The Zcash ecosystem: A 2020 recap

2020 has been one of the most memorable years in Zcash’s short history. 

In this blog, we cover the milestones, the ecosystem growth and the community achievements over the past year. 

This week, Zcash activated the Canopy network upgrade. The community chose “Canopy” as the name for this network upgrade. In nature, the canopy is formed by the collection of individual plants to create a vibrant and hospitable ecosystem for many more participants — a fitting analogy for these recent developments. 

To fully illustrate this, here is a picture of the Zcash Canopy. Click here to view larger.


Shielded support

In 2020, Zcash saw increased shielded support across the ecosystem, thanks to work, investments and relationship-building that has been ongoing on since 2016.

Today, Zcash offers the strongest privacy guarantees of any cryptocurrency in the market. Shielded transactions are a defining characteristic of Zcash and necessary for it to achieve its vision of private digital money.  So, it’s significant that Zcash held in the Sapling shielded pool has surpassed 600K ZEC, up +50% YoY.

Shielded exchange
  • With approval of the New York Department of Financial Services (NDFS) Gemini became the first regulated exchange to support shielded addresses. This was an important milestone for financial privacy. Since the release in September, 11.8% of Zcash withdrawals on Gemini were sent to shielded addresses. 
Shielded wallets
  • Shielded wallet development has been a top priority in 2020. ECC open-sourced developer tooling, including iOS and Android SDKs, source code for a fully-functional mobile wallet, and documentation, which enabled developers like Nighthawk to launch a version of the app. Recently, Unstoppable wallet announced they had integrated ECC’s wallet SDKs, becoming the first multi-currency wallet to support shielded Zcash. Additionally, ZecWallet has become a foundational piece of the Zcash ecosystem, gaining 4,000+ users across desktop and mobile. 
Shielded mining 
  • The Heartwood network upgrade introduced support for shielded coinbase. This  improves the overall privacy of the Zcash network. Luxor was the first mining pool to mine a Zcash block to shielded coinbase at block height #949496. Poolin, the largest mining pool by hash power, followed shortly after. To date, there have been a total of 251 shielded coinbase transactions. 


The Major Grants Review Committee (MGRC) was created to provide sustainable funding for ecosystem development.

  • This committee will manage the Major Grants Fund, which activates with Canopy. The Major Grants Fund will receive 8% of mining rewards for the next four years. The remaining will be distributed to miners (80%), ECC (7%) and Zcash Foundation (5%). 
  • In September, the Zcash community nominated a five member committee to manage the Major Grants Fund: Chris Burniske (Placeholder Capital), Hudson Jameson (Ethereum Foundation), Sarah Jamie Lewis (Open Privacy Research Society), Shawn aka MineZcash (community member), and Holmes Wilson (Zbay). 
  • Major Grants will fuel development and adoption efforts, in addition to and separate from the work being done by ECC and the Zcash Foundation.


  • RenZEC and WZEC are ERC-20 tokens on Ethereum backed 1:1 by ZEC. Ren was the first to launch a cross-chain bridge between Zcash and Ethereum with the release of RenZEC. To date, there are over 4,300 ZEC minted through RenVM, the growth rate of which can be seen in the chart below (source). 3,239 RenZEC have been added to the RenZEC-ETH Uniswap liquidity pool.
  • Wrapped ZEC is another interoperability initiative spearheaded by a consortium that includes Tokensoft and Anchorage. The total supply of WZEC currently sits at 9,082 ZEC for a fully-diluted market cap of $607,000 USD. There is a new proposal to support a liquidity pool containing both RenZEC and WZEC on Curve, which could help improve liquidity and create new use cases for Zcash on Ethereum. 
  • Zcash launched on Gitcoin Grants, a platform to fund open-source software development. Gitcoin added native Zcash support after a successful pilot raised $25K from community contributors. Zcash is the first non-Ethereum based asset to be added to the platform.

Additional use cases

While we often think of Zcash as digital money or a store of value, 2020 saw an uptick in new use cases like private, encrypted messaging. Anonymous communication is one of the more novel use cases for the Zcash protocol. Each shielded transaction includes a 512 byte encrypted memo field, which lets users send confidential messages to one another on the blockchain. 

  • Zecpages is a public directory of Zcash users and an anonymous messaging board. Since launch, the site has received 605 posts across 220 unique users. 
  • Zbay is a peer-to-peer e-commerce and encrypted messaging platform built on the Zcash protocol. It uses Zcash shielded transactions and encrypted memos to communicate privately on chain and transact directly in the app. 

Institutional custody

  • Fireblocks is a digital asset custodian and settlement network that connects liquidity providers, trading venues, and counterparties in a single platform with near-instant settlement. They have added 100+ institutions on their platform, which now have the ability to seamlessly access Zcash. 


  • Zcash is supported by top merchants and retailers through the Flexa network. Flexa’s whitelabel SDK enables any cryptocurrency wallet to add support for Zcash payments, such as the SPEDN app and Gemini Pay. The most popular merchants for Zcash payments include Baskin Robbins/Dunkin, Petco, and Gamestop. Thanks to our partnership with Flexa, over 140 Zcashers celebrated Zcash’s 4th birthday with free ice cream from Baskin Robbins (though we heard that some celebrants opted to buy tools at Lowes instead).
  • Zcash was also increasingly used for charitable and non-profit donations. Throughout 2020, The Giving Block helped facilitate more than $30,000 USD in Zcash donations to approximately ten different charities. Additionally, a growing number of organizations began accepting shielded Zcash donations including the Human Rights Foundation. A community maintained list can be found here

Community programs

  • Zcash Developer Alliance is an industry working group focused on Zcash protocol development and interoperability. Initial partners included: Agoric, Bolt Labs, Consensys, Keep, Kyber and Iqlusion.  
  • Crypto in Context is bi-directional educational and engagement initiative supporting financially underserved communities. In July, we formally launched the program with marquee industry partners including Brave, Binance, Bitgo, Messari, Gemini, Flexa, and Digital Currency Group. 


Canopy activation represents a new era for Zcash with many new ecosystem participants. To that end, we will continue to double down on our mission — to empower everyone with economic freedom — and to focus all our efforts on experimenting with, developing and evangelizing the Zcash cryptocurrency.

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