HomeAltcoinsGiacomo Zucco rates the top 20 cryptocurrencies from CoinMarketCap

Giacomo Zucco rates the top 20 cryptocurrencies from CoinMarketCap

On October 23rd 2018, Bitcoin maximalist Giacomo Zucco was interviewed by Crypto Insider. During his dialogue with Vlad Costea, he agreed to play a little game in which he rated the top 20 cryptocurrencies on a scale from 1 to 10.

The system is rather simple: a rating of 1 means that it’s an obvious scam that will fail, and a 10 is the absolute industry standard and has a promising future. Of course, most projects find themselves in between these extremes, but Giacomo Zucco was nice enough to provide in-depth explanations for his views.

As a matter of fact, the Italian Bitcoin enthusiast turned the game into a long story about the projects on the market.

Giacomo Zucco didn’t just rate them in a brief sentence. He explained his stance on each cryptocurrency and argued for his views.

While many enthusiasts might not agree with Mr. Zucco’s take on lots of projects on the market, his opinions are rooted in the so-called “maximalist” belief of uncensorable sound money. So if anything, it’s interesting to listen to the views of Giacomo Zucco and try to look for a broader understanding of the state of this industry.

The complete nearly two-hour interview with Giacomo Zucco will get posted within a few days on the Crypto Insider website, and it’s safe to say that it contains plenty of surprises and fascinating ideas. Until then, consider this rather generous teaser which takes you inside the critical mind of a Bitcoin maximalist who’s been around the space for a very long time and has seen the rise and fall of many projects which were deemed too big to fall.

Here is a list of the ratings Giacomo Zucco has given to cryptocurrency project, as ranked by CoinMarketCap:

  1. Bitcoin: 10.
  2. Ethereum: 2.
  3. XRP: 3.
  4. Bitcoin Cash: 1.
  5. EOS: 4.
  6. Stellar: 5.
  7. Litecoin: 7.
  8. Tether: 8.
  9. Cardano: 5.
  10. Monero: 8.
  11. TRON: 3.
  12. IOTA: 3.
  13. DASH: 3.
  14. Binance Coin: 6.
  15. NEO: 3.
  16. Ethereum Classic: 5.
  17. NEM: No rating, “it will probably disappear in less than 2 years”.
  18. Tezos: 3.
  19. Zcash: 2.
  20. (nothing below this threshold is worth considering).

Complete transcript of this part of the interview:

Vlad: You just gave me an idea for a little game that we can play. But if you don’t want to, I’ll just cut this from the final video. So I was thinking I can read to you the names of the top 20 coins on CoinMarketCap, and you can tell me on a scale from 1 to 10 if they’re scams or if they have some potential.

 

Giacomo Zucco: Absolutely!

 

Vlad: Okay, so 1 means that it’s very bad, and 10 means that it has very high potential. So Ethereum!

 

Giacomo Zucco: I will say 2, very very bad. It’s especially because the thing that we call Ethereum is actually the bailout version of Ethereum after the DAO fuck-up. So I am very, very, very, very, very skeptical about Ethereum.

 

Vlad: XRP?

 

Giacomo Zucco: I will say 3, because even if the token itself is a lot worse than Ether (it’s not even scarce, they are controlling all the supply), at least the platform of Ripple itself, even if it has been sold dishonestly as something else, it is like a new version of SWIFT. Banks can use a new version of SWIFT, there is just no use for the XRP token. So while the Ethereum infrastructure is completely useless, the Ripple infrastructure is centralized, legacy, but may be useful. So we’ll say 3.

 

Vlad: Okay, Bitcoin Cash.

 

Giacomo Zucco: That will be 1, because this is an explicit attack on Bitcoin, generated by an entity that tried to take over Bitcoin, the Bitmain company, and sold on a scam website which tries to basically defraud Bitcoin newcomers by selling this altcoin which they call “Bitcoin”. So there are actually people who are at the center of this attempt to defraud people. Also, most important people in the ecosystem of this coin are a con artist (Craig Wright, a literal con artist who, at this point, is funny to be seen. No offense to Craig Wright, but he is literally a con artist); the others are like Roger Ver the guy who tries to sell an altcoin as Bitcoin, so he’s a really dishonest guy; the other guy is Jihan Wu, the guy who tried to control and hijacked Bitcoin and failed. And after you see all this, my rating is 1.

 

Vlad: Okay. EOS?

 

Giacomo Zucco: EOS is bad because it’s like the third scam in a row from Daniel Larimer. First, he scammed people with Bitshares. Then he went on to scam people with Steem, and then he moved on to scam people with EOS. It’s like a serial scam, but this is actually better. So I’m not sure about the numbers I’m giving, but in a way the fact that this is the third one also makes it kind of honest. If you are so dumb to think that Daniel Larimer is going to create something of value after two scams in a row, you probably deserve to be scammed. So Larimer is just a professional, he does what he does and scams people. At this point, if you’re getting rekt because you believe the EOS tokens will be the new Bitcoin, you probably deserve to get rekt. Also, EOS architecture is mostly and centralized and, unlike Ripple or Ethereum guys, they don’t pretend to be much more decentralized than they are. So I would give them a 4. It’s completely useless because everything you can do with EOS can eventually be done with PayPal or with a noJS central site. So it’s probably useless. There is this federation thing that is mostly useless in my opinion, but they are trying less hard to pretend to be decentralized than Ripple or Ethereum, so 4.

 

Vlad: Stellar?

 

Giacomo Zucco: Stellar is still useless, so I can’t give it a 6, which would be like a good enough mark, so let’s say 5. Unlike EOS, it is not a product of a serial scammer. Unlike Ripple, they admitted centralization while one of the explicit differences between Stellar and the original Stellar Fort (which was Ripple) was a more honest approach to their centralization. I don’t think that you can use Stellar to do anything that you couldn’t do on a centralized web server, but at least you’re not wasting time and money on fake mining like in the cases of Ethereum and Bcash. So I will give them a 5. I didn’t like that there was a post of a very good service called KeyBase… that post was pumping Stellar because Stellar gave a lot of money to the KeyBase guys, and they were pumping Stellar with FUD and lies about Bitcoin, energetic consumption and stuff like that. So I don’t think their approach is completely honest, but I will give them a 5.

 

Vlad: Litecoin?

 

Giacomo Zucco: Many of my maximalist friends do not agree with me about this, but I will give Litecoin even a 7. Litecoin is useless as money, I don’t think that you can use Litecoin instead of Bitcoin to do cheaper transactions – that doesn’t make any sense because you have to assume that you are a storing your wealth in sound money like Bitcoin, and the other part is also storing their wealth in sound money like Bitcoin. So if you have to move Bitcoin from your cold storage in order to buy Litecoin on a market, then transmit Litecoin and your counterparty has to sell Litecoin for Bitcoin on a market and transmit back Bitcoin in cold storage, you’re basically having two on-chain Bitcoin transactions, plus market fees, plus market transactions. So the idea that you can use Litecoin together with Bitcoin to do fast and cheap transactions is bullshit. The promotion of Litecoin as a silver to Bitcoin’s gold doesn’t make any sense. The reason people use the physical silver together with physical gold was because there was a trade-off between transferability and divisibility. Because gold is very very bad for division, you cannot buy bread with gold powder, so it cannot be divided but is very good to store you wealth in a compact way and to move it. Silver, on the other hand, was very bad for storing wealth and transporting wealth, but it was good for divisibility. So if people started to use both for a certain time because there was a trade-off, when people moved from physical gold to representative gold (banknotes), silver as money disappeared from the market because you don’t need it anymore. Bitcoin is completely divisible, so you don’t need silver to Bitcoin gold.

 

That being said, Litecoin was one of the first altcoins and that’s a good thing because eventually you can imagine in year 2030, when altcoins are not promoted as real money alternatives anymore, but maybe some altcoins can survive as collectibles because it has some historical value. So I can think that there can be Namecoin and Litecoin, as the very first altcoins, potentially remaining for historical value because they were the first scam coins. And if the collective value is enough to make some miner mine some Litecoins sometimes (like a block every few weeks), then maybe the network can survive as a collectible.

 

Also, the people promoting Litecoin are not doing it by attacking Bitcoin or lying about it. They’re not diminishing Bitcoin and they’re not trying to put obstacles in the mission of Bitcoin in order to promit, mostly. Charlie Lee is a good guy. I don’t agree when he says that Litecoin is silver to Bitcoin’s gold, I don’t agree when he says that Litecoin a sidechains to Bitcoin because that doesn’t make any sense at all. However, they are not aggressively lying against Bitcoin, the are among the first so you give them the benefit of the doubt, and maybe it will be a collective and some people think that LTC has a good value because it was used as a test bed for Bitcoin.

 

And that is a good argument: if you think that there was some FUD about SegWit being dangerous because the miners could just take money out of your SegWit address… and that FUD was debunked on Litecoin because Litecoin basically adopted SegWit before and nobody had used SegWit in that way, so it was an empirical dismissal of that concern. So yeah, Litecoin has been used as a testnet for Bitcoin, so let’s give it a 7 not as money, but as a future collectible of an ancient past.

 

Vlad: What about Tether? Should we discuss USDT, or do you think it makes sense?

 

Giacomo Zucco: It does, and I will give it an 8 as long as the Tether company can resist and it doesn’t get censored down, or it doesn’t explode, or it doesn’t fail because of using a full-reserve bank. However, in this full-reserve I don’t think they’re storing full reserve cash. So probably, they are storing it for reserved liability of the local central bank of that state. There could be some fractional reserve problems there, there could also be a legal breakdown on Tether because they are basically creating a very useful service in order to avoid KYC and AML restrictions. So you can buy Tether from the company applying to a complete KYC and AML, but then you can move these USDT on the secondary market. It could be a good way to buy Bitcoin, for example, from an exchange that cannot have a bank account. So Tether is a good strategy for regulatory arbitrage. It’s probably not sustainable, but at least it’s a centralized initiative which doesn’t claim to be decentralized. So it’s not like Ethereum or other stable coins. They admit what they are, and as long as they can exist without the government taking them down, they could be useful for traders or for buyers. So 8!

 

Vlad: Cardano!

 

Giacomo Zucco: Cardano… let’s say I will give it a 7 like Litecoin. I’m being too generous here and I don’t know why. I wanted to express so much opposition to the first one you named, that I’m being very good right now. Cardano is a research project with a lot of academic effort. I don’t think it will ever work in production, I don’t think that Proof of Stake can work at scale in a secure way, I think there are logical problems with that. I think that the token Cardano was sold by taking advantage of a crazy bubble market, so many people will get rekt with the ADA token and that said, the technological part is… I mean, there is less bullshit in the Cardano technological development than in the Ethereum one. Charles Hoskinson is a little more serious about this stuff, I think, than people like Vitalik Buterin. So maybe seven is too much, let’s give it a 6. That’s too much, sorry five! Five it is!

 

Vlad: Okay, so we settled with 5! What about Monero?

 

Giacomo Zucco: Monero, I would probably give it a 9. Together with Namecoin, I would probably give it an 8… also to Siacoin and Namecoin, which are interesting experiments doing something worthy. There was no point to create new money to do that, they should do projects using the money which already exist (which is Bitcoin), but at least the project themselves are good and people working on these projects are not trying to antagonize or damage Bitcoin directly – they are not attacking Bitcoin. Most of the people working on Monero or Namecoin or Siacoin are actually active Bitcoin developers. So I will give Namecoin and Siacoin 7, and Monero an 8. Although they are similar so Siacoin and Namecoin in being a legit research experiment, even if the coin part is a scam because you shouldn’t create a new monetary base to launch your experiment, you can create a two-way pegged sidechain of Bitcoin when that technology is ready. When that’s not ready, you can just create a Proof of Burn, so people burn Bitcoin in order to create these tokens, so it’s one way. At least you are not inflating the supply and you are not scamming people by launching “the new Bitcoin”. Also, if you cannot do that, an UTXO airdrop like Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold, that itself… I mean, Bitcoin Cash has a lot of scammy parts, but that thing itself is not as scammy and better than creating a new altcoin. Then there is the new altcoin created from scratch, and then the worst possible things are the premine and the ICO.

So there peoject, I would give them 7. Monero, actually 8 because it has all the characteristics of all these other projects that I’ve mentioned and maybe in the future green or Chia… plus people can actually use Monero in real life with an use case right now. So I said before that it doesn’t make sense to have Bitcoin, move it to a market, sell it for Litecoin, transact, pay fees, and then have the merchant buy back Bitcoin… but it could make some sense to send Bitcoin to market, sell it for Monero, send it with a confidential transaction, bulletproof and ring signature, and then the merchant will eventually change it back because maybe there are some configutations in which you are spending more as of time of fees, but at least you are purchasing privacy. I am not 100% sure that these privacy features of Monero are completely sound because, for example, you have ring signatures and confidential transactions, but you also have smaller liquidity and a smaller anonymity set. So there are less people using Monero, so it’s easier even from a very obfuscated blockchain to analyze behaviors with metadata and time linking, than it is on Bitcoin with a very clear blockchain but a lot of users and a lot of plausible deniability. Especially with things like JoinMarket, CoinJoin, Tumblebit, and centralized mixers or all the Samurai Wallet privacy tricks and so on. So I’m not telling people Monero to be anonymous because that can actually be counterproductive, but I know that some people who are taking responsibility for these are trying to use Monero as a privacy coin. And that could make some sense. So let’s give these guys an 8.

 

Vlad: Earlier you said that BitTorrent is actually a legitimate technology. Do you think that TRON has become a better project after it bought BitTorrent?

 

Giacomo Zucco: Well, TRON didn’t buy the BitTorrent protocol. They bought the BitTorrent company, which is just one random company creating a BitTorrent client. So BitTorrent the company is not BitTorrent the protocol any more than Bitcoin.com is Bitcoin the protocol. Actually, it’s not that bad because at least the BitTorrent company is giving you a client for BitTorrent and not for a scammy alternative. While Bitcoin.com is trying to sell you a scammy alternative.

But you have to imagine that the name of the company doesn’t mean that TRON acquired the protocol. They acquired the company which created and sold or distributed a client for BitTorrent. Why? Probably just because of marketing effort, I don’t think that there is something more serious around that so no, I don’t think TRON is less scammy because it bought that company.

 

Vlad: So, what’s your grade for TRON?

 

Giacomo Zucco: (laughs) Let’s say 3 because just like later altcoins, they didn’t have time to try to promote and to spread all the technical misconceptions and bullshit that Ripple or Ethereum guys did try to spread around. TRON is useless, of course. But I think it made less damage. So let’s put it this way: people maybe bought TRON in order to make profit as traders. Some of them did make profits, some of them eventually will get rekt. It’s okay, it’s betting, it’s basically gambling. While there are people and companies actually convinced that the Ethereum blockchain makes any sense, and I think that’s a wider and deeper damage than just some traders buying the TRON token and selling it… so that’s why I am a little bit more open to that.

 

Vlad: What about IOTA?

 

Giacomo Zucco: IOTA… Yeah, unfortunately it’s like Ethereum. Maybe give those guys a 3. IOTA doesn’t have anything to do with IoT, so they’re basically matching two buzzwords: cryptocurrency and IoT. However, there is nothing in IOTA that makes any sense for IoT. They sold their tokens mostly leveraging fake or ambiguous or overblow announcements and partnerships with this and that. So that’s very very scammy. They have made the worst possible mistake trying to ship out their own cryptographic promitives that they made from scratch. It’s something you don’t do, and theirs was broken. And when people started to talk around and say that it was broken, the IOTA folks acted in a very arrogant way. Also, there was some part where they claimed that there was an anti-open source cloning feature. There was some mistake, and the creators claimed that the bug was put there intentionally in order to prevent people from cloning IOTA. So that’s so much for the open source approach, putting intentional bugs in the source code. Very very trustless! It’s bullshit!

 

Let’s say that some of the ideas of IOTA are cool. Like, I don’t think that realistically balanced ternanty number systems and calculations in computing will take over binary, but balanced ternary is cool and I like it. And also, transaction graphs instead of blockchains is something that has been studied in Bitcoin as well under the name of braiding or Dagger coins and stuff like that since 2013, actually. There is a very good presentation in scaling Bitcoin by David Vorick, the creator of Siacoin, about braiding. Braiding is interesting as an experiment and as a concept, but it doesn’t work in practice. In IOTA, it doesn’t work. It works only because it’s centralized and they have a coordinator, and if they get rid of the centralized coordinator, they graph will just diverge as it happened anyway. So it doesn’t work, it’s scammy, but at leasy they didn’t do a bailout to their friends like the Ethereum guys did. So maybe it’s better than Ethereum, let’s give them a 3.

 

Vlad: This is going to get so long, but I like it actually. I think I’m going to split this into parts just so it’s easier to watch. But let’s go on, what about DASH?

 

Giacomo Zucco: DASH… let’s give it a 4. I would put it in the same zone as things like TRON, as they are actually practically useless. It didn’t shock me with super scammy things like the Ethereum bailout, or the IOTA fake bug. So they didn’t do anything explicitly scammy. I mean, maybe I’d give them a 3 because one of the things I hate when people are bullshitting about is privacy. Because if you’re bullshitting about the price, then people will buy and they will get rekt they will complain, but it’s their fault. But when you are bullshitting about privacy, people could get killed if they try to use, for example ZCash or DASH or any other fake privacy coins in order to avoid the surveillance of some kind of autocratic regime. So people could suffer serious consequences if they use a fake privacy coin. I think that for people it’s interesting to understand DASH a little bit better. There’s a good comparison of “privacy coins” by Aaron van Wirdum of Bitcoin Magazine. It compares Monero, ZCash, DASH, so you can take a look at that. But DASH would probably stay at 3.

 

Vlad: Do you think Binance Coin has any relevance whatsoever? It’s just a metric which shows us that Binance is a successful exchange and they have managed to push a token which enables us to make cheaper transactions within their system. Do you think that outside it that it has any use or purpose?

 

Giacomo Zucco: So this is a a debate like Tether, even though it’s a little bit worse. But the point is that I don’t think that utility coins or tokens make any sense because their utility cannot grow in value in most of the cases when the business grows in value. For example, let’s assume we are creating a telephone company. And before you launch it, you presell on the market some air time as tokens. These are utility tokens, but the problem is that it makes sense to use these tokens instead of Bitcoin because it’s not money and you are not trying to recreate money. You are just representing air time. But if your business is of telephone company, then who says that one minute of airtime with your company should be more valued by the market? If anything, it will be valued less because you will be able to save costs and give discounts because of basic economies of scale.

 

So utility tokens don’t make any sense as an investment. What is called “security tokens”, they could be like tokens that give you a right for dividends or royalties from some kind of business. So to get this token, when you get back, you can basically claim voting rights, royalties or dividends, or stuff like that. There are two things here: the bottom line is that this kind of thing is illegal because securities are regulated in most markets by evil regulators that will want to prevent you from doing what you want with your money and with your other pals and investors. So there is a regulator trying to control security to create better “anti-money laundering laws” in order to tax you better. Everything is disguised as customer protection. So the government doesn’t want you to trade securities freely on the secondary market. So point is that you’re either using a Bitcoin-like technology to provide illegal securities which are censorship-resistant – so I’m Binance, I cannot just issue on my website a centralized security because they can shut me down, but magically if I issue a token on the blockchain, I will be able to do some kind of regulatory arbitrage just like Tether in order to maybe tell the regulator “I will sell this security only to KYC people, but since it’s a blockchain token, this security can be sold on the secondary market to anonymous people without any kind of regulation”. So if that’s the goal, it makes sense.

 

I don’t think that the Binance token is really giving any strict guarantee of returns from a security point of view, and I don’t think it is engineered in a way that is particularly censorship-resistant. If regulators want to shut down the Binance token as a security, they probably can. So, it’s a 6 from me. At least it’s not an attempt to replicate money, just like Tether is not. If you want to use money for your system, use Bitcoin. But if you want to represent something which is not money but may be rights to some kind of money nominated in Bitcoin, maybe you could do a token to do that.

 

Vlad: What do you think about NEO? It was one of the first coins which were promoted as the “Ethereum Killer” and the “Chinese Ethereum”. And to some people it looked promising because you could get some revenue from Gas and it had some dapps… but do you think it’s any good?

 

Giacomo Zucco: No, I don’t think so. Maybe I would give it a 3 instead of a 2 just because Ethereum is really, really, really scammy. At the beginning, NEO was an open-source repository on Github, and it was just a Bitcoin fork without any modifications. So basically, the Chinese Ethereum Killer was just a fork of Bitcoin without modifications for months. And people were already paying a lot of money to buy this token without anything, so it’s a clear pet.com-style bubble where people are paying for nothing because they think they are getting rich. And NEO is a typical situation like that: Chinese Ethereum Killer? No, it’s a 3!

 

Vlad: Okay. Ethereum Classic: you mentioned that it’s the better version of Ethereum or the original vision?

 

Giacomo Zucco: I agree, I agree. And I will give it a 4. So Ethereum is a collection of the worst ideas that people were considering about Bitcoin back in 2012-2013. Like having computation on chain instead of just a replication is a bad idea because it’s not scalable and it lacks privacy completely. Having very very fast block time is a bad idea because it produces many orphan rates, and orpah rates centralize the mining, so they introduced uncle rewards in order to compensate for that, but that created an unpredictable issue with schedule. So having an unpredictable schedule instead of a fixed schedule is a bad idea. So basically, every single bad idea discussed in Bitcoin or proposed for Bitcoin… I mean, if you are producing the software and the cockpit for a plane, you don’t want the software to be able to do everything. Since it’s a security critical application, you want the software of the cockpit to do exactly the very very well-defined set of things that maybe you can build on in complex ways. But the primitives should be very easy to audit, to predict, and to control.

 

Ethereum basically took all the bad ideas out there and they launched as a product with a huge premine, and with a huge ICO. Then they spent most of the money of the ICO in marketing, but then at least the original Ethereum chain didn’t explicitly change the rules of the system in order to bail out the financial losses of some insiders including Vitalik Buterin with something that people forget. But after the DAO, there was actually this white hat team that took the money on the forked chain and it tried to sell it on the market on Bitfinex in order to profit directly. It was a very very big scandal, but people forget everything in this market. So Ethereum as a concept is very bad in my opinion. But before the DAO fork, it was not incredibly scammy. After the DAO bailout, I think it became very very scammy. So I will give Ethereum Classic even a 5 because they started to detach from Ethereum bailout edition because of this bailout because it was absolutely stupid, and also a precedent for future censorship and manipulation, so it was a very stupid idea. But when they separating from Ethereum because of that, they started to consider other things like “Maybe we should have a limited supply”, or “Maybe we should not be having Turing completeness, and should have something more predictable”… there were a lot of things that recreate Bitcoin gradually. They started to get closer and closer to the Bitcoin original and reasonable assumptions that were completely distorted by ETH. So let’s give the guys a 5.

 

Vlad: The next one is NEM.

 

Giacomo Zucco: NEM… So I think that under this point, the game is very nice… but under this point I think that I am losing any kind of serious distinction. So I would probably go on with… they all sound like TRON to me, like nobody’s seriously following the technology of NEM. Though there is not a huge debate with engineers or developers folled into thinking something because of NEM marketing, just like there’s the case with other high market cap altcoins. NEM is something that some speculators and traders tried to make money out of. So basically, NEM or TRON or all the other altcoins from this point over are mostly just like gambling on a roulette. So they are going to disappear eventually, I’m quite confident and I don’t think that Litecoin will ever disappear. I think that NEM will probably disappear in less than 2 years. If you look at the historical chart of altcoins from 2013, you see that there is a huge turnover. These things come and then go and disappear. Maybe they remain as a collectible in very very low liquidity markets like maybe in 2020 somebody will try to collect all the 200 most famous altcoins of the years 2013-2020, so maybe somebody will give some market praise to NEM. But it’s not going to be anything relevant in a very very short time, and I think that I will stop here just because I think that below this point I don’t see a lot of important distinctions.

 

Vlad: Okay, because I was about to ask you about Tezos and Zcash, which are even more relevant.

 

Giacomo Zucco: Let’s go there, then. Tezos is a 3 because it was not just a shitcoin for traders, they also tried to represent some kind of governance solution, and then they started to fight with each other about the governance of money, and they went to court is Switzerland. So very very funny situation. So let’s say 3.

 

Zcash, unlike Ethereum which is in my opinion a very bad idea in general, is putting some cryptographic obfuscation in the blockchain in order to have better privacy like Monero does. It’s an interesting idea. I don’t say that it’s a good idea because you are trading basically more privacy in exchange for less scalability because cryptographically-obfuscated transactions are bigger and slower to produce and verify and to broadcast. So you are giving up scalability, but you are getting some privacy which is very important. You are also giving up some security, because usually when you are doing cryptography, and that’s a very generic sentence which isn’t very precise, but you have to choose between binding and hiding. So you cannot have perfect binding or hiding. So when you are hiding stuff, you could actually lose some security in binding by creating inflation problems. Also, in privacy coins, if you have an inflation bug, then the detection is an issue because it’s a privacy coin. So you’re having a trade-off between security and privacy. So the idea of using Zk-snarks to hide the transactions in the public blockchain, in the global consensus blockchain, is not necessarily a very viable idea. But it’s interesting.

 

Of course the way that Zcash was implemented was, in my opinion, terrible. From many, many points of view. For example, first they did optional privacy so you can choose a Z or a T transaction. And the Z transaction is incredibly expensive to create, sign, and validate, so nobody is actually using Z transactions. But since the marketing is all about “privacy coins” and Edward Snowden told everybody that Zcash is more private than Bitcoin, you now basically have hundreds and hundreds of people… so you have the people just betting and gambling on the price and that’s okay, but you have people using Zcash as if it was private, but everybody is using T transactions. So if you want liquidity and anonymity, Zcash is already trivially small compared to Bitcoin. So probably, even with zk-snarks and Z transactions, you are easier to identify and track with Zcash than on Bitcoin. But then people using Z transactions are such a small set for obvious reason than the global set of users, that basically if you’re using Z transactions you’re alone with an anonymity set of a bunch of few people. So there is no privacy at all in Zcash: not when you’re using the T transactions, and even the Z transactions have a small anonymity set. That was promoted and overpromoted in terms of privacy in a manner that I think is irresponsible.

 

Then there was the security and trust setup with people involved in this security circus, with Peter Todd going in the middle of the desert to do the trust setup, to check the entropy generation from the airplane… crazy stuff like radioactive sources. And then the software… I mean that there is no guarantee that the system that these people ran was an actual image of the software. There is no guarantee that the stuff these people have been using during the trust setup was actually the one used to launch Zcash. So you basically created a huge security circus to do some stuff, but the things you are giving them to do their stuff is not verified in the first place or verifiable. Peter Todd is still asking for some kind of proofs that somebody should give him eventually, and then there is the trademark: like Zooko telling around that it’s an open permisionless cryptocurrency, but if you use the Zcash symbol, they are going to sue you. That’s typically a decentralized, open-source and permisionless system, where there is a legal entity that can sue you. But above all these, the fact that you even think to create a privacy-oriented cryptocurrency which should be anonymous using a centralized US for-profit company, that screams “honeypot”. E-gold was shut down and their creator was put in jail because they created some kind of alternative currency. Bitcoin was done this way precisely because Bitcoin creators would have been put in jail just like the e-gold creators. And now these guys with their faces, names and surnames are creating a coin like Bitcoin, but even more anonymous, using and directing everything from a centralized US company. That’s very very fishy! And then there was the very ugly reward model: instead of just mining, they created the developer fee embedded in the protocol. What happens if they lose the private keys? They have to update the protocol in order to change the address of the money. That’s super ugly as a solution.

 

So probably, Zcash is… I’m undecided between 2 and 3. Is it like Ethereum or a little bit better? I will go with 2.

 

Vlad: So I think you said 4 before, but after presenting all the arguments, it makes sense I guess to give it a 2.

 

Giacomo Zucco: Yeah, probably I basically pumped myself into lowering the grades. So I started with 4, but then I gave a very good speech and I convinced myself.

 

Vlad: But would you say that Bitcoin is a 10?

 

Giacomo Zucco: In this scale, yes. If this scale is about something that could work… we’re using Bitcoin as a benchmark in this scale. Otherwise, if we are talking about money in general, then I will have to understand better the criteria we are using. Because, for example, for adoption the US dollar is better than Bitcoin. For Lindy effect, physical gold is better than Bitcoin. But for future outlook for now, I think Bitcoin looks better than USD and physical gold. So it really depends and it’s more tricky if you put all the kinds of money together. So if we are just considering cryptocurrencies and we’re using Bitcoin as a benchmark, then Bitcoin is a 10 by definition.

 

Vlad: Okay, this was incredible and I think I’m gonna ask somebody from the news department to actually write down all this classification that you’ve made. Maybe use less clickbaity headlines, so it doesn’t sound like something sensationalist. But you have made one of the most comprehensive and I didn’t expect this, actually. I expected you to say “Okay, Ethereum, that’s a 2. XRP, that’s a 3. Bitcoin Cash, that’s a 1”. But you actually explained every details and you gave an argument for everything, and that’s something that I really appreciate. And you really took your time with it.

Written by

Vlad is a political science graduate who got a little tired and disillusioned with the old highly-hierarchical and centralized world and decided to give this anarchistic blockchain invention a little try. He found out about Bitcoin in 2014, had to do a presentation about it at Sciences Po Paris in 2015, but was too foolish to buy any. Now that he’ll never be a crypto millionaire and hasn’t acquired his golden ticket to lifelong financial independence, he’ll just write op-eds on various topics.

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