Why We Need Alternatives to Ecommerce Giants Like Amazon

Why We Need Alternatives to Ecommerce Giants Like Amazon - OpenBazaar is a decentralized, peer-to-peer marketplace that uses Bitcoin


Amazon has seen incredible growth since its founding in 1994. Originally focused on books, the online marketplace is now the largest retailer in the US, and the fourth most valuable public company in the world. With its recent acquisition of Whole Foods, it becomes even more valuable.

Shopping with Amazon is quick and convenient, so much so that it’s starting to become the default method of shopping for many people, just as Google became the default method to search the internet. And just like Google, Amazon collects a staggering amount of information about everyone that uses their platform.

Unfortunately, if Amazon (or any retailer) gains the status of default shopping method for a majority of people, they then have an enormous potential to abuse their power. While it’s possible that they might be responsible stewards of their power, there should always be alternatives to using Amazon that protect a user’s privacy and place commerce transactions outside of Amazon’s control.

What could Amazon do?

It might not be readily apparent how a large retailer could abuse their power, but consider how much information about buyers and sellers Amazon collects, taken directly from their site:

  1. Name
  2. Address
  3. Phone number(s)
  4. Email Address
  5. Credit card(s) information
  6. People to whom purchases have been shipped, including addresses and phone number
  7. E-mail addresses of your friends and other people
  8. Content of reviews and e-mails to Amazon
  9. Personal description and photograph in Amazon Profile
  10. Financial information, including Social Security and driver’s license numbers
  11. Location while using Kindle or other Amazon apps
  12. Searches and browsing while on Amazon
  13. Purchases and sales of products
  14. Your voice if using Alexa or other voice services

That’s only the information that you voluntarily give them. They also collect information automatically when you visit the site:

Examples of the information we collect and analyze include the Internet protocol (IP) address used to connect your computer to the Internet; login; e-mail address; password; computer and connection information such as browser type, version, and time zone setting, browser plug-in types and versions, operating system, and platform; purchase history, which we sometimes aggregate with similar information from other customers to create features like Top Sellers ; the full Uniform Resource Locator (URL) clickstream to, through, and from our Web site, including date and time; cookie number; products you viewed or searched for; and the phone number you used to call our 800 number. We may also use browser data such as cookies, Flash cookies (also known as Flash Local Shared Objects), or similar data on certain parts of our Web site for fraud prevention and other purposes. During some visits we may use software tools such as JavaScript to measure and collect session information, including page response times, download errors, length of visits to certain pages, page interaction information (such as scrolling, clicks, and mouse-overs), and methods used to browse away from the page. We may also collect technical information to help us identify your device for fraud prevention and diagnostic purposes.

If you use Amazon, they know who you are, where you live, what you buy or sell, even what you want to buy or sell. They know your payment information and history, they know your friends and family, they know details about your web browsers, computers, mobile devices.

At any given moment this is a lot of information, but when tracked over years it becomes a detailed look into an individual’s life. With this much data, inferences can be made about nearly every facet of someone’s life.

The most innocuous thing Amazon could do with this information is to lose control of it. Breaches of company databases are constantly occurring. With the sheer amount of user information, Amazon’s servers are a highly valuable target for any malicious party.

If you trust Amazon to keep your data secure from unauthorized access, then you still be to be concerned about who they authorize to access your information. If Amazon becomes the default shopping method for most people, then it becomes the ultimate tool for oppressive governments to conduct surveillance and control commerce. Amazon already censors their marketplace heavily, and there’s nothing preventing Amazon from reporting users who attempt to sell or search for items that are prohibited by the authorities in various jurisdictions.

If Amazon were willing to share their data with governments – or compelled to do so – those authorities could abuse that information in numerous ways. They could cross-reference the sales figures of a store with tax filings to enforce tax compliance. They could access user location information to track individuals. They could look at purchases and search history – particularly their media consumption – to determine someone’s ideological or political affiliations.

What Amazon Has Done

There are many ways Amazon could abuse their power, but not all of them are theoretical. Amazon has taken advantage of their ecommerce giant status in the past.

  • In 2009, Amazon deleted copies of 1984 and Animal Farm from user’s devices without their permission.
  • In 2010, Amazon kicked Wikileaks off of its servers following political pressure from the US government.
  • Various Amazon users have had their accounts closed, and gift card balances taken, without any clarification from Amazon itself.
  • Amazon has continually been under fire for how it treats its own employees.
  • A 2016 investigation from ProPublica showed that Amazon’s search promoted their own products over competitors – even when competitors were higher ranked and cheaper.
    This year, Amazon handed over the Alexa voice recordings of a suspect undergoing an investigation to Arkansas prosecutors (to their credit, Amazon fought this in court first).

This is what’s known about how Amazon behaves, but we don’t know how they behave outside the public’s eye. We can only speculate how they will behave in the future.

We Need Private Alternatives to Amazon 

It’s possible that if Amazon becomes too onerous that people would switch platforms to another company that was more friendly to their users. However, switching to another platform controlled by any company or organization is no guarantee that the new platform would be any better long term.

Is there any way to really break out of this cycle?

Yes. Now, instead of just hoping that Amazon (or another company) will respect its users’ privacy and not abuse their power, users can exchange goods online in an environment free from centralized companies entirely.

How is it possible to transact online with no company at the center, controlling it?

Removing the middleman entirely from the picture is the only way to ensure that no one is even capable of gaining a position of power over others in an open marketplace. A decentralized marketplace, such as OpenBazaar, doesn’t have any company or organization that collects and stores users’ data or censors their trade. It works because of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which are also decentralized and don’t require third parties to facilitate the exchange, and because of the power of our own personal computers.

In this new environment people’s information and transactions are secure and users are the ones who are in control; they trade directly with each other and don’t need to trust any company or organization with their data.

It’s important to have choices in what you are going to buy as well as the networks you are going to use. We have built a marketplace that aligns with our core values of giving choices to individuals who want to control more of their information online.


If you’re looking for a new way to buy and sell goods online that is completely different than anything you’ve seen before, check out OpenBazaar.



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Why OpenBazaar Token Doesn’t Exist

Why OpenBazaar Token Doesn't Exist


If you’re even remotely interested in the world of cryptocurrencies, then you’re aware of a relatively recent phenomenon called ICOs (also called token sales). These ICOs happen when developers of a project announce their intention to create a new coin / token and then allow the public to purchase it. Recent ICOs have been making headlines for raising tens of millions of dollars in only hours or even minutes.

Many projects that focus on building the infrastructure for a decentralized internet have launched, or are launching, their own tokens. IPFS will use Filecoin. Blockstack announced they will use a token. Storj recently had an ICO. All these projects claim to need a new token in order for their products to function properly.

OpenBazaar is also focused on building a decentralized application, so why is there no OpenBazaar Token?

There are multiple reasons why we haven’t issued a token and this post is meant to explain them. These reasons aren’t necessarily set in stone; we are continually re-evaluating whether or not a token makes sense given the rapidly changing cryptocurrency landscape.

1. OpenBazaar Doesn’t Need a Token to Work

The first reason is the most compelling: We don’t need a token in order for OpenBazaar to work as intended in its current design.

OpenBazaar is a protocol and network for decentralized trade. People download software to their own computer or mobile phone and directly connect with other people running the same software, and they then engage in trade without any middleman involved. The OpenBazaar network has existed since April 2016 with hundreds of thousands of downloads and users in countries all over the world engaging in trade with each other using Bitcoin.

It’s not immediately clear how an OpenBazaar Token improves on this process.

It’s true that Bitcoin fees are very high right now, which causes problems for a marketplace built on Bitcoin. We hope that fees will return to a reasonable level in the near future, but if not then the solution is to allow users to pay in other widely-used cryptocurrencies, not create a new one.

It’s possible that there might be a unique way a token could provide utility to OpenBazaar users even though it’s not necessary for the core functionality of the application. We welcome such ideas, but haven’t yet heard any compelling ones.

2. Tokens are a New and Unproven Model

With ICOs and token sales quickly garnering huge attention – and investment – it’s easy to forget that they are a relatively new phenomenon. This is particularly true for token sales on Ethereum.

It’s clear that they are able to gain interest from investors, but that’s where the clarity ends. There are many areas of uncertainty about how these projects will manage and utilize these tokens moving forward, and how the token holders will behave as well.

I’m sure that some – perhaps many – investors in these tokens are true believers in the underlying projects themselves. However, it’s obvious that a substantial proportion of investors are speculating on the tokens. During a period of “good times” the speculation on the tokens benefits the token creators, and right now it seems hard to argue against the massive raises these projects have accumulated.

Anyone who has been involved in the cryptocurrency market – or any financial market – knows that the “good times” don’t last forever.

When speculators choose to take their gains from a token and cash out, there needs to be a buyer available. If there is genuine demand for the underlying project and people want the token in order to use the network, then there’s no problem. However, if most of the demand has come from speculators instead, then at some point there will be no further speculators available, and there is the risk of token holders attempting to exit en masse, rapidly driving the price of the token down.

The ever-present threat of people selling their tokens could be considered a positive pressure on the project developers to deliver on their promises. Unfortunately it’s not always clear that the incentives of the project leaders and those of the token speculators are always aligned. Speculators may act similarly to public shareholders in companies, pressuring the executives in the company to make decisions based on short-term profits instead of what is best for the company long-term.

Since OpenBazaar started in 2014, we’ve had an engaged community of people all over the world who believe in decentralization and free trade. We’re certain that issuing an OpenBazaar Token would increase the size of those interested in the project, but we fear that it would also change the composition of the community from people who agree with our core ideals to a group of people who want to see a return on their investment. We don’t want to make decisions based on what would be best for the price of our token, but instead focus on how we can make trade free for the world.

3. A Token could Increase the Barriers to Entry

OpenBazaar is all about lowering the barriers to trade for everyone. All you need is an internet connection, a computer, and Bitcoin to engage in trade with anyone else in the world, at no cost.

Introducing a token could increase the barriers to entry into the OpenBazaar ecosystem.

We want permissionless, frictionless trade to always be possible on our network. OpenBazaar currently relies on the most widely used cryptocurrency in existence – Bitcoin – and we are building the 2.0 version of the software so users can choose to use other popular cryptocurrencies as well.

The on-ramps into Bitcoin are well-established, as are the wallets to store and spend them. This isn’t true for new coins and tokens. Only knowledgeable cryptocurrency users are able to purchase these tokens and use them. Forcing users into a new token ecosystem reduces the possible number of people the platform can reach.

As mentioned in #1, it’s possible to issue a token that isn’t necessary to use the network, but thus far we haven’t heard any compelling ideas.

4. Tokens Sales are a Regulatory Unknown

There is still significant uncertainty how governments will regulate ICOs / token sales.

If they choose to take a lax approach, the token creators may have little to fear. But if they choose to apply strict regulations instead, the regulatory compliance costs could soon become unbearable, especially if the technology itself needed to change in order to fully comply.

Also, scrutiny from agencies doesn’t only apply to token sales moving forward, but can apply to sales that have already occurred. This creates a situation where there is a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over these projects until regulatory guidance is issued.

Not all token creators are just crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. The Protocol Labs team joined with AngelList to launch CoinList, a platform to launch tokens which attempts to comply with know-your-customer (KYC) regulations and generally assure the tokens are issued in a manner compliant with relevant rules. This may work well for some tokens, but compliance comes at the cost of exclusivity. Only accredited investors have access to the initial sale, creating huge barriers to entry. Accredited investors are more likely to be interested in speculation than using the tokens, emphasizing the potential problems raised in #2 above.

Conditions for Token Issuance

It’s possible that an OpenBazaar Token may be issued at some point, but it would only happen if the following conditions were met:

  1. A new token is needed to provide utility to OpenBazaar users that cannot be provided by Bitcoin or any existing token.
  2. The token sale would be an opportunity to distribute tokens to users of OpenBazaar who believe in decentralization and free trade and are not solely focused on speculation.
  3. The token would not increase the barriers to entry into the OpenBazaar network.
  4. If government agencies issued strict regulatory guidelines it wouldn’t significantly disrupt the OpenBazaar ecosystem due to a reliance on the token.

These conditions may or may not be able to ever be satisfied but OpenBazaar is open-source and we love to hear feedback on our ideas. If you believe an OpenBazaar Token is good idea (or not), please let us know why. Join our Slack or message us on Twitter.


Ready to shop?
Download OpenBazaar and check it out!



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New Version 2.0 Development Release Schedule


OpenBazaar version 2.0 development continues, and we’ve decided to change our development release schedule. Previously we posted our roadmap which contained various milestones where we would create developer releases for people to test new functionality. We’re still keeping the milestones, and will still publish releases when we reach each new milestone, but in order to get more frequent testing and community feedback we’ll also be publishing developer builds every two weeks. We develop based on two week sprint periods, so at the end of each sprint we’ll release a new build for people to test.

Yesterday was the last day of our current sprint, and so we’re releasing the first build – version 2.0.1 – under this new schedule. Note that these are developer builds which are meant to be used for testing only. You can find the latest build here.

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OpenBazaar at HCPP16

Earlier this year I was invited to be a speaker and present OpenBazaar at this year’s Hacker’s Congress at Paralelní Polis (HCPP16) in Prague. I’ve never been to Prague, and hadn’t visited Paralelní Polis yet, so I was excited to attend.

If you’re not familiar with Paralelní Polis, they’re an organization of hackers and artists in the Czech Republic who condemn authoritarian governments and use digital activism to make people more free. This year’s Hacker’s Congress described itself as having “hundreds of technology enthusiasts, tech-entrepreneurs, activists and cryptoanarchists to celebrate the age of digital freedom and decentralization!”

You can’t miss the Paralelní Polis building in Prague; it’s completely black. The bottom floor is a coffee shop that only accepts Bitcoin, and the other floors were turned into rooms for presentations over the weekend.

Paralelní Polis Building


I spoke on the last day about OpenBazaar. Here’s the summary of my talk:

Existing commerce online is centralized by a handful of companies who monitor data, censor trade, and use tightly controlled payment systems. OpenBazaar is an open source software project which creates a decentralized network for trade, using Bitcoin. Because OpenBazaar removes the middleman, there are no fees, there is no censorship, and there is no mass collection of data. This talk explains the project’s history, how it works technically, and how future changes will further enhance decentralization and censorship-resistance.

I focused quite a bit on the improvements that are coming in the 2.0 version of OpenBazaar. The audience was great and asked lots of questions, and we ran out of time, but fortunately I was able to follow up a lot of conversations with people afterwards.

Presenting OB at HCPP16
Presenting OB at HCPP16

Immediately following my presentation was a talk by Justin Drake of Duo Money, the company behind the OpenBazaar search engine Duo Search. Justin’s talk was about being an entrepreneur on OpenBazaar:

OpenBazaar is an open-innovation decentralised protocol for trade. Unlike proprietary marketplaces like eBay or AirBnb it presents many opportunities for entrepreneurs to build upon. Justin will give an overview of the fledging OpenBazaar ecosystem, focusing on the opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs.

He talked about his experience building Duo Money, which originally was meant to be a payment and HTTP gateway to the OpenBazaar network, but that plan was dashed when they lost their banking partner – only days before OB launched! They quickly pivoted to building a search engine, and only weeks later launched Duo Search. He made the point that relying on permissioned systems like banks stifles innovation, but building on an open system like OB or Bitcoin allows for permissionless innovation. Justin also gave tips for people looking to build in the OB ecosystem, as well as giving business ideas for aspiring entrepreneurs as well, both of which he turned into blog posts.

Justin Drake of Duo Money Presenting at HCPP16
Justin Drake of Duo Money Presenting at HCPP16


HCPP16 was a great place to meet with people and talk about all different types of new decentralization technologies, and quite a few people had ideas on how their project and OpenBazaar could compliment each other. I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in decentralization technology, and using new tech in order to make people more free, should learn more about Paralelní Polis and attend next year’s Hacker’s Congress.

After the conference I was able to do some Prague sightseeing. It’s a beautiful city. I enjoyed my trip to HCPP16 and Prague, and hope to attend next year.


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OpenBazaar Ecosystem: Psychedelic Rock Band Myco

 In these posts we take a look at some unique members of the OpenBazaar ecosystem. Today we interview Kyle from the band Myco, which released their new EP exclusively on OpenBazaar for the first week. You can find the Myco store on OpenBazaar, and on Duosearch as well.

Tell us a bit about yourself? 
My name is Kyle Henry, I’m from Kansas City and started Myco in 2015 after moving back to Kansas City from Hong Kong, where I lived between 2013 and 2015 and taught English as my primary job.

Before moving to Hong Kong I studied botany and mycology and discovered how amazing fungus really is. It is essentially the backbone of ecological systems on land and acts as a decentralized network or internet for organisms on the earth. Plants and fungus form symbiotic relationships and communicate through these fungal networks.

A few years later after I had begun my scientific studies I got involved with bitcoin in 2011 when I started mining them with my GPU. The next year it became pretty much impossible to do so, but I mined about 15 before that happened. While in Hong Kong I continued promoting and using bitcoin and talking to Hong Kong natives about it where ever I went. I found that many people in the tech field there were already aware of bitcoin but most weren’t involved in it. While living there I used bitcoin to transfer money between my bank accounts in the US and Hong Kong. Instead of paying ridiculous fees to do such a thing through my bank I used exchanges and often made a profit when transferring funds.

I ended up moving back to Kansas city in 2015 and started on my project. I’ve been a musician since I was about 14 and I had never officially released anything but music is my passion so I set out to make a project that embodied my beliefs of everything being interconnected and how decentralization and specifically blockchain technology can free us from our slavery.  After writing and recording everything I set out to find band members to play live shows and I’ve gone through many members but eventually asked a good friend of mine Andrew MacIntyre to play drums for me. Then I found an amazing guitarist named Jesse Rodriguez and a bassist named Cory Yeager online who have helped me complete this project.

Myco Band OpenBazaar Store

The first song we released is called “Myceliated” and is essentially about fungus and the effect it has on the universe and the human experience as well as decentralization and how bitcoin can end wars. We released this single with a bitcoin qr code on the cover and had a tremendous response from the bitcoin community. We also put a digital download of this song on OpenBazaar once OpenBazaar went public. Months later after a lot of practice the band is ready to start playing shows and we decided to release our debut 5 song EP exclusively on OpenBazaar on September 22 2016 to show our support for decentralization and freedom. The self titled EP will be released globally on most music platforms in fiat currencies on September 26 2016, but we prefer being paid directly in bitcoin.
What do you make / sell?


Original psychedelic rock music.


Why are you selling your product on OpenBazaar?


We want to support innovative platforms that make free trade and liberty possible in this ever increasing statist world.


How has your experience been with OpenBazaar so far?


Openbazaar and it’s community has been great to us so far, we have heard nothing but praise from those who have purchased our music and if we have need help with setting anything up or doing anything on OpenBazaar there has always been incredibly helpful people.


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


I would love to see a feature that allows us to setup a digital download automatically so we don’t have to manually enter everything for every single order. Also, I think it would be great if there were anonymity features built in for other users.. this I believe would push OpenBazaar into the mainstream as it would allow for free trade without the worry of government locking you in a cage.


Anything else you’d like to say?


My favorite author Aldous Huxley once said in the foreword of his book Brave New World “Only a large-scale popular movement toward decentralization and self-help can arrest the present tendency toward statism” When he wrote this in 1932 there was no such movement but now with bitcoin and blockchain technology we have such a movement. Our goal is to spread the message of freedom through decentralization and push the movement further into the mainstream.

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Can Bitcoin and Multisig Reduce Identity Theft and Fraud?

Credit CardsIdentity theft and ecommerce fraud are costing billions of dollars each year, and have been increasing in recent years. Fortunately, due to the technical design of Bitcoin – along with one of its most powerful features, multisig – both buyers and sellers online have alternatives that can reduce the likelihood of being involved in identity theft or fraud.

In the United States, an estimated 17.6 million people were victims of identity theft in 2014 (the most recent year numbers are available).  The most common types of misused information were bank accounts (38% of cases) and credit cards (42% of cases).

It isn’t surprising that millions of cases of identity theft occur each year based on bank accounts and credit cards. The numbers that allow access to those accounts are unchanging, they are tied directly to your identity, and they are being stored in databases by any number of retailers who you’ve done business with. Those databases are a treasure trove for cybercriminals, and they are constantly under attack. The list of high-profile breaches in recent years is impressive: 56 million credit cards in 2014 by Home Depot, 70 million in 2013 by Target, 76 million households in the summer of 2014 by JP Morgan Chase, and the list goes on and on.

Bitcoin works differently. The numbers that give you access to your bitcoins aren’t shared publicly, and they don’t make their way into any databases. You don’t need to trust a business to store your Bitcoin information properly like you would a credit card – the business doesn’t have any information to store. There are no treasure troves of data for cybercriminals to steal.

Your bitcoin also aren’t tied directly to your identity. You can choose to give the merchant as much or as little information about yourself as you want. This gives buyers some assurances that their purchases won’t increase the likelihood of identity theft, and it gives merchants one less piece of data they need to protect. Identity theft based on bitcoin transactions is practically impossible.

People are starting to notice Bitcoin’s potential for reducing identity theft. In April, Business Wire reported that a recent survey showed victims of identity theft were taking action to prevent it from happening again, and 10% of them were using alternative currencies like Bitcoin.


There is another aspect to Bitcoin that helps prevent online fraud. A feature called multisignature – often shortened to multisig – allows for bitcoins within a certain address to be controlled by more than one person.

The majority of bitcoins are owned by individuals, just like cash and other forms of money. With multisig you can now have multiple people, or even organizations, control the same coins. The multiple parties must then come to agreement before the bitcoins can be moved out of the account. There are many applications for multisig including increased security of funds, more equitable control of funds in non-profits and other organizations, and the ability to create complex contracting systems.

Perhaps the most useful application of multisig is escrow. A common use is the two-of-three multisig. This means there are three parties involved, and any two of them must agree before the bitcoins can be moved from escrow. The buyer and seller both choose a third party they trust, and then the buyer sends the funds into multisig. If the seller delivers as promised, then the buyer and seller both agree to release the funds, and since only two out of three parties are needed, the funds are then released from escrow. If there’s a dispute and buyer and seller can’t come to an agreement, then the third party is brought in to determine the winning party and join with them to release funds.

Consider how this is different from the existing system. In the current system with a stolen credit card, a buyer can order something and the seller will ship it as normal. When the real owner of the credit card realizes this and the credit card company reverses the transaction, the vendor typically is forced to eat the cost of their product.

Stolen credit cards aren’t the only way fraud is accomplished. Buyers can claim no delivery even when they’ve received a product. Ecommerce platforms and credit card companies are notorious for siding with buyers over vendors, and often don’t do their due diligence to determine who is really at fault. Vendors can also defraud buyers too, taking money but not delivering or delivering inferior products.

Bitcoin, along with multisig, prevents much of this fraud from occurring. There is no credit card company controlling Bitcoin that can reverse transactions, giving vendors the assurance that they control their own money. There’s also the ability for buyers and sellers to come to agreement about who will provide their dispute resolution via multisig, instead of being forced to use the ecommerce platform itself. As long as both parties choose a reputable third party, there’s little chance that fraud will be successful.

Bitcoin and multisig are useful tools to prevent fraud, but they’re not perfect. Bitcoins can be stolen, and once taken they’re unlikely to ever be returned. Protecting them takes some technical knowledge and the learning curve can be steeper than other payment systems. Although Bitcoin isn’t perfect and won’t eliminate all fraud online, it’s a powerful alternative for those willing to use them.


Giving buyers and sellers the ability to prevent fraud is one of many reasons OpenBazaar relies completely on Bitcoin. OpenBazaar also has two-of-three multisig built in, with an open marketplace of moderators who offer dispute resolution. If you want more privacy in online trade, with no fees, no censorship, and better protection from fraud, try OpenBazaar now.

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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.


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.




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.


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New address for OpenBazaar project funds

Update, January 17, 2017: Due to one of the 2-of-3 keyholders losing access to their keys, we’ve transferred the project funds to a new account to ensure all three keyholders have access again. The new fund is still a 2-of-3 multisig and the rest of this post accurately describes the management of the project funds. The QR code and donation address below have both been updated to the most recent address.

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 (updated on January 17, 2017) is 3QxbMjed45NLXnkUg9yYHRgbKCeLyZa4La, and here is the QR code:




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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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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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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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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