The OpenBazaar project, led by the well-funded startup OB1, has been working towards delivering a mainstream-friendly version of their peer-to-peer marketplace application.
The open source software directly connects people in a decentralized, fee-free market, circumventing the need for middlemen while using Bitcoin as the main payment method. This makes OpenBazaar a free online marketplace, with no fees or restrictions on what can be sold.
The project's developers launched an open Beta 2.0 version of the marketplace platform on Saturday, after a month in alpha testing. The beta allows the use of real Bitcoin and real listings, so users are encouraged to start making their stores already. It also allows for a high level of privacy via TOR routing for both shoppers and store owners.
“Our initial focus will be on migrating stores that were setup in 1.0 onto 2.0. At the same time we’re also going to be deploying tools for Vendors to import their listings from eBay, Etsy, Shopify etc into OpenBazaar. Our message to Vendors there is to extend their footprint onto OpenBazaar and earn Bitcoin instead of fiat dollars, and access features for free that are often behind paywalls and/or subject to listing fees.”
- Dr. Washington Sanchez, OB1 Co-founder
Users of the first version of OpenBazaar will likely notice an overall speed improvement, and greatly increased responsiveness across the platform. The new software uses a completely rebuilt back-end with IPFS integrated, and uses a more open framework to ensure the software can be expanded for future additions.
“It is more extensible than it was for version 1,” Dr. Washington Sanchez, OpenBazaar’s co-founder and Chief Research Officer told BraveNewCoin. “This means we can add new contract types in the future and expand what OpenBazaar can be used for.”
A new offline store functionality uses the IPFS framework to seed stores between network peers. “You can be offline and receive orders for your items,” Sanchez detailed, “which you’ll receive the next time you open the app.
The OB1 team has also improved the search feature, making results faster and more accurate. A number of optional search criteria can be used to refine each search, making the process feel much more like looking for a project on Amazon or eBay. OpenBazzar users can choose to use either the OB1 search engine or one by a third party solution, such as Duosearch.
OpenBazaar 2.0 also has a bitcoin wallet built in, allowing new users to simply download OpenBazaar and get started shopping right away. It has a user-friendly interface that includes a Shifty Button, which allows OpenBazaar shoppers to spend any cryptocurrency that ShapeShift trades on their platform. Behind the scenes, the wallet uses SegWit-formatted addresses to help save on transaction fees, and also lets users choose between three fee level settings.
New types of sales can also be added to the platform now, including “Auctions, crowdfunding, and forward/futures contracts” Sanchez revealed. “Things we’ve been writing about since the beginning of the project.” Users also have the added benefit of using Tor, which aims to conceal user identities and their online activity from surveillance and traffic analysis.
Cryptocurrencies are already selling on the platform now, and there are plans for other types of products to be introduced soon, including ICOs.
“OpenBazaar could certainly be used to coordinate token sales."
A suite of vendor tools is also included, starting with an inventory management page that lets store owners track inventory and the status of each sale. Dispute resolution tracking, purchase tracking, and sales tracking all have their own areas in the app, with useful new features, and the shipping options available for each item are likewise robust and customizable.
In the event that a moderator is needed to settle a dispute between buyers and sellers on the decentralized platform, version 2.0 has a new way of ensuring that they are properly assigned and contacted, going so far as to list the languages that each moderator speaks.
“So far the feedback we’ve received has been very positive in terms of stability, design, and user experience,” Sanchez recalled. “It certainly feels like a significant improvement over our previous releases.”
A couple of rough edges do stick out, however. Besides the small number of store listings that haven’t been upgraded from the old version yet, the app lacks security features such as a password prompt for the wallet, and there are no automatic delivery options for digital products at the moment.
Brian Hoffman, the CEO of OB1 and head of OpenBazaar’s development told BraveNewCoin that both missing features are high priorities for upcoming upgrades. “I really want to get to that asap but we don't have a date,” he said. “We are actually going to have a roadmap planning session with the community soon and that will be a big goal.”
Sanchez adds that the beta testing will last as long as it needs to, “until we’re satisfied that we’ve shaken out the major bugs and identified any edge cases that require fixing [...] Beta is really focused on making sure that the full release just works, transactions have the right fee, and every feature functions as advertised.”
One major area that the team is working on is fine-tuning Bitcoin’s fee estimation, which he says is critical, “It’s very tricky, but we’ll do the best we can, and I don’t doubt that the community will improve fee estimation tools over time.”
After that, the team plans to work on a new way of letting vendors add more robust content options for describing products. “Our goal is to let users curate pages of content with different styles and products, etc.,” Chris Pacia, OB1’s Lead Backend Developer shared with BraveNewCoin. The feature probably won’t make it into the full release, but he hopes it will be included by the end of the year.
“The important thing about what comes next for OpenBazaar is that we now have a solid foundation to build the decentralised marketplace on,” Sanchez pointed out. “It took us some time to get here, but now we have a great foundation, we can start pushing adoption and rolling out specific new features.”