COMPETITION between currencies is the stuff libertarian dreams are made on—and central bankers’ nightmares too. Already digital monies, in particular Bitcoin and Ethereum, are rivals. On October 28th a new crypto-currency will join the fray: Zcash. Many such “altcoins” are dubious affairs and don’t add much. But this one brings important innovations.

Zcash is based on Bitcoin’s code, but its creators, a bunch of cryptography researchers, have tweaked it. The new digital cash is minted more quickly and the system can handle more transactions. This makes for more liquidity and shorter transaction times, says Zooko Wilcox, who leads the project.

The newcomer also differs in the way it is governed. The incumbent started—and is still run—as an open-source project: a small group of volunteer developers decides which changes are made. Zcash’s code is also open-source, but its inventors have formed a company and accepted money from investors. In addition, 10% of the 21m coins to be issued are earmarked for founders, investors, employees and a putative Zcash foundation. All this, says Mr Wilcox, is to align incentives for all…Continue reading