After two years of work, one of the most awaited bitcoin projects is finally ready for business. Core developers recognize a number of shortcomings but promise they will soon be solved.

An old dream of many bitcoiners, trade with no middlemen at all, seems to have finally materialized. The new marketplace, which can be used by “anyone in the world with access to an Internet connection,” allows users to transact without paying any fees or signing any terms and conditions.

According to the project leader Brian Hoffman, the main reason behind the creation of the marketplace was a deep conviction that “trade was meant to be free.”

“Unlike the online marketplace giants Alibaba, Amazon, or eBay, this new model of online commerce isn’t controlled by any company or organization… There are also no central authorities that act as gatekeepers and restrict trade.”

Last summer Hoffman explained that OpenBazaar targeted users who were unhappy with eBay’s buying and selling process. As 79% of eBay customers were quite satisfied, he estimated that the 21% could have been interested in finding an alternative.

A test version of OpenBazaar software appeared on 1 March to get downloaded 25,000 times in 126 countries during the month, with a total of 3,000 online stores opening prior to the final release. Still, the project is not deprived of its drawbacks.

For instance, OpenBazaar encrypts transactions and chat but does not support Tor or any other anonymization network. Those who wish to enhance their privacy are recommended to use VPN. Developers promise to deal with the matter later on, as well as with four other shortcomings they have indicated in their blog.

First of all, an OpenBazaar store is visible only when the vendor is online, since there is no centralized listing. Secondly, the inventory management system is still “rudimentary”, not allowing to import/export listings from other platforms. Moreover, the search is limited to the tags assigned by vendors. Therefore, if a user looks for a #t-shirt but the merchandise is tagged as #tshirt, the search will give no result. Finally, the reputation system is not quite developed as “there’s nothing that prevents an untrustworthy vendor from pretending to be a buyer and purchasing their own product, leaving a positive review.”

Nevertheless, the core developers are positive that all those shortcomings can be addressed. They plan to solve a number of problems themselves but, thanks to OpenBazaar’s open source nature, even more solutions might come from other programmers, they believe.

In June 2015 the OpenBazaar team secured $1 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, and an angel investor William Mougayar.


Alexey Tereshchenko