The Internet facilitates an astounding (and ever-increasing) amount of commerce in our world. Allowing people to communicate with each other anywhere in the world and at low cost has ushered in an new era of global trade.
However, a few powerful organizations wield great influence over commerce online, and they have used their power to set up a rigged game. A “fake market.”
Anil Dash recently wrote an article entitled “Tech and the Fake Market tactic” which gives examples of how a few companies have creating markets online that appear fair, but in reality are tilted in their own favor:
Google’s results showing Google products first
Amazon displays it’s own products over better alternatives
Uber drivers’ rates aren’t decided by the drivers but set by Uber
These companies aren’t doing anything you wouldn’t expect them to do — they are using their popularity to give themselves a further advantage. But as these companies’ share of online commerce grows, their ability to further manipulate the markets in their favor grows as well. It’s not hard to imagine how Google, Amazon, or other huge companies on the Internet could further their positions as “default” services by manipulating what their users see for their own benefit.
These companies also collect the data of all their users for their own purposes, charge fees when users sell on their platforms, and censor trade based on their own interests or on behalf of governments. They act as gatekeepers into their own tightly-controlled system. Most users aren’t aware they are seeing a rigged market, and even if they do realize it they aren’t aware of any alternatives.
What can be done about these rigged markets? In his article Anil suggests the following course of action:
Perhaps the single most effective action we can take is to educate our elected officials about the changes that are happening.
I disagree with Anil that elected officials are the right people to solve this problem. Their only tool is the application of law, which is a powerful but blunt instrument. Politicians don’t have a compelling track record when it comes to understanding new technologies. Regulators are often strongly influenced by the people they are regulating — a term called “regulatory capture” — and these powerful companies would try to help make the new rules end up in their favor.
There’s a more compelling way to address rigged markets: bypass the gatekeepers of online commerce altogether.
Their power comes from the centralized nature of the existing commerce platforms. They control the center; they control the commerce.
Fortunately, a handful of emerging technologies gives us the ability to fix these rigged markets once and for all. But new markets are emerging that have no center to control. They are decentralized, meaning each user in these markets connects directly to other users. These markets have no gatekeepers; there are no gates to keep in a completely peer-to-peer marketplace. Decentralized markets also have no fees, no data collection, and no censorship.
They can’t be rigged.
It’s not possible to have a truly open and transparent marketplace when one party controls the entire market. But online markets can be fair and free. Not because some elected officials may demand it, but because decentralization creates a level playing field where no one has an advantage over anyone else.
Decentralized tools such as OpenBazaar and Bitcoin are already being used as an alternative to the dominant online commerce platforms and payment methods. If you want to participate in online commerce that is fair and free, trying using them today.
OpenBazaar Front End Lead Josh Jeffryes describes the evolution of OB1’s collaboration process for our entirely remote team building the decentralized marketplace, OpenBazaar:
The OB1 Process
Building great products requires a great process. As the OpenBazaar platform has grown, so has the way we work together to build it. We’ve continuously improved how we plan and execute our work, and as we near the release of version 2 of OpenBazaar, we’d like to share some insight into those improvements with you.
The Minimal Viable Process
OpenBazaar started as a side project, and at the start we had a side project process. We used Slack and Github, and kept things informal. As we grew into a full-time startup, with a fully remote team distributed across the world, we needed a startup process.
When your idea and team are small, a minimal process is ok. The idea fits in everyone’s minds, and you agree on what it is. But as the idea grows, it stops fitting, and the parts in each mind may not match. You need an external map so those parts still fit together when you’re done.
Without a process to create that map, you spend most of your time maintaining agreement about what you’re building, instead of building it.
This is where Agile was a critical tool for us. We constructed a process from Agile patterns, and added or removed patterns as we went.
We began by defining each feature needed for OpenBazaar version 2. Then we organized those features into sprints of 2 weeks each. This makes it possible to know if a UI feature will be built in sprint 6, the back end functionality needs to be built in spring 5, the design in sprint 4, and the specifications in sprint 3. Technical details were fleshed out in regular planning sessions before each sprint.
Trello was our tool for sprint organization. It’s simple and easy to use. Github was used to track issues, bugs, and technical specifications, and designs were shared with Zeplin.
More Collaboration Means Less Everything Else
If you don’t use the same map, you don’t arrive at the same place. We stay on the map by constantly building it together.
Before any feature is worked on, we work together to define it over video conferencing, first as a user story (“the user wants to do “x”), then a design, and finally a detailed set of technical requirements.
When a feature is done, the code is reviewed by the whole team. A lead reviewer gives detailed feedback, but other members, even non-technical ones, comments on what the feature does and how it works.
We continue to improve and change our process. We’ve added back in some Agile patterns we discarded previously as too structured. When our sprints became more formal, with set planning, review, and retrospectives, Trello started to strain under the level of detail we needed. We moved to Jira, which allowed us to set up a customized process.
The OpenBazaar platform becomes stronger every day because we constantly iterate, test, and improve it. Like every great startup, we treat our process the same way.
In case you missed it, here is other notable news from the last couple of weeks:
Do you feel like the stock photo/art/video space could use some disruption? If you’ve created or bought digital media before you may have encountered some frustration along the way. Up-and-coming vendor Open Source Photos has joined OpenBazaar with a lot of ideas about how our marketplace can be paired with another innovative blockchain tool to meet a need and change the world.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you make/sell?
My name is Tim and I want to share my photography and inspire the world. That is the idea behind Open Source Photos. It brings joy knowing my work inspires others to create/share/distribute/profit/feel emotion in some way. I also want to distribute my photography cheaper than any stock photo website & without the hassle. I’d love for people to be able to purchase a photo once and do what they want with it, no questions asked.
Why do you use OpenBazaar and how long have you had an OpenBazaar store?
I love the idea of decentralized services not controlled by single entities. Decentralization is foundation of the internet after all.
I have made a few purchases on OB and I just love the fact I can order something from someone across the globe, the money goes DIRECTLY to them, and I can experience things that I normally wouldn’t be able to.
For example, I ordered some Riceberry from Thailand. If I were to order this on Amazon it would cost me $35-50 depending on the source and I would likely still pay for shipping since most of them are not prime. On OpenBazaar I was able to get a brick of it, along with some extra swag the buyer threw in, for only $30–and that INCLUDED the shipping. Cutting out the middleman apparently saves money, who knew! Now I am able to experience a strain of rice and some culture from across the globe, from the comfort of my own home, all while helping someone who has the foresight to try to be an entrepreneur in this global marketplace.
So far the community has been very welcoming. I even had 1 purchase on one of my earlier stores before my history got erased because I didn’t yet know how to backup the GUID/STORE from my VPS (Virtual Private Server). I had one purchase later and was hoping/waiting on some feedback but it never came through. Thankfully I was able to use a moderator to get the funds moved from escrow to my wallet.
I’m grateful for the testing and experience I’ve gained using the platform at an early stage.
This will allow me to appreciate the more streamlined clients to come. I still am a relative OpenBazaar newb as I have only been in the community for about a month now.
Even if it doesn’t work out to where I can use this as a source of income, I’ve learned some networking/computing skills I didn’t have before. I hopefully can inspire a few people to go down the same route as me with their artwork and this can have a pay it forward mentality. I look forward to watching OpenBazaar and its community grow as bitcoin becomes more globally adopted and hopefully we can start a Digital Media Revolution!
Why did you start in this business?
For a stock image/video/art buyer, trying to use the current system of using the big name sites like Shutterstock can be a pain. There are various licensing options depending how the buyer wants to use the photo. Is it a one time use? Is it in a magazine? If so how big is their distribution? Do they want exclusive rights?
There are difficulties for creators as well. You have to apply to sell by submitting some work and having them judge the photo before selling. This is to create more quality images to sell the marketplace’s brand at a higher price than competitors. These websites also take a cut of the money from the photographer for offering this service and it just creates extra paperwork/red-tape.
Then there’s the internet itself. It is a great engine for sharing and reposting content and great communities try to give the original video/author credit, but does it work all the time or endure for the whole lifespan of the image? Can people take my creations and profit somewhere that I may never see a penny of it? Most definitely, but by applying the wisdom of crowds and hoping that by eliminating red-tape and licensing options with a buy-it-once approach I can spend more time doing what I want–which is taking photos/making images–and sell more images for less rather than just a few images for more than what they are worth.
The idea I have is to be able to sell your digital goods with an open source mindset, thus calling my store “Open Source Photos.” This means that creators can sell their work through their their own store by using a service like ascribe.io to claim ownership of the image and if it becomes frequently used or remixed that good fortune will trickle its way back to you.
What is ascribe.io? I’m quoting from their website:
“Attribution for your creative work will stay with you forever.”
“Create a permanent and unbreakable link between you and your creative work. That link – the record of ownership – can be forever verified and tracked.”
“Each registered piece comes with a COA, a built in unique cryptographic ID and the complete ownership history. The COA can be verified anytime and printed out.”
“Transfer, consign or loan your digital creations without losing attribution. Our easy-to-use platform comes equipped with clear legal framework and supports custom contracts.”
Basically think free, blockchain-based copyright service for artists. This sort of tracking creates a proof that each image a creator uploads is actually their image. Even if someone then buys an image and tries to re-upload it, the original artist’s date stamp will still be prior to theirs so the community can still see the original author. They can let their images go with the “Open Source License” – basically the MIT license but replace code/programs with digital files/images.
Copyright is dead – or rather should be drastically changed.
The idea behind copyright makes sense in terms of protecting an artists work and trying to get them the money they deserve for their work , however it has gone overboard in my opinion. If you think about it, many creations are created of the backs of another idea. It is hard to come up with an original song without subconsciously using a riff you may have heard. Using code from one program to implement it in another creating a new service that didn’t exist before. Sure there are the truly innovating who can come up with a unique concept, but most things are a remix already.
By applying copyright to everything it stifles innovation and creation. Just look at YouTube’s copyright policy which is now banning users and de-monetizing their videos all because of a 3 second sound clip that matched one in their database. Algorithms are now becoming judge, jury and executioner (of profits). What helped the growth of YouTube (the crazy remix videos) is now becoming banned, and I feel in the long term, YouTube is going to be the next MySpace if enough users jump ship to a platform that isn’t so riddled with legal paperwork.
What is your target market?
By offering my images at a low price it allows that kid who’s 16 who maybe wants some pictures to practice with in Photoshop or web design but he doesn’t have a credit card to purchase images offline and he doesn’t want to steal someone’s work. He can now using just a small amount of bitcoin to purchase a photo and do what he wants with it. I’m not going to track anyone down and demand royalties. Want an easy image for a blog post/forum/website/business header? Buy it once and re-use it remix it as much as you want!
If someone living in a real market city in, let’s say India, wants to buy a few of my images to make and sell physical prints on the other side of the world, why
should I get a percentage of every sale? They did all of the legwork to print this image and bring it to their local market that way. They aren’t saturating my local area with my own work and it won’t affect my profits here. It would be nice to get recondition for my work like with a CC license (this means they can re-mix re-use your work but they legally have to give you credit which again is more red tape) but I do not require it because if it works out and they want more images, they will come back. Also each image using ascribe.io will be date stamped to me being the author of the image.
If someone wants to purchase images and create OpenBazaar themes to then sell on OpenBazaar – please do it! I feel if you change the photo or are using it in a unique way that you thought of, I shouldn’t get any part of that. I simply gave you the blue paint and you used it to paint the ocean.
I am hoping others will go with this idea, letting their art go for cheap and allowing it to be remixed and resold, as this could create a feedback loop where the artists are not only making money off consumers and fans of their work, but the majority of their money will be coming from within the community because the money will flow from one artist to the other as they bounce images/ideas/themes/photo skills off each other.
How will you determine your prices?
I will do my best at keeping the costs as low as possible while still covering transaction cost/listing time. I ideally would like to sell images for around $1-2 a piece. Rather than try to take 1 amazing work and sell it for $1,000, I’d rather have so many images that people want to use because of the convenience that I’m selling 1,000 photos for $1. And because of the integration with cryptocurrency it makes selling for smaller amounts economically feasible.
Meet Tim & check out these examples of the kinds of photos you can expect from Open Source Photos, coming soon!
Want to learn more about vendors and thinkers in the OpenBazaar community? Check out these posts!
For the past couple of weeks, OpenBazaar front-end developer Rob Misiorowski has been elbows-deep in the development of the 2.0 chat feature. Here is a look into some of the work he’s been doing:
For the past few weeks I’ve been working on the chat function for version 2.0 which is similar to current 1.0 chat, with a few enhancements on the user’s side. Notably planned is emoji support, typing & message read indicators, and an Unread Messages badge indicating offscreen threads with unread messages.
There are new things going on under the hood, though. To get certain data needed for the Chat UI (handle, avatar hash, location), individual profiles for each user in the UI need to be obtained. These need to be obtained via IPNS, which has been quite slow (calls often take 10+ seconds). The problem with having to make an individual call for each chat head is that the browser has a limit of 6 concurrent HTTP requests to the same domain. So, if we clog that up with bulky time-consuming IPNS calls, the rest of the app will be blocked. For example, if the user tries to navigate to another page, any data required for that page will go to the end of the HTTP request queue and would need to wait until no more than 5 of the chat IPNS calls are left. That could be a while and in the meantime the user would just be looking at a loading spinner which is a great way to ruin the usability of a feature.
What is IPNS?
It’s new. Here’s a digest from back-end developer Tyler Smith: IPNS is like DNS for IPFS content. It let’s you find IPFS data by a name if you don’t know the hash. The hashes verify integrity so IPFS only needs to find one copy of the content when you search by hash. But when you search by name it has to talk to many nodes and find a quorum of what hash a name points at which makes it much slower.
So what we decided to do was expose an HTTP endpoint on the server where you could request profiles in bulk. For example, if we need 10 profiles, we could request them in 1 call, instead of 10. Furthermore, the endpoint has an ‘async’ option, which if true would send the profiles back via sockets as they are obtained by the server. Long story short, we’re not clogging up the UI and we still get the profiles as they’re available. Hooray!
Additional thoughts about IPFS/IPNS from Rob:
In our experience, direct IPFS calls have been fairly performant. IPNS calls, on the other hand, have been quite slow. Apparently the bottleneck is that it takes quite a bit of time for the IPFS system to get the mapping of peerId to hash. When we were at Coindesk’s Construct 2017 event a couple of weeks ago we brought this up with the IPFS team and they gave us an idea of how we could improve this performance. It basically involves having the server register in a pub / sub system with other nodes so that as soon as a node has its hash available, it publishes it in real time and any subscribed servers could cache that mapping. That way, the expensive lookup wouldn’t have to happen as the UI is trying to get data. We haven’t looked into implementing that yet and it’s unknown how much of an improvement that would give us, but it does sound quite promising!
In case you missed it, here is other notable news from the last couple of weeks:
This new year we’ve been looking at new technologies to see how they could improve our lives. The best example (and the inspiration at the root of OpenBazaar) is new money – such as Bitcoin – which lets us exchange value with each other directly. No need to rely on banks or other third parties.
Also, new networks, built intentionally to be decentralized, now provide a way for people to take greater control of their online lives.
OpenBazaar is one of these new networks. Launched in 2016 it’s being used by people all over the world right now who are buying and selling directly with each other and paying in Bitcoin.
Building something as revolutionary as a fully decentralized marketplace has had its challenges and we are so grateful for the feedback we’ve received from our active users. Enacting that feedback has ended up being a bit broader than we expected and to meet the needs of our community so this year OpenBazaar will become a brand new network again when the 2.0 version of the software launches.
Why did we decide to do a rebuild rather than an update?
It’s been exciting to see how people have used the current version of the software, but a lot has changed since we started working on OpenBazaar in 2014. Other technologies have become more mature and reliable. Due to the feedback from our users we saw how we could utilize these new technologies to make the p2p trade experience even better, and we began building a new version of OpenBazaar.
Here are the major points of the 2.0 rebuild:
This new version of OpenBazaar is being built on top of another very new, decentralized network called the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). Being built on IPFS is exciting for many reasons but the most practical reason is that that OpenBazaar stores and listings will be cached and seeded between each other, meaning that store data will be distributed across the network. A store which is seeded will no longer need to be online 24/7 for their store and listings to be accessible by others on the network. This was a major piece of the puzzle for building a truly decentralized network that was also incredibly functional–even functional enough to compete with existing (and wildly popular) ecommerce models.
The software is also being rewritten in a new language. Originally in Python, version 2.0 is written in Go to allow for better management of dependencies and for the end user, much easier installation.
The new software will have built-in Bitcoin wallets for users. Acquiring and storing Bitcoin can still be a challenge and we wanted the platform to meet users earlier in the game. We are unable to set up a full exchange to facilitate the buying and selling of Bitcoin but we can help users with storage by building a custom wallet into the app.
Apart from being further decentralized, the new version will also support Tor, giving users more privacy. An ideological pillar we share with many of our users is that people have a right to privacy in their daily lives, a principle that has gotten tangled up a bit since internet use has gone mainstream. We want buyers and sellers to have as much control over their online trade as possible.
In these posts we take a look at some unique members of the OpenBazaar ecosystem and share their stores. Today we trying something different to feature the delicious loose leaf tea company, Yummitea, via a video interview by our Community Manager, Jenn!
Check out the video or read the transcript below to learn about what it’s like selling on OpenBazaar, living in Belgium and the MOST important thing an ecommerce store needs.
Jenn (Community Manager, OB1): So, thanks again for joining me today, Ben. I have a few questions for you, just to talk about your story and your involvement in OpenBazaar. First, could you just tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do and how you ended up with an OpenBazaar store? And then we’ll segue into the next question.
Ben (Owner, Yummitea): Right, so one of the things that my wife and I set up in Belgium was a couple of years ago we created our own tea label. We are selling loose leaf tea, biological [organic] tea most of the time, different flavors, and we have a web shop for that which has been running for a couple of years already. People are buying from the web shop, and since I got in touch with OpenBazaar, well I thought why not give it a try? It’s a new channel. The web shop that we have is right now limited to Belgium, but with OpenBazaar we’re actually reaching the whole world. It’s a different kind of selling, it’s a different kind of people buying the products, but it gives a lot of opportunity I think for creating your brands and for reaching new people.
Jenn: That’s awesome. And you noted too when we were talking before that it’s a cool idea to have this software that connects you to the whole world, but you realized pretty quickly that maybe normal users that weren’t super technological might have problems with it, and so you came up with your own solution. Could you tell us a bit about that, how you help people that are less technical get involved with OpenBazaar?
Ben: Yes, well, that’s a second story. While I was setting up the OpenBazaar store for our Yummitea brand, I noticed that it is still quite complex if you’re not into all these technical things. And because I believe that many people should benefit from the OpenBazaar software, I tried to create a cloud host platform, per say, where people can open a store just by clicking on a button and paying for their store. I did limit the payment to Bitcoin because…
Ben: That is also what you would use on OpenBazaar, so it is really integrated with Bitcoin, and it’s a setup which takes literally only a few minutes, and you have your own store online.
Jenn: Excellent, very nice. So how has your experience been using OpenBazaar so far?
Ben: Well, I have two views, I have two inputs if you want. I have the one from the shop, from the store that we run, and I have an input from the hosting that we offer or the store that we offer for people. So first from the buyer side, let’s say, it’s still limited. Not too many people are buying on OpenBazaar yet, but I think that’s normal. There are some steps you need to take. You need to install the software, first of all. So it’s not accessible through a browser yet, at least not for the buying process, so it means that not everyone has access to OpenBazaar yet.
Second, payments go with Bitcoin and recently with all the cryptocurrencies, which means that you also have to be into these cryptocurrencies, know how to deal with them, know how to store them, and that’s also a limited world right now. So, the number of users is still limited, it’s still very technical people, I think, but in my opinion, if the software gets, well, more accessible for people, we will see a lot, a lot more people using this platform I think.
Jenn: And have you seen the plans and features that we’re talking about releasing with the 2.0 build?
Ben: Absolutely, so that will be a big step forward, and that’s the other thing. From the hosting that we offer on BazaarCity, I also notice that many people are still experimenting with the shops. They are opening a shop, and then a few months later they close it again, maybe because they still feel it’s not the right moment, maybe because they still don’t have time to run the shop, but I think that will improve over time. People will notice that the shops get visitors, that the shops sell products, and that it will be easier to access those shops. So I’m pretty convinced that more and more people will start using it, certainly with the new 2.0 version, which is coming up.
Jenn: Excellent, glad to hear it. So, what is your background and your interest in cryptocurrencies as a whole? Did you start with Bitcoins specifically?
Ben: Yes, well, in fact, I learned about Bitcoin in 2013 and that’s when my interest also started. I started investigating a little bit and then once you get in, you learn to know the other cryptocurrencies. I also had some interest in investing companies, FinTech companies, small companies, so yes I follow the whole scene a little bit. I invest in it, it’s my interest.
Jenn: So, this whole space is kinda how you occupy your free time. You just hang out in the forums, and Reddit, and keep learning about new technologies. Do you actually go to conferences, or do any travel?
Ben: Not too much at the moment, but in Belgium I do some things. I also give some, well I give advice, I speak about it. So yes, I’m quite involved in it on a local scale.
Jenn: So what’s the temperature like in Belgium? Is there a very active base of users that are interested in Bitcoin and what it can do, or is it kinda small and scattered? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Ben: Yeah, it’s still small. Bitcoin, while people thought it would go mainstream in 2016, it didn’t happen yet. It will probably happen maybe in 2017, 2018, let’s hope. So it’s still a small community, of course, the whole cryptocurrency world, but people are moving in. Everyone noticed that when Bitcoin touched one thousand dollars, interests went up. Of course, when Bitcoin went down, people pulled back again, but we will see who’s coming up again. And yeah, I think Europe as a whole, not only Belgium but Europe as a whole, is quite positive in its regulations against Bitcoin. So, I see a good evolution in the future. And I think more people will start to learn it. It’s an easy way of payment.
Of course there are some aspects going on, there are some discussions about how Bitcoin must grow, whether Bitcoin is really cash or gold, you have those things going on, and nobody can really answer those questions yet. We will find these out in the next years, but I’m a strong believer in the system. I think we need it, and the integration with OpenBazaar of course is a great thing.
Jenn: Do you think it’s important to have applications and utilities like OpenBazaar right now? Like you said, even though it’s rough, is it important that we have a community that is experimenting and trying a store, and maybe taking it down, and putting it up again, and really kinda pushing the limits of the technologies we do have in order to figure out exactly what the future looks like?
Ben: Absolutely, we need it. And I can tell you that on BazaarCity, for instance, we already have more than 100 stores that have been created.
Ben: Yeah, it’s really, it’s a lot, yes. They’re not all running. We only have like 25 shops running now, but it means that many people are experimenting with it, they want to know how it works, and that’s a good thing. You need that, you need it for development. So I can only say, try it. Find out what it is. It doesn’t cost you money, well a few dollars per month. Sometimes people don’t realize this, I think. It’s a whole new world. It’s not eBay, it’s not where you pay commission on what you sell, it all goes in your pocket, and that’s how the new world will work. Go straight to the customer, and that’s what OpenBazaar is offering.
Jenn: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. People want to immediately compare OpenBazaar to something like eBay, or Etsy, and it’s fundamentally different. It’s a completely different kind of technology and a thing that we’ve been really excited about is encouraging people just to experiment, get in there and figure out what you can do with it right now because only that sort of activity is how we’re gonna, together decide what this is ultimately gonna be and how it can help everybody. I think most people in this space are very passionate about the opportunities this can bring for people all over the world.
Another thing we encounter in the United States too, is that a lot of people have a hard time thinking about Bitcoin in a way that matters really urgently to them right now. There’s not a lot of things that you need Bitcoin for when you’re just doing things in the U.S. as normal, and we keep saying it’s not about exactly the application right now, it’s about being able to experiment and define and drive that through our own actions. Do you have many opportunities to use Bitcoin or any cryptocurrencies in Belgium? I’m just wondering, can you buy train tickets, or is there anything practical going on there for you?
Ben: Not that much yet. Well you can buy tea on our website in Bitcoin, so we do a couple things.
Jenn: Yeah, there you go.
Ben: But I must say, I think we have it for two years on the website now and it was only used once. So, yeah it just shows that not many people are buying with Bitcoin. I also think that most Bitcoiners, if you want, are holding their coins at the moment. That’s another story. But no, in Belgium there’s not too many things where you can use Bitcoin straight away. No, not yet.
Jenn: So with your website, you just have your own personal website, right, for Yummitea? You don’t use a platform like Shopify, or Etsy, it’s just custom built for you?
Ben: In the beginning, we were on the Shopify, but for the same reason that I was looking at OpenBazaar, on Shopify you pay quite a commission on everything you sell.
Jenn: And a monthly fee, right? You have to pay each month to have the site?
Ben: Right. And since I have the experience, I have put up our own website based on WordPress. It runs on Amazon, so I have all under my own control, and I pay, well of course I pay a commission on the payments that we receive through Visa or other payment systems.
Ben: But I do not pay “commissions,” if you want, on the products that we sell.
Jenn: Is there a reason you’re only selling in Belgium there? Is there like any kind of political boundaries around that? Or is it just because you do local delivery? How come that website only sells to people that are in Belgium?
Ben: Right now there’s two reasons. First of all, our website is in Dutch, so yeah, we could also go to Holland if we want, it’s the same language. But we are planning on putting the website in three languages, and that would allow us to open up the website to France, and Germany, and other countries around. And the second reason is that the products we sell are not really expensive and the shipping cost is a big part of it. Of course I have the same problem on OpenBazaar right now because if someone from, let’s say, where you are in California, or there’s tea and it’s only a fifteen dollar package, then it is almost the same amount in shipping, maybe even more. The shipping in Belgium is quite expensive, if you want, but I’m kind of subsidizing it right now on OpenBazaar just to make it possible to ship to people. So yeah, we are doing a little effort there, but I can’t do it for all customers in Europe, so gradually, we will expand to other countries, but we need the languages and better shipping conditions.
Jenn: Interesting that you say that because we use just simple Google Translate, which works pretty well for our partners that speak Spanish, Portuguese, and French, but there is a drop off when you get into languages that are a little less similar such as Dutch. Chinese is a really big one we’ve got a big barrier on, and so we are looking at human translators to help us help us with OpenBazaar 2.0 and get really solid translations in there that are accessible to people in those languages. So, is that the same thing you find as well, that just using Google Translate on your Dutch website is not enough for people to be able to access it and move around? It has to have that human translation that’s a higher quality as well?
Ben: I think you need it, because Google Translate is great just for understanding some sentences, but if you want to explain your product and you want to do that with the right words, it’s not gonna happen through Google Translate, I think. So you need to have it done quite well, better than Google Translate. And, I don’t know how it is with you, but here in Europe, we have a lot of languages. In Belgium only, we have three official languages, if you want. We have Dutch, French, and German. So in effect, we would need three languages to reach all people in a country as small as Belgium. But English is also a necessity, yeah I think we must do it. It’s quite some work, so if you can automate this, on OpenBazaar, that would be a great thing because I think most customers like buying in their own language.
Jenn: Yes, absolutely. I don’t know, there’s got to be a solution for that, and maybe it’s a matter of someone puts their translation services for sale on OpenBazaar and you can have any store translated into their native language and the languages they represent for a certain amount of Bitcoin. Maybe that’s the solution that we need, for now.
Ben: Maybe, why not? Yep.
Jenn: Awesome, so anything else you can think of, exploring OpenBazaar in a cryptocurrency space? What are you looking forward to in the future? What do you think … What are you wanting to see happen in 2017?
Ben: Well, I haven’t looked in all the details of the 2.0 version, but what I saw in the beginning is that OpenBazaar, I think, I’m not sure but I think in the beginning, OpenBazaar was really targeted to selling products, individual products I mean, like on eBay. And I can see that, for instance, if you are in the version one, now, if you create a product, you have to for every product, you have to tell the shipping cost and which countries, and so on, but I have the impression that the people that are using OpenBazaar already today, are looking for more than just selling a product. They are looking, I think, for setting up a store, a real store. And that’s something I hope we can improve in the 2.0 version, is that we get more of the feeling and the possibilities of setting up general options going for the whole store instead of just individually per product and so on, because I have the feeling that OpenBazaar can be much more than just an eBay. It can really be a platform, yeah as I said, for full-blown stores.
Jenn: Agreed. We have a lot of requests for more flexible shipping, the concept of a shopping cart where people can add multiple items into a cart.
Ben: Absolutely, that’s one of the important things. If you go to a shop and you want to buy two or three items, it’s not possible today on OpenBazaar.
Ben: It’s also one for one. And it’s not how you want to shop.
Jenn: And I’ve noticed, you’ve taken a clever approach to trying to make the current OpenBazaar environment work for you. I know you have the different quantities available. When we first started talking, I reached out to you on Twitter, and I was trying to make sense of how you’re doing the quantities. You were trying to offer a 20%, it wasn’t a discount, it was 20% more than what you would normally get, and I was trying to get some clarity around that. But I really appreciate seeing your creativity, and trying to adapt that in a way that works for you right now.
Ben: Yeah, for us it was really an issue. Every canister of tea sells for around seven dollars, or so, but most customers buy two or three cans of tea, canisters.
Ben: And since that was not possible, it’s not possible today on OpenBazaar, we tried to find a solution for it, so we are actually offering a kind of, let’s say, a coupon, just a value. You buy a value of let’s say, twenty dollars, and then you send us an email and you tell us, “Well, I want these three tastes of tea”. And this way you can in one go, you can make one payment, but you can buy more products. If you need four teas, just do the calculation four times seven, and then buy a package, just a value pack I call it, a value pack of that same order and send us an email or a message on OpenBazaar saying which teas you want. If there is just one or two dollars too much in the pack, we will pay it back so you will only pay what you will get. But it allows you to make one order, to make one payment and then to select more products out of our shop. That’s how I tried to do it.
Jenn: Now, what is your preferred method of communication with people in OpenBazaar? Do you prefer to start just an email thread, Twitter even, the chat feature? Do you like the chat actually in the app?
Ben: Yes, I do use the chat. Of course you’re not always online so people sometimes have to wait a little bit longer. Sometimes I do not open the shop, most of the time I open it once a day. But if it doesn’t happen and there’s a message, people will have to wait maybe longer than a day to get the answer. You do not always have the email because it’s a little bit anonymous on OpenBazaar.
Ben: So you have to ask for it from the customer, but we are also available on Twitter.
Jenn: I vouch for that personally, I reached out to you on Twitter and you were very prompt responding.
Ben: Right, yep. So we use whatever possible and whatever the customer wants or prefers to use. That’s not an issue.
Jenn: What is your most active form of communication with your regular web shop? Do people, do they fill out forms on your website or what does communication look like for your web store, typically?
Ben: It’s a mix, but the most communication I think today is through Facebook.
Ben: Yes, that’s where we also have a page and that’s where most questions come up. But we also have a form on the website so people can fill that out. And our email is on the website, so it’s a combination of all those things.
Jenn: Awesome. I love learning about people who are doing traditional eCommerce because the insights you have having a grounding in that environment and being able to note the similarities and the differences between being there and being on OpenBazaar. Quick note too, how important do you feel merchandising is on your website? How important is it to have beautiful photos and great descriptions?
Ben: It’s the most important, I think. My wife is a photographer so yeah, we have the advantage of doing that in-house too. But even we sometimes make remarks and say, well we need to improve on that or that. It’s really important to have great images on the web shop. The pictures need to be good, clear, the description needs to be good. I think it’s one of the fundamentals of having a good store.
Jenn: I lost my train of thought, I just had it, where did it go? What other forms of online marketing do you use for your web store? Do you use Instagram, or have anything that is telling stories a lot through visuals? Do you do that on Facebook? Is Facebook your primary outlet?
Ben: Facebook is important, yes. It’s probably the most important today, but we also use Google AdWords so when people in Belgium search on loose leaf tea, they can find our website. Next to that, we also have an Instagram account, we have a Twitter account, that’s about it I think, yeah.
Jenn: Train of thought again, what is with my brain today? I was talking about your website, marketing, I don’t know. If it comes back, it comes back. If it doesn’t, we’ll just dismiss it. So thank you very much for taking time to do this today and for coordinating with me over the last weeks as we figured this out. Anything else you’d like to say in closing? You want to tell people where to find you on OpenBazaar as well as just on the web?
We have released our latest 1.1.11 update to address server connectivity issues some of our users have reported recently.
For a quick recap, the OpenBazaar program is actually two programs in one:
OpenBazaar server – The server is the back end application which allows OpenBazaar to function as a decentralized application. Each user runs a server to connect them to the network and when users visit stores they are using their server to visit other users’ servers.
OpenBazaar client – The client is the front end application and allows the user to communicate and control the server. The client is the visual interface; it’s what you’re looking at when you run OpenBazaar.
In our adventures building this marketplace we have learned firsthand that decentralized apps pose some novel development challenges, such as this latest connectivity issue. We have been working one-on-one with individuals through our community and support channels to try to resolve this problem but have now built a better solution into this new release!
If you have been experiencing connectivity issues, have yet to update to the latest version, or are just ready to get started with OpenBazaar, please check it out now on our download page!
In these posts we take a look at some unique members of the OpenBazaar ecosystem and share their stores. Today we are featuring the beautiful handmade women’s clothing store Nuichan! You can view Nuichan in your browser or on OpenBazaar here.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you make/sell?
My name is Yaowalak Nuichan, I was born in a big family (8 sisters and 1 brother) in the South of Thailand in a place called Phatthalung. After finishing high school and university in Bangkok, I worked a few years in 5 star hotels as their Spa Manager. But my true passion was never far away–fashion. My entire family makes clothing, traditional Thai dresses for ceremonial occasions and more modern designs, so it was only a small step for me to change my career and started doing what I’ve seen for the most part of my life. Designing dresses, making patterns and putting it all together. With help from my sisters of course!
How did you get started selling online?
I started selling online as I noticed a growing demand from overseas ( Europe, USA, Middle East, etc.) and it is/was easier for me to supply for my niche market.
How did you find out about OpenBazaar?
Stumbled upon OpenBazaar via Twitter if I recall correctly.
Why are you selling your product on OpenBazaar?
I’m always looking for new markets and for once I want to be part of the start of something which I feel could become really big. I really like the direct link between buyer and seller without an intermediary person/company but the main reason is Bitcoin of course.
You also have a very active Etsy shop which is great! How has the approach of dual listing your items there and on OpenBazaar helped you?
At the moment I do not have sufficient time to properly monitor this setup as I’m in the process of setting up a new website. I did have some requests in the past from Etsy buyers to pay with Bitcoin, but that has come because I do mention the possibility of paying in bitcoin it in my Etsy listings. So far I haven’t noticed any significant traffic coming from my Etsy shop towards OpenBazaar or the other way around.
How has your experience been with OpenBazaar so far?
Actually it has been really good besides some setup issues, but that was mainly due to me not having the technical skills. I had great help from [OB1 Co-Founder] Dr. Washington Sanchez setting up the nodes for both of my shops and guiding me through the set up and also afterward whenever I had any technical issues. Also the guys from Duosear.ch are top notch, they even bought an image from my husband and they use it on their homepage.
From a seller’s point of view, I have only had easy, swift transactions so nothing but thumbs up there!
How familiar are you with Bitcoin?
I’ve been following Bitcoin for a couple of years now and am pretty familiar with it, although I would like to be better at the technical side of things. But everything changes so fast that it is really hard to keep up!
What changes would you like to see to OpenBazaar to make it more useful for you?
I would love to see some improvements on the back end, making it more user-friendly to make listings, bulk edit, grid overview of products in stock, ability to share listings on social media from within the client.
What’s it like behind the scenes of Nuichan? What can you tell us about your design & manufacturing process & doing business day-to-day?
My inspiration for our designs comes from my home country, Thailand, with all its wonderful cultures, colors, landscapes, intoxicating smells and the friendly people. But I also allow Western influences to inspire me which helps me to visualize designs and create some more classic looks. Recently I took a trip to Japan to study the amazing shibori technique. This is a traditional manual resist dyeing technique which produces the most stunning patterns. These techniques include cloth wrapping on a diagonal around a pole or pleating sections of the cloth very finely and evenly or sandwiching cloth between two pieces of wood which are held in place with string, just to name a few. The possibilities with this traditional technique are endless and combine perfect with modern dress patterns. Together with my sisters and their 30 years of experience making the patterns and carefully creating each dress I try to keep the business going and growing.
Tor has been the most requested feature by far since we started the project. This encrypted browser masks your IP address, improving privacy. Normally Tor isn’t too difficult to integrate, but since OpenBazaar is more complex than your typical app we needed to write a custom transport for IPFS and programmatically configure the node to run as a hidden service. In version 2.0 users will be able to run their stores with more privacy than ever before.
We are now waiting to give developer users some time to review the PR before merging it and would appreciate your contributions if you are familiar with the setup! You can check it out here.
Milestone 1 Summary
This release is meant solely for developers and those building or intending to build on top of the OpenBazaar platform. You can read more about what the release entails here.
Since this is a release meant for development, the functions available in Milestone 1 are very minimal. They include:
Users can download and install the client and server from Github, and use it to fill in their profile, store info, and post listings
The network can host listings, stores, and user profiles
Users can follow and unfollow
Here’s a short walkthrough video of the Tor integration in 2.0 by OpenBazaar developer Chris Pacia:
Are you a developer who wants to get involved in this early stage? Get the details here!
Want to start RIGHT NOW buying and selling with Bitcoin using version 1.0? Download OpenBazaar now and have at you!
Some networks are comprised solely of people, such as an alumni network, whereas other networks are based on a collection of computers talking to each other. Many are a combination of people and computers.
Even though it may not sound important, the underlying design of these networks substantially changes how they are used, and what features and limitations they have.
The best-known network is the Internet itself.
It’s a collection of billions of computers through copper wires, fiberglass cables, cellular towers, and even satellites. This immense network allows an enormous amount of information to move around the world at very little cost, with huge benefits to the people who have access to it.
The underlying design of the Internet is decentralized.
This means that there is no central point of control on the Internet. If any particular computer in the network goes down, or even if certain cables are cut, the network as a whole continues functioning. The Internet was specifically built to be decentralized in order to make it robust and resistant to attempts to shut it down and stop the free flow of information.
However, the way most people use the Internet today is largely through centralized networks.
Most of the major platforms used for social media or ecommerce today are centrally controlled by certain companies. Even applications that give users the experience of connecting directly with one another, such as Facebook, Etsy or Snapchat, are owned by the companies of those names. As such, they have complete access to–and even ownership of–all of the conversations you have and the content you share on their networks. Unlike the decentralized Internet itself, these companies control the flow of information on their own network.
Here is the basic model:
The outside circles are users, and they are all forced to communicate with the large circle in the middle, controlled by the platform itself. Information moves into and out the servers owned by these businesses and is used for the benefit of the new owners of the data.
These centralized networks act as middlemen on top of the Internet itself. These middlemen are extremely popular because they offer value services to their users at low cost, monetary or otherwise. Many charge no money, but they are still paid by collecting all of their users’ data. Some do charge money, especially the ecommerce networks.
As widespread as they are though, many of these networks still have restrictions like payment methods that can’t be used, certain items that can’t be sold or they don’t allow users from certain geographical areas to join.
Here is the decentralized model:
Instead of being forced to use the networks of these middlemen, users can now choose from a variety of decentralized networks which aren’t controlled by any organization; they are fully peer-to-peer (p2p). These networks are decentralized as the Internet itself is decentralized, meaning there is no central point of control, no company collecting all of the users’ data, and no one to make them pay for access to the network. Users can join from any location and don’t need permission.
Decentralized networks provide a way for people to take greater control of their online lives.
For an application to be truly p2p, it means that a user’s own computer or node connects directly to another user’s computer or node to communicate, with no stops in between. There are several of these networks being used today, such as:
Bittorrent is a p2p network that gives users the ability to share files between each other.
Bitmessage is a p2p network that gives users the ability to send secure messages to each other.
Retroshare is a p2p network that gives users the ability to participate in a social network without relying on a third party.
Bitcoin is a p2p network that gives users the ability to send digital cash to each other.
OpenBazaar is a p2p network that gives users the ability to engage in ecommerce directly with each other.
On these networks people are able to do many of the things they could do on the centralized platforms, with the benefit that they aren’t relying on a middleman anymore.
With Bittorent, they have access to files that other platforms don’t allow.
With Bitmessage, they know that no one else can read their messages.
With Bitcoin and OpenBazaar, they don’t need to ask permission to send money or engage in commerce.
Some of these technologies have been around for a few years, and some of them are very new. They are in various stages of development and many lack the features that the centralized platforms have built but they grow stronger every day. It’s unclear how widely these p2p networks will become adopted in the coming years, but it’s of major importance that users now have another choice.
Instead of just choosing between competing middlemen, they can now choose to bypass them altogether and use the Internet as it was originally built.
Are you looking for ways to decentralize more of your applications? Download OpenBazaar to begin buying or selling right away with no middlemen.