Zbay: messaging, community, and marketplaces over Zcash

Applicant background

Our team brings software development and product design experience in both the crypto and traditional stack, as well as a strong track record in activism for privacy and freedom online.

You can try out Zbay by joining our beta: https://zbay.app/

You can see our design process—and some planned features—in our Figma: https://www.figma.com/file/0j7Nna9zWmfOSNmRmQK1Uh/zbay-app-design

Motivation and overview

Zbay is like Slack or Keybase with a marketplace, built on Zcash. Like Zcash it has infinite potential uses, but in the near term we are focused on building a tool that supports journalists and journalism. We believe we can use the Zcash network to give journalists a way to communicate with sources and crowdfund their work that is more secure and convenient than existing alternatives.

Technical approach

Zbay is a Node/Electron/React app for Mac, Windows, and GNU/Linux built around a locally running instance of zcashd. Once users have installed and synced Zbay, they communicate exclusively over the Zcash network through their own instance of zcashd. Upcoming development will focus on increasing user privacy and ease-of-use.

Execution risks

  1. Failing to find product/market fit - We are mitigating this risk by focusing on journalists and journalism as a promising initial niche, providing some features that exist nowhere else, while also adapting familiar user interface paradigms and approaches from popular existing models.
  2. Scaling problems if we grow too fast - If we run into scaling problems we can wait for layer 1 scaling improvements, work with the Zcash community to address specific bottlenecks, roll our own solutions off-chain, or combine these approaches.
  3. Finding ongoing funding - If we make a popular way to use Zcash, we can capture some of this value through a voluntary fee, anti-spam mechanisms like username or channel registration fees, or gofundme-style tips. With traction, we believe we can find outside investment that is consistent with our values and continued autonomy—similar projects have. We may also apply to the major grants fund.

Downsides

  1. Possible strain on Zcash network - We address this above, in risks. To the extent necessary we can address bottlenecks or move activity off-chain.
  2. Spam and abuse - We see this more as a frontier than a downside. We've built and are expanding moderation features based on principles outlined here and believe communities on a censorship-resistant network will recognize the need for moderators and gravitate to well-moderated spaces.

Evaluation plan & tasks

A list of objectives and key results follows:

Objective 1: User testing, outreach

  • Run 20 interviews with notable journalists and activists, via encrypted memo, and prioritize improvements based on their feedback.
  • Confirm their satisfaction with these improvements in 20 or more cases.
  • Make interviews linkable on web (e.g. zbay.app/cool-interview), openable in Zbay
  • Interviews have total 1000+ shares on Twitter.
  • Moderation features are adequate to minimize trolling, chaos.

Objective 2: Market to journalists

  • Change name (less emphasis on marketplace)
  • Site conveys value proposition to journalists, interviewees
  • 4 out of 5 readers, journalists, and interviewees say they understand the value proposition

Objective 3: Involve outside developers

  • Move issues from Jira to Github
  • Reach out to developers and solicit feedback
  • 3 accepted PRs from outside developers

Objective 4: Fast & easy to install

  • Add light client support.
  • User can start using Zbay as fast as Keybase or Slack.

Objective 5: Private by default.

  • Connect via Tor by default.
  • Create new Tor circuits when appropriate.
  • Review known privacy risks and limitations, present them clearly.

Schedule

Timeline

Budget and justification

Dev team $9,060 / month

Product manager $4,166 / month

UX designer, part-time. $2,295 / month

External services (AWS, Github, Gsuite, Slack) $300 / month

Total monthly burn: $15,821 / month

Total (4 months): $63,284

Tipping

Tips Received
???  
ZEC

Campaign

Requested Funding
$63,284
Open for Public Review