In brief:

  • Horizen is a cryptocurrency and blockchain network focused on privacy.
  • It was conceived as a hard fork from privacy-focused cryptocurrency Zcash.
  • It wants to make smart contracts and dapps private and secure, too.

Depending on who you ask, blockchains are either too slow, too public, or too centralized. Horizen is attempting to solve all three with their combination of privacy tools, nodes, and sidechains. Below we explore what Horizen is, how it works, and how it's trying to solve crypto's privacy problem. 

What is Horizen?

The core feature of the Horizen blockchain is privacy. Since its launch as ZenCash, the network has used zero-knowledge proofs to make its ZEN currency untraceable and unwatchable between its privacy-conscious users. It also believes any interaction between users should be private. So the company is building privacy solutions for smart contracts–with the intent of being a decentralized platform for private messaging, publishing, and decentralized application (dapp) development.

Who Invented Horizen?

In May 2017, co-founders Robert Viglione and Rolf Versluis launched ZenCash as a fork of ZClassic–itself a fork of Zcash. In August 2018, ZenCash rebranded itself to Horizen. 

Did you know?

As a US military officer deployed in Afghanistan, Robert Viglione,

began teaching “Bitcoin 101” classes to Afghan citizens who worked around the US military base. The classes were an attempt to show how blockchain technology could be beneficial to those living in the developing world.

What’s so special about it?

It’s not an easy task to be a leader in the crypto world. Bitcoin has the highest market cap. Ethereum leads in active developers. Others claim to be the fastest. Horizen, however is the king of the node count. Its massive network of over 40,000 active nodes eclipses both Bitcoin and Ethereum–their closest rivals in node count. 

The Horizen node network is “multi-tiered”, meaning that not all nodes play the same role.

Regular full nodes are like those on Etherem or Bitcoin–they have a full copy of blockchain network transactions and data. Secure Nodes are regular full nodes with special encryption, which secures communication between nodes and prevents snooping when nodes talk to each other. Finally, there are Super Nodes, which are powerful Secure Nodes that host Horizen sidechains.

Did you know?

On June 2

nd, 2018, while it was still ZenCash, the network suffered a 51% attack where an attacker was able to gain control of more than half of the network’s mining power. The attacker essentially changed the history of the blockchain and as a result, got away with about $600,000.

What else is different?

Horizen has evolved a great deal since its days as ZenCash. The team is now focused on developing sidechain technology to allow anyone to develop dapps linked to the Horizen mainchain.

These sidechains promise to be highly scalable while keeping the benefits of the Horizen mainchain’s network of over 30,000 nodes. Thanks to its Cross-Chain Transfer Protocol (CCTP) technology, ZEN tokens can be transferred back and forth between the Horizen mainchain and the individual sidechains quickly and easily.

How are ZEN tokens produced?

The Horizen network combines proof-of-work (POW) with proof-of-stake (POS) so new tokens are rewarded to both miners doing POW and validators doing POS. Essentially, the Horizen mainchain uses POW to maintain consensus while the sidechains use POS.

Of the new ZEN tokens created, miners receive 60% while Secure Node Operators and Super Node Operators receive 10% each. The final 20% of new ZEN tokens produced go to the Horizen Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) Treasury, which helps to fund ecosystem development.

Like Bitcoin, there is a total supply of 21 million ZEN, as well as a periodic halving of block rewards. The first such halving took place in December 2020, bringing the block reward from 12.5 ZEN to 6.25 ZEN.

Where and how to buy Horizen

As one of the top 100 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, Horizen is available to purchase and trade on a wide variety of exchange platforms. These include several tier-one exchanges, such as Binance, Huobi Global, and OKEx, in addition to dozens of less-established platforms.

Unfortunately, few exchanges support debit or credit card purchases, so we'll instead show you how to purchase Horizen using Bitcoin (BTC).

Buying ZEN

As we previously touched on, ZEN is available to purchase on dozens of exchange platforms, but Binance is among the easiest to use. Here's what you need to know to get started.

Note: The procedure described below will likely be very similar on other platforms, but we recommend checking the supporting documentation on your platform of choice before attempting to place your order.

Step 1: Create your account on Binance or log in if you have already got one.

Once logged in, hover over the 'Wallet' section in the top navigation bar, and select 'Fiat and Spot'.

Here, find the cryptocurrency you wish to exchange for Horizen and deposit the amount you wish to spend to your Binance wallet.

Buy ZEN

Step 2: Navigate to the 'Trade' section of the site by clicking this option in the top navigation bar and select the 'Classic' option.

This will load up the trading interface.

Buy ZEN

Step 3: On the right, you should see a list of all the trading pairs supported by Binance.

Enter 'ZEN' into the search box and select the trading pair you wish to use.

In this example, we'll select ZEN/BTC, because we have BTC deposited in our account.

Buy ZEN

Step 4: The trading interface on the left should now switch to the ZEN/BTC market.

At the bottom of the trading panel, you should see an option that says 'Spot'. Below this, select the 'Market' option and enter the amount of ZEN you are looking to purchase, being sure to take a look at the current market price to ensure you understand how much you'll be charged.

Once you've picked how much ZEN to buy, click the 'Buy ZEN' button. This will automatically execute your order at the best available price, and your ZEN will be made available in your Binance wallet.

Buy ZEN

What can you do with ZEN?

The core crypto asset of the Horizen blockchain is ZEN with all of its privacy-focused features. There are two types of ZEN addresses: T-Addresses and Z-Addresses. T-Addresses are regular addresses similar to Bitcoin where anyone can see all of an account’s transaction history. Z-Addresses are where zero-knowledge proofs come in. If two Z-Addresses transact with each other the transactions remain private, anonymous, and completely hidden.

Recent developments

Despite launching almost four years ago, Horizen is still being actively developed and achieved several notable milestones in the last quarter alone.

  • 💰 In October 2020, Horizen forged a working relationship with crypto lending giant Celsius to explore the possibility of leveraging Horizen's zero-knowledge proofs to create a proof-of-reserve system
  • 🔥  In November 2020, Sikoba—a decentralized platform for P2P IOUs—partnered with Horizen to leverage its zero-knowledge proofs toolkit and interoperability protocol to boost transparency and security for its customers
  • 🏞️  In December 2020, Horizen announced a formal partnership with blockchain-enabled land registry LTO network and will begin building a private dedicated sidechain for the platform.

Throughout 2020, Horizen secured a total of 28 new exchange listings including the likes of Binance.US, Gate.io, Bithumb, and MXC.

It also launched several new community initiatives in the last year, including the Horizen Developer Environment (HDE) and the Horizen Early Adopter Program (HEAP). In total, more than 1,100 developers enrolled in its early adopter program, demonstrating a bustling developer community.

The Future

With the Horizen's Sidechain (Zendoo) Beta released in mid-2020, the next big plan for Horizen is the full release of their sidechain network on the mainnet. This is scheduled for 2021.

Once their sidechain technology is fully launched, Horizen plans to add another promising scaling technology to their ecosystem called Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG). With sidechains and DAG technology added to their stack, will Horizen claim the scalability crown next?