. In parallel, we’re releasing a software development kit so that third-party organizations can operate side chains. Node operators should be able to sign up to be nodes for those sidechains and get compensated.


QWhy did you pivot to custom DAPPs on sidechains after doing privacy coins on mainchain for years?

ABecause for full decentralization and resilience we need to make sure the governance and node compensation is not centralized


QCan’t you run governance on mainchain in a decentralized way? I guess I’m not seeing the reason to pivot to doing dapps. Can you enlighten me?

AI wouldn’t say this is a pivot, more of an expansion of the original vision. The idea behind Horizen (then ZenCash) was to take the zero-knowledge cryptography that was brought to market by Zcash for their optionally private money and expand upon its use case through a variety of different real-world applications. Those that were around at the time will remember ZenChat, ZenPub, ZenHide, etc. Since then, the team has realized that building end-user products is a tricky business and that there will be many failures before one makes a real splash. At the same time, we’ve also amassed a network of ~30,000 nodes that lends itself perfectly to serving as a robust infrastructure layer as well as a team that’s technically capable of delivering highly complex software so the time was right to really make a mark in the sand by bringing something both radical and massively useful to the market.

Why make a few end-user products when instead you can enable billions of people from all around the world to concurrently build their own awesome end-user products with your tools?

So going forward, our real differentiator will be our ability to enable people, developers and/or businesses to deploy blockchain solutions with completely flexible logic whilst taking advantage of our huge and geographically decentralized node network, our full technology stack including zero-knowledge cryptography and our globally traded currency (ZEN).

Those are the features that you simply cannot get from existing providers when you’re looking to develop a blockchain-based solution to a problem. 

The secret sauce is that Horizen sidechains will be consensus and programming language agnostic which means that they’ll be extremely flexible with logic that can be crafted to solve a huge variety of problems. The first reference sidechain design we’ll be releasing, for example, uses Ouroboros Praos (thanks to IOHK & Cardano) for its consensus mechanism as it lends itself well to high transaction throughput without sacrificing security. In the future, there will be a variety of ‘off the shelf’ reference designs using different consensus mechanisms to suit different use cases. There could even be a whole suite of different privacy technologies deployed as Horizen sidechains. A SNARK and/or STARK chain, a RingCT chain, etc.

The possibilities of a decoupled sidechain system are pretty exciting. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what people do with it!


QWhat consensus mechanism is run on a sidechain ?

AWe are going to provide a specific Consensus mechanism to the SDK, so that the sidechain developer doesn’t have to worry about it. But in reality, any consensus mechanism you like can be implemented on any sidechain.


QDoesn’t your sidechain SDK standardize the framework of the sidechain? This would include the consensus mechanism. 

AOur solution is decentralized. So, we don’t have federated nodes. The exact number is flexible to suit the application.


QCan you give an example of a decentralized consensus mechanism running a sidechain?

ANo, the SDK will allow you to use whatever programming language and consensus mechanism best suits your application.


QWill your secure nodes and super nodes to run the sidechains?

AYes. Node operators will have the opportunity to earn additional revenue by running sidechains.


QCan developers pick their preferred consensus mechanism from a drop down list when building with the Horizen Sidechain SDK?

AEventually, that’s the aim but we’re a long way away from a modular Wix type dashboard.


QWill sidechains have their own cryptocurrency or will every sidechain use ZEN?

AThey’ll use ZEN as fuel but a tokenization sidechain is perfectly possible. In fact, it’s on our list as it is essential for many of the use cases we see as having the biggest potential to solve real world problems.


This is just part 1 of the Horizen Sidechain Q&A. Stay tuned for the next part in the series!


Learn more about Horizen Sidechains

This blog is part of our Horizen Sidechains Series. To learn more about our sidechains, please read:

Please keep following us on Twitter and Facebook, as more exciting news is coming soon!



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