What is OpenBazaar?
After moving to mainnet last week, OpenBazaar (OB) is now live. Similar to Etsy and eBay, OB is a marketplace where users can buy and sell material, as well as digital goods. Unlike its predecessors, OpenBazaar is a decentralized peer-to-peer market with no governing central authority. Because of this, users who set up a store-front are protected from being closed down or censored, creating as close to a free market as we could possibly get.
Now that OpenBazaar is live, users can download the application and begin buying and selling to users around the world. Since its release last Monday, OB has over 25,000 downloads and 3000 vendors set up. The video below goes through buying material goods on OpenBazaar.
OpenBazaar, eBay, or Etsy?
OpenBazaar has not come to praise eBay and Etsy, but to bury them –– and it has specific, built-in differences to do so.
OpenBazaar is decentralized, so there is no governing body that moderates content. Utilizing blockchain technology, OB creates a decentralized network that protects users from limitations set on what they can sell and who can they can sell to, attempting to create a truly free global market for trade. In the video above from the Daily Decrypt, we see Project Manager Brian Hoffman say that with OB, you can buy and sell what you want to who you want regardless of where they are. Competitors like the aforementioned do not have this same luxury, as they are hindered by geographical restrictions for selling certain products due to varying political and economic factors.
On the current version of OpenBazaar, users complete transactions using Bitcoin as their currency of exchange. This is only an ostensible disadvantage, as Bitcoin is partially what allows OB to be a decentralized, free market place and, with some luck, could drive mainstream adoption of the crypto-currency.
Because there is no central body, there are no fees being collected on your transactions––in case you’re unfamiliar, this does happen on eBay and Etsy. Without a middleman taking a cut of your sales, the only fee vendors on OpenBazaar pay are the cost of the Bitcoin transactions and the cost associated with hosting your store.
While there has been much praise around OpenBazaar being the next big-step eBay killer, or the future of commerce, there have also been claims that OpenBazaar would be the next version of the Silk Road––a digital marketplace, accessed through the TOR network, and used to sell a host of illicit goods online. This more unsavory market didn’t take long to pop up on OpenBazaar as the first drug listing was posted just hours after release. In response, Hoffman said it could be legitimate or someone just trying to stir up trouble; in either case, the company washes its hands of the transactions made. If those offerings are illicit substances, then the user does so at their own risk.
Next Steps for OpenBazaar
As OpenBazaar has just moved to mainnet, there are obviously areas that need and will continue to be worked on. In his Daily Decrypt interview, Hoffman touches on future areas of work, including reducing the load on the user’s end for hosting their store, implementing privacy features like protecting users’ IP addresses (though you can presently run OB with a VPN), and improving the searchability of your offerings going forward. Search will be a key focus for OpenBazaar as they hope to launch a suite of services, some related to search, through their business OB1.
About Ryan Jeethan
Ryan is a recent graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Arts & Business program focusing on UW’s unique Speech Communication program.