The Masternode Series #4: What is Horizen?

Horizen is a multifaceted blockchain platform and cryptocurrency focused on privacy, sidechains, and node infrastructure. Originally launched in 2017 as ZenCash, Horizen has evolved to offer robust tools for private transactions, decentralized applications, and node staking.

In this guide, we’ll explore Horizen’s origins, technical architecture, and key components.

Origin of Horizen

Horizen was founded in 2017 by a team of developers and entrepreneurs including Rob Viglione and Rolf Versluis. Initially launched under the name ZenCash, the project emerged as a privacy-oriented fork of Zclassic, which itself was a fork of Zcash.

The founders’ goal was to build on Zcash’s zero-knowledge proof technology for anonymous transactions while creating a more decentralized, community-driven ecosystem. This led to Horizen’s focus on node infrastructure and governance.

After establishing strong fundamentals as ZenCash, the project was rebranded to Horizen in August 2018. This marked the next evolution focusing on sidechains, decentralized applications, and usability.

Horizen continued gaining traction with the cryptocurrency community, known for its node rewards program, TLS support, and sidechain Dapps. By 2021, Horizen had grown to a top 100 cryptocurrency project with a peak market capitalization of over $1.5 billion.

How Horizen’s Blockchain Works

Horizen utilizes a dual-layer blockchain architecture:

  1. The main Horizen blockchain utilizes a hybrid Proof-of-Work and Proof-of-Stake system for consensus, security, and block production.
  2. Public sidechains can also be launched by participants and connected to the main Horizen chain via specifically configured sidechain nodes. These are secured via PoW or alternative consensus models like delegated proof-of-stake.

For the main chain, new Horizen blocks are produced via selective nodes and mining, with mining difficulty dynamically adjusting to maintain target block intervals. Horizen uses an ASIC-resistant and energy-efficient hash function called Equihash for its Proof-of-Work algorithm.

The Horizen sidechains allow decentralized applications to run on customized blockchains with the flexibility to set parameters like block size, confirmation times, scripting options, and transaction fees. This solves common Dapp scaling and adoption issues. Sidechain performance is kept independent of the main chain.

Unique Features of Horizen Blockchain

Here are some key aspects that set Horizen apart in the blockchain industry:

  • Privacy-centric: The network offers native support for anonymous transactions via zk-SNARKs. Users can also enable optional privacy, which protects identity and activity on the network.
  • Sidechains: Horizen sidechains enable highly customizable blockchains for deploying decentralized apps and solutions with independent governance.
  • Node infrastructure: A multi-tier node system offers users different options for earning income by contributing computing resources to the network.
  • Decentralized funding: Block rewards provide an internal DAO treasury for funding ecosystem growth proposals voted on by node operators.
  • Broad use cases: Horizen’s tech stack enables both public and private use cases, ranging from DeFi to enterprise adoption and confidential transactions.
  • Interoperability: The sidechain architecture and pegged token model enable assets and data to be exchanged across different blockchains.

In general, these capabilities make Horizen one of the most versatile and technically robust blockchain platforms available.

Horizen’s Network Components

Horizen comprises several key components that work together to power the blockchain network:

  • ZEN token: The native Horizen cryptocurrency used for transactions, staking nodes, and participating in governance. ZEN employs a capped supply model with inflationary block rewards paid to nodes and miners.
  • Main chain: The base public Horizen blockchain that settles transactions, orchestrates sidechains, and enables mining via proof-of-work.
  • Sidechains: Independent blockchains with customizable parameters and features for running decentralized applications. They connect to the main chain through relay nodes.
  • Secure/Super Nodes: These staked nodes provide extra security and functions to the network. They receive a lion’s share of the block rewards.
  • Mining Nodes: Nodes with sufficient computing power that group together to mine new blocks and include transactions. They compete to solve proof-of-work puzzles.
  • Zero-knowledge Proofs: Privacy technology used to enable anonymous transaction capabilities on the platform. It powers features like shielded ZEN transfers.
  • Decentralized Governance: On-chain voting system for stakeholders to manage budgets, proposals, projects, and other governance matters.

Together, these components power a versatile blockchain capable of public transactions, private transfers, sidechain Dapps, and decentralized governance.

Horizen’s Node Ecosystem

A defining aspect of Horizen is its expansive node infrastructure. The Horizen node ecosystem includes:

Secure Nodes require ownership of 42 ZEN and deliver advanced node functionality like operating sidechains and voting on governance matters. Zenodes are Horizen’s version of secure nodes. As masternodes, Zenodes participate in block verification, governance decisions, and sidechain operations. They also enable features like encrypted messaging. In return, Zenodes receive block rewards proportionate to their stake.

Super Nodes operate the blockchain network infrastructure and require ownership of 500 ZEN. Super nodes coordinate other nodes and enable key network functions. They coordinate the overall blockchain network, verify blocks, and propagate transactions.

As the backbone infrastructure, Super Nodes enable key features like blockchain snapshots, cross-chain interoperability, and node communications. They also facilitate the Horizen DAO treasury and governance systems.

Given their critical role, Super Nodes receive the largest allocation of the block rewards. The high collateral requirement helps ensure that only invested community members operate this top masternode tier.

Relay Nodes link between the main chain and sidechains. They prevent double spending by verifying sidechain transactions before confirming on the mainnet.

Horizen Nodes operate on a staked collateral model, paying out block rewards and fees based on the tier and amount staked. Running nodes earn income while securing the network.

Anyone can operate nodes by locking the required ZEN and meeting the minimum server specifications like uptime and bandwidth. This allows decentralization of the node infrastructure.

Horizen’s Use Cases

Horizen’s tech stack supports a wide range of applications including:

  • Confidential Transactions – Anonymous transfer and trading of ZEN via shielded addresses and zero-knowledge proofs.
  • Decentralized Finance – Private DeFi apps for decentralized trading, investing, lending, and payments.
  • Blockchain Oracles – Horizen oracles allow sidechains to securely access external data like market prices.
  • Identity Management – Secure identity and credentials through the Sidechain SDK and ZenID.
  • Tokenization – Any asset can be tokenized on Horizen sidechains from securities to property.
  • Retail Payments – Processing of transactions and point-of-sale payments using ZEN with optional privacy.
  • Gaming – Integration of ZEN transfers and NFTs into games along with developer SDKs.
  • Enterprise Blockchains – Customizable and interoperable sidechains for enterprise usage with privacy options.

Horizen is rapidly expanding its ecosystem to serve these diverse verticals. Developments like the sidechain SDK, ZenID, white label sidechains, and scalability improvements continue extending capabilities.


Since its launch in 2017, Horizen has steadily evolved from just another privacy coin into one of the most advanced and versatile blockchain ecosystem offerings. Its sidechain architecture, staking node infrastructure, and optional privacy provide a unique toolkit for both public and confidential applications. As adoption continues spreading, Horizen is positioned as a leading engine powering the next generation of blockchain-based solutions.