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.
When you think about money, you probably don’t think about innovation.
Monetary innovations occurred every few centuries – millennia even – but this is now changing.
You may welcome monetary innovation, or fear it, but either way it seems likely to impact our lives in the near future. 2016 saw major gains for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and many expect 2017 to follow suit. Now 8 years in circulation, Bitcoin is approaching adolescence. Instead of wondering what potential it holds, we are beginning to see how it actually is being used.
So what is this new money? Is it…
Entry in a ledger?
Magical internet money?
Basically the answer is…yes. It’s all of those things and more. It’s not just “magical internet money” that is a toy for developers or a lottery ticket for a speculator.
Bitcoin is being used more and more each day. The first few years after it launched, there were fewer than 1,000 transactions happening on the network each day. Now there are 300,000 happening each day, and that number continues growing. The same is true for technology built on top of Bitcoin.
OpenBazaar and other Bitcoin-based technologies are still new, but they are being used all over the world.
People in the developed world might be uncertain about why they should use something like Bitcoin. If you have cash that mostly keeps its value, and you have access to the credit system, why do you need yet another thing to worry about? For people in places where the monetary system has failed them though, the answer is clear.
Wider adoption of this new monetary innovation matters for everyone.
The nature of cryptocurrency is fundamentally different than any sort of economic system we’ve seen in the world.
You don’t need to place your trust in third parties in order for the system to work
No company or government can shut you out of the system; it’s permissionless
No one can censor or reverse your transactions
You aren’t required to tie your identity to your transactions
Transactions are inexpensive and low-cost
The currency can’t be artificially inflated (losing its value)
Because of these attributes, people are using Bitcoin for a variety of reasons.
They are using it because it’s more private than credit cards, or because they can’t even get a credit card in the first place.
They are using it because it’s cheaper and faster than existing methods.
They are using it because the government in their country is destroying the value of their national currency.
They are using it because they don’t trust the existing system for a variety of reasons, or because they’re trying to build a new and better system altogether.
It’s unclear what will happen in 2017, but it seems likely the monetary innovation of cryptocurrency will play a larger role in our lives than it has before.
Are you looking for a way to use your cryptocurrencies and drive new technology forward? Download OpenBazaar now and give it a try!
The Milestone 1 developer release of OpenBazaar 2.0 is now available! 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 by our UX / Design Lead, Mike Wolf:
Are you a developer who wants to get involved in this early stage? Check back next week & we’ll let you know what you can do!
Want to start RIGHT NOW buying and selling with Bitcoin using version 1.0? Download OpenBazaar now and do the thing!
Today we’ve reached the milestone 1 version of the OpenBazaar 2.0 software. This release is meant solely for developers and those building or intending to build on top of the OpenBazaar platform. The release is not meant for end users and is missing numerous core features needed for engaging in real transactions. Before the launch of the full version of the 2.0 software we will have a formal beta with a fully featured release; details of this formal beta will be posted on this blog soon.
We define milestone 1 as such:
Beta 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.
This is the bare level of functionality needed for developers to use and understand key aspects of the new design in the 2.0 software. Developers can now begin using the software to post and retrieve data from the OpenBazaar / IPFS network, enabling the building of crawlers, search engines, and other tools.
If the 2.0 software has been installed on your machine previously, you’ll need to delete the existing OpenBazaar2.0 data directory before installation.
When running the program the first time, you may need to wait a few moments and click “Retry” if the connection fails.
Developer releases include a “Feedback” button to send feedback to our development team. Note the button on the bottom right of the client in the following image.
The next milestone focuses on product discovery and communication. Users will be able to search for listings using third party services, and browse listings using the new “channels” feature. Direct chat between users will also be completed.
Are all these changes beneficial? These technologies clearly have benefits, but what about their risks? How should we assess emerging technologies in 2017?
The questions are only getting tougher as we continue. Even within the Bitcoin community the debate about the future of the blockchain is intense and can be difficult to understand, much less take a stance on, but we have a collective responsibility to take an active part in defining our ongoing relationship with technology.
If we unquestioningly accept or reject new technologies we may face unexpected risks or forgo substantial benefits.
Here are some questions to ask about emerging technology in the new year:
What does this technology do?
Who controls this technology?
Who benefits from – and who bears the costs of – this technology?
These questions create a simple framework to analyze emerging technologies. Every person has different opinions on what makes technology beneficial. This post is meant to give the user a framework, not meant to convey any sort of objective analysis (though the opinions of the author will be displayed).
1. What does this technology do?
In order to determine if an emerging technology is beneficial, you must know what it does. While this sounds obvious, it’s all too common for people to dismiss emerging technology as not beneficial (or even harmful) without even taking the time to understand how it works. Adam Thierer, technology policy expert, explains so-called “techno-panics” where people act unreasonably towards the threats of emerging technology.
If you look at the details of most emerging technologies you’ll find the specific action they enable is typically somewhat tame and nothing to be afraid of, but some take the worst case scenario and play on people’s fears and ignorance of the new technology.
2. Who controls this technology?
A core aspect of technology is its dynamic nature. A technology doesn’t spring into existence and remain static, but grows and changes over time. It’s important to understand who controls this technology in order to properly assess how beneficial it is, and over what time scale the costs or benefits will remain, or be lost.
If a technology is purely digital, then it’s important to determine if it is open or closed source. Open source technology means the code is available for everyone to look at and use, whereas closed source technology is controlled only by those building it. Technology built on closed source code may not be malicious and may be beneficial to its users; many of the most popular applications are closed source.
Unfortunately, there are dangers in used closed source technology. First, you don’t know exactly what it is doing. Since no one but the builders have access to the code, you are forced to trust that they aren’t doing anything harmful. Second, even if you currently trust them, with closed source you need to trust them forever. This makes assessing the benefit of technologies built on closed source code difficult. What was beneficial yesterday might be malicious tomorrow, and you wouldn’t know.
With open source project, developers are able to see what the code is doing and see when it changes. They can relay this information to everyone so that no one needs to place so much trust in the builders.
If control of a technology is closely held by a single organization or small group of people, then you are forced to trust their motivations currently as well as in the future. If the control of the technology is distributed to all its users and not held by a small group, trust isn’t needed.
3. Who benefits from – and who bears the costs of – this technology?
At first glance it seems obvious that the people who benefit from emerging technologies are whoever is using them. At some level this is true; in most cases people aren’t using a certain technology unless they believe it is helping them. However, not everyone is aware of the costs involved with using some technologies.
There are trade-offs associated with nearly all technologies. Some trade-offs are obvious. Buying the newest technology typically costs more money than existing technologies. Purchasing the vehicle with the most recent safety improvements will likely be more expensive than older (but less safe) models. The newest smartphones cost the most. These are easy to see. Other times the trade-offs are more difficult to calculate.
1. What does this technology do?
There are many examples of emerging technologies that people don’t take time to understand. Drones are machines that make flying substantially cheaper and more accessible to the general population, and the vast majority of drone owners are responsible and pose no threats to others. However, due to conflating drones with large military drones used overseas in combat zones, and a few infrequent cases of irresponsible drone owners, some fear the worst from a society where drone use is common. Understanding how drones work – including their limitations – should help allay those fears.
2. Who controls this technology?
There are numerous examples of a technology initially having noble intentions and eventually straying from them due to them being controlled by a small group.
Paypal is an example. Peter Thiel co-founded Paypal, and described a vision for Paypal that would compete with government issued currency and protect users from inflation. Years later, Paypal has been unable to deliver on Thiel’s vision, while another emerging technology – Bitcoin – has begun to do just that. This is because of who controls the two technologies. Paypal is controlled by a company and must respond to company leadership, shareholders, and governments. Bitcoin is controlled by no central organization and no one is forced to trust that any company, group of shareholders, or government won’t change it for the worse – because they can’t.
No matter how noble the intentions of the creators are, nor how beneficial the technology is today, if it’s controlled by a small group then you cannot be certain those benefits will remain over time.
3. Who benefits from – and who bears the costs of – this technology?
The traditional model for online shopping is an example of unseen costs. A buyer may chose Amazon or Alibaba because of convenience and selection. The process of buying is simple and quick, and the prices are usually pretty good. What a buyer doesn’t see are the costs associated, both to himself and to the seller.
The most obvious cost is the cut taken from the transaction itself, typically around 10 or 15%. The seller typically passes on some of the costs to the buyer, meaning they are effectively paying higher prices due to those fees.
Another cost is the loss of data from both parties. The platform now knows more information about both parties involved. They can take that information and build detailed profiles about the users, and use that information themselves or sell that information to others. There is a cost associated with the risk that the platform will be hacked and your private information stolen, especially credit card information. Identity theft and online fraud are rampant, largely due to online retailers having their security breached.
Other costs are less obvious. Buyers and sellers are shown a curated and censored marketplace of goods and services. The platforms tightly control their own marketplaces with terms and conditions and are willing to censor trade for their own benefit or on behalf of governments. You may not have access to the best products because of behind the scenes deals, or the platform may remove products you love in favor of cheaper products you don’t want.
Perhaps the least obvious cost is the exclusion of users from this system who don’t have access to credit. Users who are unable to obtain a credit card, either due to their geographical location or socioeconomic status, aren’t able to participate in the system at all. Users in the system aren’t even aware of their exclusion and will never know what goods or services they could have offered or purchased.
Using Bitcoin and OpenBazaar for online commerce have their own trade-offs, but avoid some of the costs mentioned above. With both Bitcoin and OpenBazaar…
No organization controls the technology; it is completely distributed.
No company, group of developers, or government controls the open source code.
Users need not fear about a small group exerting control and straying from the original intentions of the project.
Everyone who uses the technology benefits from not relying on middlemen. Users don’t pay fees, don’t have their data collected, and don’t have their trade censored. The costs are also borne by the same users, needing to run the software on their computers and connecting to the internet.
OpenBazaar doesn’t exclude any users from the system.
What emerging technologies most interest you in 2017? How does it stack up to these three steps?
Want to try some disruptive ecommerce technology to see if it’s right for you? Download OpenBazaar now and find out!