Do you want to buy R2D2 t-shirts, a dog or a cat, or Rick and Morty’s imagery products? Well, these are the things you are likely to find on OpenBazaar. After a very long gestation period, the beta version of the peer-to-peer digital mall has been made available for testing purposes. The full launch is expected to happen later this month.
What OpenBazaar proposes is a distributed marketplace without a central authority for holding accounts, use of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and some rules that are non-existent as of now. This has led to assumptions that OpenBazaar would be the next-generation of difficult-to-trace darknet markets like the Silk Road. The Silk Road was infamously known as a platform for selling illicit drugs. OpenBazaar may still be in its initial stages, but as of now it resembles an anarchist eBay on acid, according to Forbes.
What Is OpenBazaar
OpenBazaar, an open source project, creates a network for decentralized online peer-to-peer commerce using Bitcoin. It does not charge any fees and it cannot be censored.
Typically, online commerce uses centralized services, employs restrictive policies and charges fees for both listing and selling products. The forms of payment accepted by them cost money to buyers and sellers. Further, personal information is required to be provided. Buyers and sellers are generally not allowed to exchange products and services with each other because companies and governments can censor entire trade categories.
OpenBazaar redefines online commerce by putting power back in the hands of users. OpenBazaar connects buyers and sellers directly. There will be no middlemen and, therefore, there will be no fees, no censoring of transactions and you can choose as to what personal information you want to reveal.
What Benefits Does OpenBazaar Offer
One of the key benefits offered by OpenBazaar is anonymous trading. Encryption helps to prevent simple snooping. The peer-to-peer setup prevents governments from targeting a centralized body with the help of a technical taskforce or subpoena. It may not be impossible to bring the network crumbling down, but it would be considerably harder to do that. Further, the chat feature offered by OpenBazaar will be end-to-end encrypted to prevent mass government surveillance.
Why OpenBazaar Would Not Operate Like the Silk Road
All said and done, there are a few reasons as to why OpenBazaar is not likely to be like the Silk Road. The first and foremost reason is that people who have the technical capability can view the IP addresses of users. By pulling out data from the OpenBazaar API, a crawler that is capable of mapping out information about all of the participants in the network can be built. If the police have a warrant, they can quickly identify and locate individuals who are not masking their IP address by using a VPN or Tor. In fact, OpenBazaar warns people during registration that users would not be anonymous by default and that IP addresses are public even though most of the communications between parties is encrypted.
The second key aspect is the credentials of the chief purveyors of OpenBazaar. They are Brian Hoffman, who worked as a lead associate for cybersecurity at Booz Allen Hamilton, old employer of Edward Snowden; Sam Patterson, a Bitcoin specialist; and Dr. Washington Sanchez, an academic. Their goal is to create a platform that is free from government control so that companies are in a position to make more money by getting rid of the middleman. Bitcoin helps to do away with middlemen, credit card providers and banks, who take a cut from each of the transactions. Even the darknet markets like the Silk Road are not free from the involvement of middlemen. However, in the case of OpenBazaar, the dealings are directly between the buyers and sellers.
Finally, the purveyors are not likely to earn anything by creating the OpenBazaar network. That is why they have founded OB1, which aims at bringing big names to the network. They will partner with these companies for setting up certain stores. Additionally, OB1 will also provide merchant support services like vetting legitimate businesses, arbitration, etc., for a charge. According to Patterson, hundreds of individuals and businesses have requested that they be notified when OpenBazaar goes live. He also added that peer-to-peer commerce is not going to be popular overnight on the Internet and that they are in this for the long haul.