OpenBazaar recently launched the beta version of OpenBazaar 2.0, finally allowing people to anonymously buy and sell products with cryptocurrency. In January of this year a Developer Release of version 2.0 of the OpenBazaar software was released, followed by the alpha version. The previous releases of OpenBazaar 2.0 used a testnet, but now with the beta version of the software, users will finally be able to post and order real listings. OpenBazaar 2.0 has the potential to revolutionize darknet markets, making it even more difficult for the governments of the world to shut down.
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OpenBazaar started life as a project called DarkMarket, created at a Toronto Bitcoin Hackathon in 2014 by Amir Taaki. Created shortly after the fall of Silk Road, which was the first darknet market to accept Bitcoin, DarkMarket was meant to stop future darknet markets from failing in the same way as centralized darknet markets like Silk Road did. At the time, Taaki stated that the purpose of the software was to decentralize darknet markets, much in the same way BitTorrent decentralized music and file sharing after centralized software such as Napster had been shut down.
The new functional release of OpenBazaar 2.0 includes the much anticipated support for Tor. OpenBazaar 1.0 did not work with Tor because it used the UDP protocol, which posed privacy issues through IP leaks when used over the Tor network. The new beta version of the software provides more tools for stores, including more shipping options, inventory management features, and allows for variations of listed products. “Our goal with OpenBazaar 2.0 is to get it to be, with the exception of using bitcoin, … an identical experience of what you’d see on Etsy. I think the 2.0 is close to that,” OB1 CEO Brian Hoffman said in February. The new version also includes support for 3rd party search providers, such as Duo, which provide better search results. Users of the new beta version will still be able to search listings created on OpenBazaar version 1.0.
Under version 2.0 of OpenBazaar, stores will no longer need to always be online in order for the store to be accessible to users and for orders to be placed. This is because the new version of OpenBazaar relies on the peer-to-peer InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a decentralized web hosting platform. With IPFS, everyone who visits the store also hosts it, enabling offline stores and making it harder, if not virtually impossible, to shut down a store. Another new feature enabled in OpenBazaar 2.0 is the Shapeshift Shifty Button, which allows users to purchase products using cryptocurrencies other than Bitcoin, such as Monero, Ethereum, DASH, ZCash, or any other coin supported by Shapeshift. The new beta also includes its own built in Bitcoin wallet, which makes it even easier for users to make transactions. The integrated Bitcoin wallet supports Segregated Witness (Segwit) transactions, which is expected to reduce transaction fees for payments made on OpenBazaar 2.0.
Private stores and private listings are also possible with the new version of OpenBazaar. The new version also uses technology from Signal Private Messenger for encrypted messaging over OpenBazaar which utilizes perfect forward secrecy. While OpenBazaar is not necessarily the first or only decentralized darknet market, it does seem to be the one with the most hype and interest among darknet users. Other decentralized darknet marketplace solutions that have launched in the past include Axis Mundi, BitMarket, OpenMarket, and Particl. With the fall of two of the biggest centralized darknet markets, AlphaBay and HANSA Market, happening recently, the new OpenBazaar has emerged at the perfect time. However, it remains to be seen if darknet market users are willing to move to safer, decentralized platforms like OpenBazaar 2.0, or if the majority of buyers and sellers on the darknet will continue to use the more risky centralized darknet markets.