OpenBazaar – A Review of the New Way to Shop the Internet

Right now in the Bitcoin world there is active debate about whether Bitcoin should be a value a settlement system or a currency. If a settlement system, small transactions would take place not on the main blockchain, but in second or third-tier system or even in other currencies, and then those transactions would be bundled for final clearance on the main blockchain. This means that there would be relatively few actual transactions on the Bitcoin system. If it is a currency, then Bitcoin would be seen as something you could use for everyday transactions, often cups of coffee are used as the example in the debates.

OpenBazaar, a decentralized, international marketplace run on Bitcoin is one practical argument for the ‘currency’ side of the debate, and after completing my first purchase via OpenBazaar, I’d have to say it’s successful.

A little history: OpenBazaar was originally born as ‘DarkMarket’ at a hackathon in 2014 by a couple of developers who were responding to the recent seizure of the Silk Road by the FBI. They claimed that DarkMarket was to Silk Road what BitTorrent was to Napster. The project needed a lot of development, though, and was eventually forked (in a sense, taken over) by another developer who has been working on it ever since.

All through 2015 there was a lot of big talk about ObenBazaar, but anyone who’s been active in the Bitcoin space can tell you that there have been a lot of promises made by a lot of developers that have simply vanished into thin air when the projects hit bumps in the road – vaporware it’s called. Well, OpenBazaar proved the naysayers wrong when it went live in April of this year.

At first I wasn’t very impressed. There were a couple of issues. After downloading the client (you have to download a program, just like you do for Bittorrent), I found the listings hard to search. I still have that problem – but – fortunately, there is a web-based search engine that is much easier to use and when you click on an item, it takes you to the same item in the OpenBazaar program. So, solved. The second was that there just wasn’t a lot I wanted to buy. Again, this is still true, but with the number of listings on the rise, I’m hoping that this won’t remain the case.

Recently I decided I wanted to try out using a smart fitness band. The selection was thin, but I found a Xiaomi Mi Fit 1S begin advertised for 6 dollars (as a promo), but priced in Bitcoin at around 15 dollars. Still a good deal, so I didn’t worry to much about the title of the placement.

Making the order was surprisingly easy. I had entered shipping address when I set up the program, so all I did was click and fund escrow. I was given the choice to use one of two moderator services should there be an issue, or to use none. Only in the event of a problem, the moderators would get 1% of the amount under dispute.

The next day I got confirmation through the OpenBazaar chat feature that the order had been shipped with a shipping code – from Singapore to Japan. The listing said that it would take BazaarDeals, the vendor, up to two days to process shipping, and then 5-20 business days for the order to be delivered.  Unfortunately, my fitness band took 14 actual, 10 business days to arrive.

Now, I may be spoiled by Amazon Prime, and in my messages to the vendor I acknowledged that they had no control over the postal system, but this really my enjoyment of the process. I got confirmation in one day, but it took a further three (over a weekend because Singapore Post can’t scan a barcode over the weekend?) for the tracking number to even register. For the next 7 days, a got a notice that information for the package had been given to the post office, but that they could not guarantee that the had actually received the physical package. This was the confusing and frustrating part. Had my band actually been sent? Or had BazaarDeals simply scanned the code but not actually handed over the package? I have no idea.

Finally, on day 10, my package registered as dispatched, and it took another four days to actually land, get through customs, and get to me. The Japan side of this process was flawless.

So, would I recommend OpenBazaar? Absolutely. Anyone shopping there should understand that they are shopping world-wide, and that there may be some hiccups with the process. But the escrow and review systems work well, and with SearchDuo, it’s easy to find what you want.

I’m looking forward to seeing OpenBazaar grow, and plan to be shopping on it for my children’s Christmas gifts come October/November.