On the first October weekend 2016 the 3rd Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis was held in Prague. This year the conference which focuses on digital freedom and decentralization had two sessions dedicated to the decentralized marketplace Openbazaar. Sam Patterson, the co-founder and Operations Lead of OB1 talked about the protocol’s past, present and future and Justin Drake (founder of DuoSearch) presented ways of “Building on Openbazaar”.
Both talks took place on the third day of the conference in the big room (Slevarna) which I would guess seats 200-300 people. Most of the seats were taken when the Sam Pattersons talk started. After the introduction early on in the presentation he conducted a poll that showed that the Paralelní Polis audience was already well acquainted with the project. When he asked who had already heard about the marketplace, virtually everybody raised his hand. When he asked who in the audience had already tried it out, installed the software or conducted a trade an estimated third to half of the audience showed their hands.
Pattersons talk started with an overview of the current state of e-commerce, described Openbazaar’s mission and history. Particularily intersting to me was what the developers had learned since the launch of the first version in April 2016. The most common problems that users have with the current iteration of the marketplace software are:
- the node must be constantly online
- the search (or more broadly: product discovery) is not good enough
- the software lacks common ecommerce features such as inventory management
- it is no anonymous (since it cannot be used together with TOR)
- bitcoin only
- requires some technical knowledge
Patterson explained that all these criticisms will be addressed in version 2.0 of the market for which a release in early 2017 is tentatively planned. Version 2 will bring the switch to IPFS (interplanetary filesystem) and thus eliminate the need to be constantly online with one’s node. The search will integrate third party providers into the client directly to facility a better (and less gamable) search experience. More ecommerce features are planned and the long-awaited TOR integration is already working on an experimental level. He also announced an integrated bitcoin wallet and more usability and user experience improvements.
Right afterwards Justin Drake from DuoSearch took the stage. The title of his talk was “Building on Openbazaar”, which is what his company DuoSearch is doing. He stated in his presentation that he believes that many business opportunities exist around OpenBazaar. These consist of specialized services that are not addressed by the core protocol of OB itself. He gave a few examples of such opportunities that he discoverd in dialog with users of the software:
- search / how do I find stuff on Openbazaar?
- categorization / how do I navigate in Openbazaar?
- trust / what vendors are trustworthy?
- usability / how can I use Openbazaar in a normal browser without having to install separate software?
Drake gave a lot of tips on how to build a business around one of these specialized needs and shared his personal experience with building DuoSearch. After investing one year in trying to build DuoMoney, a service that would have allowed conducting purchases with fiat money on Openbazaar, his banking partner withdrew in April 2016. Instead of starting again from square one, Drake shelfed the DuoMoney idea and pivoted the buisness to start DuoSearch. Within 19 days he and his co-founder build the first Openbazaar discovery tool.
Drake was encouraging others to start a business around the decentralized market protocol and even to begin competing with his own company DeoSearch. That goes to show the deep community spirit that is currently present in the OpenBazaar space and Drake’s firm believe that competition will strengthen business and benefit everybody. He closed his speech with an oberservation and a recommendation: With the launch of Openbazaar 2.0 approxiamately 6 months away, this is enough time to build a product and launch it together with the next version of OB. So start building your Openbazaar company now and make use of the first-mover-advantage.