OpenBazaar Ecosystem: Virus Media

In these posts we take a look at some unique members of the OpenBazaar ecosystem. Today we interview a vendor – Virus Media – selling various items, among them handmade crocheted items. You can find Virus Media on OpenBazaar at @virusmedia, and on Duosearch here.

 
OBstoreVirusMedia
 

Tell us a bit about yourself?

 

First and foremost, virus media is a family operation. My brother and I, along with our families (11 of us altogether), feel that even though alternative media has been exploding these past few years, which has benefited everyone, alt media shouldn’t strive to just replace the corporate media. Instead it should seek to innovate and educate to the point that the very idea people get in their heads when they hear the word “media” is something completely different than today. If I could sum up our vision for the future in a word, it’s “decentralize.” As cliche as that might sound right now, we think that there is so much more work that can be done in this area, and OpenBazaar is at the tip of the spear. We’re slowly working toward this ideal ourselves, while we’re in this creation and brainstorming phase, we decided to get a headstart on one of the major problems all media faces, no matter the size of the group, funding. We, like so many others recently, believe that “ads” are not the way of the future. We believe a multi-faceted approach that brings even more value to the reader is the way to go. OpenBazaar is a perfect example of what one of those facets could (should) be for the decentralized media of the future.

 

What do you make?

 

Our goal is to tap each family member’s natural skills and passions that could bring value to other people’s lives. Currently moderation services and textiles have taken the front seat and we are looking to expand our offering of all natural beeswax and essential oil based products. Fun fact, we now source our beeswax from another OpenBazaar vendor, PexPeppers. In the near future we plan on adding leather products and a number of privacy protecting tech products and services.

 

virusmedia

 

Why are you selling your product on OpenBazaar?

 

We want to encourage transacting in bitcoin, we see it as a matter of conscience. We want to be an example others can follow. Second, we can easily see our media operation ruffling feathers in the future and we want to do what we can to protect our supply lines from bad actors. We all know what happened to wikileaks, but countless other alt media outlets with less of a voice have suffered the same. Third, it’s FUN! Rediscovering the bazaars of old with a modern twist has brought a whole new level of enjoyment from making and spending money.

 

How has your experience been with OpenBazaar so far?

 

We’re proud to be part of this pioneering effort! The community has been great, the developers have been gracious and we’ve been having a blast using the chat feature. The way the chat feature has been implemented really makes you feel as if you’re walking into someone’s shop. We’ve met some old friends and made a good many new ones! ProTip: Talk up vendors with the chat feature, you’ll often find hidden products or discounts!

 

How familiar are you with Bitcoin?

 

One of the things that has slowed our progress is that we all still have our day jobs, for now. Nevertheless, we have been receiving 100% of our wages in bitcoin for a good year and a half. So the entire family has become intimately acquainted with bitcoin during this time. It’s been our most liberating move as of yet. Keep an eye out, one of our first articles, or series of articles, will be an in depth look at how to live 100% on bitcoin. When we become fully operational, you’ll be able to find us on steem, yours network, watchmybit and popchest (when they get out of their startup accelerator) and search for us with goodgopher or duckduckgo. Our website will be hosted on IPFS and will mirror a lot of the content. Until then, I suggest you look into each of those cryptocurrency based technologies and services and start using them, so you’ll be ready for our first articles!

 

What changes would you like to see to OpenBazaar to make it more useful for you?

 

First, the amount of features available already completely blew me away, what OpenBazaar has already accomplished is impressive. As a developer myself, I think I have a little more insight into what it takes to pull something like this off. I also know that the feature request list for e-commerce sites is literally never ending. My day job is customizing e-commerce solutions to the visions of the creatives. It is a tough job! That being said, yes, I do have a list. 😉
1. Inventory Management
2. Promo Codes (discount, free shipping, buy x get y, etc)
3. Custom CSS
4. xpub key import for refund and vendor receive addresses
5. Product ordering for All and Category Pages
6. Free shipping icon displays for customer based on customer country.
7. IPFS

 

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OpenBazaar Ecosystem: Crypto Collectibles

In these posts we take a look at some unique members of the OpenBazaar ecosystem. Today we interview a vendor selling comic books, Crypto Collectibles, who has one of the largest inventories on the network. You can find Crypto Collectibles on OpenBazaar at @crypto_collectibles/store, and on Duosearch here.

Crypto Collectibles

Crypto Collectibles store currently has 872 listings, making it the second largest store on the network. The store has been around since OpenBazaar launched in April, and has been active in the Slack community, the subreddit, and on Twitter.

His store has a big variety of comic books; I’ve purchased twice from him myself, including an old Casper comic for my daughter.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Crypto Collectibles was actually started over two years ago through a merchant hosting site Moolah.io, accepting payments for comic books in Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Dogecoin, while having a sister store open on Etsy for products that fit into their ‘antique’ rule, being 20 years or older.  History was not kind to Moolah.io unfortunately for myself and all other stores that were using the hosting services, so comics were limited to being sold on Etsy for the past couple of years.

What do you sell?

Mostly comic books at the moment, but general geek merchandise, promotional items, and or collectibles of any sort is up for sale.

Snapshot from his Duosear.ch page
Snapshot from his Duosear.ch page

Why are you selling your product on OpenBazaar?

Multiple reasons, supporting crypto, supporting meaningful new tech, and of course no listing fees with maximum possible audience.

How has your experience been with OpenBazaar so far?

Rough moments, but mostly good.   I feel slightly more comfortable in a Linux environment, that is a weird bonus that has come from this experience as an early adopter that I think users who are jumping on to OpenBazaar now will never have to worry about dealing with.  It is their loss, but the point and click ease that we all desire a Bitcoin app would have where it is so easy anyone can do it, is just around the corner with OpenBazaar.   My experience from using OpenBazaar from day one until now has shown OB1 devs are working every single day, there is a ton of other people into Bitcoin who can code who are helping the OB1 devs, every issue seems to be being addressed directly now or is on the roadmap.

How familiar are you with Bitcoin?

Fairly to very.

What changes would you like to see to OpenBazaar to make it more useful for you?

Stability. Little tweaks here and there, the little additions.  An example for me would be multiple items can be combined and have just one shipping cost.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Best of luck to any new stores being created.  To those who have tried OpenBazaar in the past but was there in the first month of release when things were a little borked, give it a spin again, check out DuoSear.ch or Bazaar Hound the mobile app, make a purchase, be forgiving as an early adopter of something new, tell a friend, support crypto.

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OpenBazaar 1.1.7 released

OpenBazaar version 1.1.7 has been released. Installers can be downloaded here and the full release notes are available here.

Changes

Transactions that have updates to their status that need attention now have an indicator bar and are moved to the top of the transactions list. This allows users to quickly see which transactions need attention.

unreadtransactions

 

Image fixes

Image scaling on the user page was fixed.

The bug that removed images from the about section on the user page was fixed.

Improved internationalization

More areas of the app that were not translatable, such as dates, are now translatable. Default text on drop downs is now translatable. Additionally, the columns have max-widths to prevent long single words from forcing them to be too wide.

When a product has worldwide shipping, the confusing international shipping text will no longer appear below it.

An issue with the international formatting of Bitcoin prices defaulting to 2 decimal places was fixed, now Bitcoin prices will always show 8 decimal places, with trailing zeroes truncated.

Bug fixes and other changes

  • multiple bugs were fixed in the transactions view. Sorting will work much better now.
  • the dotted line around the user page now appears correctly and is sized right when customizing the user page.
  • fixed the notifactions badge sometimes showing a negative number.
  • the Libbitcoin not connected message text was changed to be more clear.
  • a bug where the wrong tab would load in Settings after saving was fixed.
  • the settings page no longer caches, to prevent stale data when changes are made from the user page.
  • the My Page link in the top right navigation always goes to the user’s page now.
  • wallets are randomized, and CoinKite was removed
  • images in the about section will no longer be set to 100% wide. Images instead have a maximum width of 100%.
  • when your own page is NSFW, and your account is set to block NSFW content, your own page will no longer be blocked.
  • the minimum Bitcoin price has been reduced to 0.0002 from 0.002.
  • the buyer guid is shown in the summary tab of the case in the transaction page transaction modal.

Special thanks to everyone that contributed to translations on Transifex (https://www.transifex.com/ob1/openbazaar).

Hashes

openbazaar_1.1.7_i386.deb
4a58b061a8d3da12de1b7b353a80b5459fdc389ddff3a5491f67d2801cd97cde
openbazaar_1.1.7_amd64.deb
8f9aa15411305271bd588af12f5cd7a8c25ea35029bdbbaf35620830c44c7e42
OpenBazaar-1.1.7_Setup_x64.exe
e9f74dec0333ffb97c245ca1fe3bf13098f78d926fbdb109d74e523a94c5f644
OpenBazaar-1.1.7_Setup_i386.exe
5370d29154b24f19f0fe012fad2a8d196cac4175b32ab5d2898fe9737a07a1a7
OpenBazaar-1.1.7.dmg
790c5303a42fe055f3d4b2cd5af6246ec06ee23395ca001b5365962b63abfd05

 

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New address for OpenBazaar project funds

Back in November 2014 we created a 2-of-4 multisig account for our OpenBazaar project fund, where we could receive donations. We explained our reasoning for using multisig and being transparent with our project funds. That multisig account has four keyholders: Brian Hoffman, Sam Patterson, Washington Sanchez, and Dionysis Zindros.

Dionysis has been instrumental in OpenBazaar’s creation and a strong supporter of the project, but hasn’t played an active role on the project recently. Also, the original setup of the multisig requires us to manually craft new transactions for each expenditure. In order for the project funds to be kept with active participants in the project, and for us to be able to pay out of the account more easily (important as the project grows), we are shifting the project funds to a new 2-of-3 multisig.

The new multisig address is 3BDbGsH5h5ctDiFtWMmZawcf3E7iWirVms, and here is the QR code:

NewOBMulti

We’re publicly tracking project fund expenditures. We haven’t used the fund often in recent times, but we expect now that OpenBazaar is launched it will happen more frequently, especially since merchandise sales began. We’re committed to transparency and will ensure that payments made out of the project fund will have the details noted.

All sales of merchandise on the @OpenBazaar store will go directly into this fund, and reimbursements for shipping costs and purchasing the merchandise from vendors will then be made. We’ll try as much as possible to use vendors that accept Bitcoin.

The same is true for bug bounties, maintaining server infrastructure, conference costs, and other expenses. They will all come out of this fund, with the preference of paying Bitcoin directly but using reimbursement if necessary.

If you have questions about the project fund please join our Slack and contact us there.

 

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New features in OpenBazaar 1.1.5 release

OpenBazaar version 1.1.5 has just been released (download here). You can read the full changelog at the bottom of this post.

This release includes several new features, including email notifications, multiple server management, CSV export for order management, and improved display of listing information.

Email notifications

Users can now enter the details of an SMTP server in Settings > Advanced, and the server will connect to it to send email notifications about their OpenBazaar store.

This feature is still early in development; users will need to have knowledge of their SMTP server to get this working, and the emails received are very simple. We will be making email notification easier to use in future releases, and the email notifications themselves will be more robust (we welcome help on improving this feature).

OB Email

 

Example email when an OB store receives an order
Example email when an OB store receives an order

 

Server management

Previous releases made it difficult to use a single client to switch between multiple servers. The new release greatly simplifies this process by saving server information and allowing switching within the same client. This video shows this new feature being used.

 

CSV export

Stores with a large number of products or orders need the ability to take data from their store and use it outside the client. We’ve added the ability to export this data into a CSV file. When viewing your transactions, click the Export CSV button to see the options.

OBExport

 

Listing information

Listings now have more information about them available when viewing them in the Discover section.

New listings created will now have a tag in the top right corner which shows the type of listing they are: Physical, Digital, or a Service.

Listings with the Physical item tag
Listings with the Physical item tag

Users will also know now if the vendor isn’t able to ship the item to their location with a new tag in the bottom right of the image.

noshipping

Changelog

 The following significant changes have been made in this release:
  • you can now save and edit server configurations, and quickly switch your client between different servers.
  • the navigation menu has shortcuts for switching between saved server configurations.
  • you can now set a SMTP server in settings/advanced to send email messages when various events occur.
  • if a listing can’t be shipped to you, it is marked with an icon in the Discover and Store views.
  • listings are marked whether they are a physical, digital, or service listing. This only applies to listings made since the server was updated with the code to show this data.
  • basic information about your transactions can be exported to CSV from the transactions page
  • follower data on your store page is now lazy loaded, which should dramatically improve performance for stores with many followers.
  • chats with unread messages are positioned at the top of your chat list
  • the local node is only started if the client is currently set to connect to it
  • the shortcuts were changed to avoid colliding with common system shortcut keys. The reload the app shortcut is now ‘f’, and refresh the current view is ‘r’.
  • you can add and remove a user as a moderator for your store from their user page.
  • Bitcoin prices are now formatted according to the language of the user.
  • a bug in the link for a listing in the transaction modal was fixed.
  • you can no longer attempt to purchase your own listings (the final step in the purchase flow is not clickable)


​Special thanks to our contributors for code submissions to this release:

– Dekker3D
– dsmurrell
– mariodian

And special thanks to everyone that contributed to translations on Transifex (https://www.transifex.com/ob1/openbazaar).

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Snapshot of the OpenBazaar ecosystem at the beginning

OpenBazaar was released to the public on April 4th, and after two weeks of use we wanted to take a snapshot of what this emerging ecosystem of decentralized trade looks like right at the beginning. In this post we’ll walk through some stats and also talk to people who have been using the software.

Stats

We’ve put out four releases of OpenBazaar over the past two weeks. Altogether, the installers for these releases have been downloaded more than 54,600 times. However, not everyone who downloads an installer ends up installing OpenBazaar and running a node on the network. Because it’s peer-to-peer it’s difficult to know exactly how many users did become a node on the network, but we can make educated guesses.

BazaarBay.org is a website which runs a crawler of the OpenBazaar network in order to display content on the web. Their site collects stats as they crawl, which aren’t meant to be precise but give a rough approximation of what the network looks like. According to their stats they’ve seen ~17,800 nodes on the network in total since launch. Of those over 2,200 were vendors selling items. The total number of listings people have put up for sale is just over 6,500.

At the moment there are 546 valid OpenBazaar handles that have registered a blockchain ID.

Stories

Stats are interesting, but we wanted to talk to some people using OpenBazaar to get a better understanding of their experience. I asked a set of questions to a few vendors on the network, as well as some developers who are building services on top of OpenBazaar.

Screenshot from 2016-04-18 11-55-37

BazaarBay

This third party service was mentioned above in this post. It’s a website that acts as a way to view the OpenBazaar network via the web. The creator of BazaarBay had this to say.

Why did you get involved with the project?

I was looking for interesting projects to support / work on / to develop some project-related addons. OpenBazaar was just what I was looking for. It contained technologies which I’m familiar with as well as the e-commerce side + bitcoin + bit of anarchistic attitude. That’s exactly what I was looking for.

Can you describe your experience with OpenBazaar over the past few weeks?

Everything has been great, there has been minor technical issues. But that’s something everyone should expect from new project.

Anything related to using OpenBazaar that was unexpected?

I think the vendor side has been unexpectedly strong and diverse. I didn’t expect so many vendors to start selling goods & services so quickly.

How long have you used Bitcoin?

Since launch.

Anything else to mention?

Because of all these positive feedback and experiences, we’re encouraged to add more resources; they will be assigned to BazaarBay development.

Tyler Smith

Tyler is a developer building various helpful services for OpenBazaar users, such as a hosting service for OpenBazaar stores.

Why did you get involved with the project?

I’ve been interested in OpenBazaar since before it was forked from the DarkMarket project because I believe in free markets, decentralization, and open protocols. OpenBazaar combines the three in a way that’s extremely interesting to me by introducing a simple but powerful protocol that anybody can use to structure trade. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get involved until mid-to-late 2015 but since then I’ve been working hard on providing tools, services, and support to the community because I think OpenBazaar can a giant success for free commerce if executed correctly. If we do things right we can enable open and unrestricted trade for all people and machines.

Can you describe your experience with OpenBazaar over the past few weeks?

The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy because the reception has been huge. I’ve always expected OpenBazaar to do well, but I would have never guessed at how excited, active, and helpful the community has been. I’ve gotten feedback for my services from nearly a hundred users and very quickly we’ve developed a group of enthusiastic users volunteering their time and energy to help others and report bugs. I already feel that I’ve made very good friends that I’ll keep in touch with for a long time. There were far less issues than I expected going from a pool of a dozen users to thousands in a couple of days. The issues that we did come across were quickly resolved. Working with the OpenBazaar protocol is very easy so it’s simple to adapt to rapidly incoming feedback. I look forward to helping make OpenBazaar a giant success; the ubiquitous protocol used for all commerce over networks.

Screenshot from 2016-04-18 11-34-34

Dutyfree

This OpenBazaar store sells cigarettes. Store handle: @gotcigarettes

Why did you start an OpenBazaar store?

I’ve been waiting to open my OB store for over a year now – the promise of permissionless peer to peer trade was just too mind-blowing to ignore. The idea that for the first time in history, it will be possible for any two people on the planet to trade with one another (not even mentioning the escrow) without asking anyone’s permission, or paying intermediaries has kept me awake at night really. Having said this, I’m really proud to be sitting in the front row of the commerce revolution!

Can you describe your experience with OpenBazaar over the past few weeks?

Apart from a few bugs here and there (which have been patched with incredible speed), my experience has been very positive. I’ve received a dozen of orders and have two positive feedbacks already – it feels great! :)

Anything related to using OpenBazaar that was unexpected?

The UX and the loading speed were totally unexpected. I was definitely not expecting such a smooth first version of the OB software.

How long have you used Bitcoin?

I’ve been using Bitcoin for a good five years already.

Anything else to mention?

It’d be nice if the dev team continues to work on the privacy aspect of OB – it’s so transparent (one’s IP address is pretty much public info) that it’s a little disconcerting.

sb

Robert Valmassoi (Owner, Surf Burro)

This OpenBazaar store sells Mexican blankets. Store handle: @surfburro

Why did you start an OpenBazaar store?

I’ve had multiple problems with dispute resolution on eBay and I have never liked their high fees, but there hasn’t been better alternatives. With what OpenBazaar provides and as a bitcoin user, it was naturally compelling. Although I plan to use it personally when I need to sell something, my company Surf Burro was a perfect first store. OpenBazaar is another outlet for us to find more customers, has no fees, and is bundled in a fairly smooth platform.

Can you describe your experience with OpenBazaar over the past few weeks?

Application: The program is simple and well designed. I was able to get the store setup very quickly. There has been a few bugs, but after working with the OB1 developers, they have all been resolved and the software is running smoothly now.

Buying: I haven’t yet made a purchase. At the moment the catalog is lacking, but I’m sure it will increase with user growth and improved search/browsing functionality.

Selling: I’m happy with the volume we’ve sold in the short amount of time. Half of our buyers chose to use a moderator, but didn’t need to start a dispute. The escrow system works great, the funds get released quickly and no chance of a chargeback to worry about.

Overall I am very happy with OpenBazaar, even it its early stage.

Anything related to using OpenBazaar that was unexpected?

I didn’t realize how useful the chat would be. It is a much better way to communicate with customers and potential customers alike, as compared to eBay’s email-like messaging system. It has even led to a few sales.

How long have you used Bitcoin?

I first became interested and invested in bitcoin in 2012. Surf Burro has accepted bitcoin on our site since we started in 2014.

Anything else to mention?

I think OpenBazaar aligns well with bitcoin’s ideals, and is a great step towards a future of free trade. Although OpenBazaar’s youth currently shows, I can see its potential and have high hopes for its future.

 

 

Screenshot from 2016-04-18 12-15-09

Gold and Silver Bazaar

This OpenBazaar store sells gold and silver coins. Store handle: @GoldandSilverBazaar 

I put my store up on the OpenBazaar network in the first week of your release.

I was excited to see 2 sales come in within the first 48 hours. A 50 gram silver bar to a customer in France and a silver “CopBlock Quarter” to someone in the USA. I have also sold this week a “1766 Spanish Piece of Eight” Coin along with several other rare silver coins.

I moved my site from my windows laptop after the first 2 days and I was unable to migrate my store to the new server. So I built a new one and my existing customers found me and were happy to report that there orders had arrived and wanted to make sure I would get the BTC before they released it. So far,  500.00 in a week!

I put it up on a Digital Ocean VPS and had a difficult time keeping it up for more than 2 days at a time without it hanging and requiring me to restart the server. I have automated that process with a “cron script” for now.

Recently I did an “git pull” update on both of my servers and they haven’t had issues yet.

I launched a second store @thefarmersmarket  a few days ago and have had 3 sales of homemade caramels to people from around the country.

I am impressed with OpenBazaar. I sell alot on ebay and I cant wait to spread the word for OpenBazaar Bitcoin.

I am looking forward to the future of OpenBazaar.

 

Screenshot from 2016-04-18 12-22-53

OpenBazaar Store

We also run a store on OpenBazaar, selling merchandise. Proceeds go to the project fund.

Since launch we’ve had 221 orders placed and ran out of OpenBazaar pins the first day (more are on the way). The store now has 8,800 followers!

 

Growing pains

We’ve been very pleased by the community’s reception of the OpenBazaar launch, but it hasn’t gone off without a hitch.

Most users could install the first release without problems, but when we released the next update (1.1.1) many Windows users couldn’t install the software, or received the message “Unable to Connect to Server.” This was a bug caused by not properly packaging OpenSSL, which was fixed in newer releases.

The “Unable to Connect to Server” problem still impacts some users, and we’re working to diagnose why this is.

The first three releases also had a problem with CPU usage on the server side. The server would run fine for sometime, and then spike quickly, causing it to become unresponsive for several minutes (or even crash). This issue was solved in the newest release (1.1.3).

Many users have joined OpenBazaar to test out the software, but don’t keep a server running continually. For other users who later try to navigate to their page, they get a “The page you’re trying to view is currently offline” message, which is a frustrating experience. This is a current limitation of the software, and we’re working to address this issue.

Vendors have reported that the shipping options are too limited, and order management is too simple. We’re aware of this (I experienced this personally when dealing with @OpenBazaar store orders) and are working to improve them.

Summary

OpenBazaar had an exciting first few weeks with thousands of people using the new software. There were plenty of problems, and there’s a long way to go for decentralized trade to reach mainstream. But the developers and users building the ecosystem have finally gotten a glimpse of what permissionless trade looks like, and they’re not stopping until we can all trade free.

 

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OpenBazaar is Open for Business

OpenBazaar is now released on the mainnet and is ready for real transactions. You can download the program on the OpenBazaar website.

You can read our user tutorial explaining how to use OpenBazaar for the first time. If you need help, join our Slack or visit our help center.

If you’re not familiar with OpenBazaar, it’s a decentralized peer-to-peer network for trade that uses Bitcoin. That trade happens directly between buyers and sellers with no one in the middle – and no fees or restrictions on trade. You can read more about it at this post.

Below is a press release with more details on the release.

OpenBazaar store

Press release

“OpenBazaar Team Releases First Version of Decentralized Marketplace”

Washington, DC — April 4th, 2016 – OpenBazaar – the decentralized marketplace that uses Bitcoin – is now open for business.

Today, the core developers of OpenBazaar released the first version of their peer-to-peer marketplace. Project leader Brian Hoffman stated, “Trade was meant to be free. This idea inspired us to spend the last two years building OpenBazaar. Starting today, anyone in the world with access to an Internet connection can use Bitcoin and OpenBazaar to exchange goods and services freely. We can’t wait to see how people will use this tool.”

Unlike the online marketplace giants Alibaba, Amazon, or eBay, this new model of online commerce isn’t controlled by any company or organization. OpenBazaar is a fully peer-to-peer marketplace where buyers and sellers engage in trade directly with each other. Because there are no middleman in the trade, users don’t pay any fees to use the network, and there are no terms and conditions to sign. OpenBazaar is permissionless trade. There are also no central authorities that act as gatekeepers and restrict trade.

OpenBazaar launched a test version of their software March 1st, and saw more than 25,000 downloads from 126 countries. Users posted more than 3,000 listings to test out the software in preparation for the public release.

In 2015, the OpenBazaar core-developers received funding from Union Square Ventures, Andreessen-Horowitz, and angel investor William Mougayar to form a company, enabling full-time development of the protocol and software. The company, named ‘OB1’, will continue releasing improved versions of the software over the coming months, and will begin offering services to users on the network.

Users who want to join OpenBazaar can download the program for free on the OpenBazaar website.

Follow OpenBazaar on Twitter, Reddit, GitHub, and on their Blog.

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Current Limitations of the OpenBazaar Software

Anyone with a computer and internet connection can easily install the OpenBazaar software and begin trading with anyone else in the world – for free – without permission. We firmly believe that decentralized, P2P trade is going to fundamentally change commerce for the better.

However, we don’t expect this to happen overnight. Our upcoming mainnet release is only the first step in this process, and the software has some limitations. Some of these limitations are due to the nature of decentralized networks, and others are due to the limited time and resources we’ve had while building this product.

We want to make sure everyone is aware of the current limitations, as well as our plan to address them if possible. OpenBazaar is an open source project and we welcome more people on board to help us tackle these challenges.

Current Limitations

1. Offline stores

In the current design, a user’s store must remain online for other users to see and purchase listings of goods and services. The data around listings is hosted by the store itself and not replicated elsewhere. Users who don’t want to run OpenBazaar on their own machines can choose to run their node on inexpensive dedicated hardware, such as a Raspberry Pi, or by using a VPS which will keep their store online 24/7.

Addressing this limitation

Because the network is entirely peer to peer, it’s a difficult problem to determine how to make storage of listings and other data accessible even when a peer goes offline. However, there are other projects working on these problems. One project is the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Our lead back-end developer Chris Pacia has begun looking at how IPFS could be used to cache data and serve offline listings. It’s still early, but it looks promising. Our goal is to eventually transition away from the requirement of running a store continuously in order to engage in trade on the network.

2. Inventory management

In the current design, stores have only rudimentary inventory management tools. They cannot import/export listings from other platforms (e.g. TaoBao, eBay, Shopify), or specify the number of stock available for purchase. For the time being, listings need to be manually removed when they are sold out, similar to Craigslist and other classifieds.

Addressing this limitation

Inventory controls is a top priority feature to be added shortly after the mainnet release. Work has already begun on this issue, and the team will work closely with vendors to design and implement an inventory management system that works for them.

3. Search

Search in OpenBazaar is limited to querying the network for listings tagged with keywords that Vendors have assigned. This means that if a Vendor tags his product as ‘#tshirt’, and a buyer searches for ‘#tshirt’, they will see the Vendor’s product along with any other listing with that keyword. There are several limitations to this approach.

Because the network has no central authority, there’s no way to prevent people from mislabeling the products and attaching keywords which are unrelated to their product. Also, the process of looking through the network to find related keywords is slow. There’s no room for error either; keywords must be exact matches.

Addressing this limitation

This limitation is characteristic of P2P networks. Fortunately, users aren’t completely reliant on the search tool in the client, and the search feature isn’t the only way to navigate the network.

Bazaarbay.org is an example of a third party service which crawls the OpenBazaar network and gives users a more convenient search engine tool they’re used to. As OpenBazaar grows, similar services are expected to build their own search services.

Also, users can find listings without search altogether. The Discover page shows a random sampling of other stores, and they can also put an OB link to a store or listing directly into the navigation bar.

4. Anonymity

OpenBazaar users don’t have their IP addresses obfuscated. This means that a malicious user may be able to tie someone’s activity on the OpenBazaar network to the location of their physical internet connection.

In other areas of the design, OpenBazaar has focused on giving users more control over their own privacy. All traffic between OpenBazaar nodes is encrypted, so that others cannot see the details of transactions. This includes an end-to-end encrypted chat. Data is only seen by the parties directly involved in the trade.

Addressing this limitation

As OpenBazaar project lead Brian Hoffman has stated, “I think [anonymity] is, without a doubt, one of the most important, fundamental things that we need to have in OpenBazaar.”

There are some ways to increase privacy now. Similar to a bittorrent node, OpenBazaar users can run their node behind a VPN now. They can also run on a VPS.

We are looking at integrating other tools which enhance privacy. Tor is something we’ve thought about, but is difficult due to the fact that OpenBazaar uses UDP instead of TCP. Another tool which looks more promising is I2P, something which we’ve begun to investigate more closely. I2P already uses UDP.

IPFS is working on support for IPv6, Tor, and I2P connections. If we transition to IPFS and they have completed support for these tools, then users will have more anonymity options available to them.

5. Reputation

The reputation system on OpenBazaar is currently limited to buyers leaving reviews on transactions they’ve had with vendors, which are public. Reviews can only be left if a Bitcoin transaction has occurred, which prevents users from leaving reviews without actually engaging in some sort of transaction. As is true on other platforms, there’s nothing that prevents an untrustworthy vendor from pretending to be a buyer and purchasing their own product, leaving a positive review.

Reviews cannot be given to buyers or moderators. It’s important that buyers and vendors trust moderators, who act as escrow agents to ensure the transaction goes through smoothly. Without a reputation system in the current version of the software, users will need to determine trustworthiness of moderators through outside channels or by moderators choosing to connect their profiles to their real life identities.

Addressing this limitation

Building a decentralized reputation system that can be trusted – especially when allowing for anonymous users – is an unsolved problem. Our first attempt at reputation is a simple one that requires all parties involved to be able to prove a Bitcoin transaction occurred. Future versions will allow reviews on moderators, and also will be able to use the public ratings left on vendors to do more complex analysis.

Because OpenBazaar is open source, it’s also possible that third parties could do blockchain analysis to detect reputation fraud and offer their own reputation systems.

Join us

Building a peer to peer system for global trade is hard; come help us realize this vision of completely free trade. If you’re a developer, you can take a look at the back-end code or the open issues, or the front-end code or open issues. Feel free to join our Slack to talk directly to the devs and other community members. You don’t need to be a developer to join, we need testers, vendors, buyers and anyone else who’s interested in helping out however they can.

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OpenBazaar Weekly Update, March 7, 2016

Update

We’ve been posting weekly development updates for many months now. Since our testnet release on March 1st, we’re now going to give updates on development through release notes when new versions are released.

We will continue publishing weekly updates, which won’t be focused on code changes but other information around the progress of the OpenBazaar software, network, and community.

Testnet Release

On March 1st we released the testnet version of OpenBazaar. Over the past week we’ve been excited to see so many people download and test OpenBazaar for themselves. Since OpenBazaar is purely peer to peer, there is no central server to collect exact numbers on how many users installed OpenBazaar since testnet launch, but we can see how many users downloaded the installers from the Github repositories. Version 1.0.6 and 1.0.7 have been downloaded more than 8,000 times over the past week. The OpenBazaar testnet now has hundreds of items people are buying and selling to test out the software.

View post on imgur.com

In addition, we’ve seen more than 100 new issues opened on the client repository and 20 opened on the server repository. We appreciate so many people testing and reporting in order to make OpenBazaar ready for the upcoming main net release.

Many testers took to Twitter to share updates and screenshots of their own OpenBazaar pages and stores. One tester made a video showing off the process of purchasing products, shown at the bottom of this post.

The team is currently addressing the new open issues and responding to user feedback. Also, having so many users on the network has given us the ability to see how individual nodes respond to higher traffic. With this information we’re now focusing on optimization.

We will continue to put out new releases during this testing phase until we get enough testing and feedback to feel confident switching over to the main net. There is no set deadline yet for this transition.

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