Brian Hoffman & Washington Sanchez

OpenBazaar – Growing a Permissionless Marketplace

In the early days of Bitcoin, much of the community’s focus was around payment and getting merchants to adopt cryptocurrencies. Although the technology and narratives have evolved, some projects continue to embrace that original vision of peer-to-peer business, where merchants and their customers interact directly, and if they so wish, anonymously.

We’re joined by Brian Hoffman and Washington Sanchez of OpenBazaar. Since we last interviewed Brian in 2015, the project has grown to become a mature decentralized marketplace where people come together to buy and sell products and services anonymously with crypto. Its polished interface and reputation system gives users a similar experience to that of using eBay, but without fees or the risk of censorship.

Topics we discussed in this episode
  • Brian and Washington’s respective backgrounds
  • The origins of OpenBazaar as the Dark Market project
  • The history and evolution of OpenBazaar since their last appearance on episode 67
  • How OpenBazaar managed to survive all these years and how the vision has evolved over time
  • Who uses the platform and to what ends
  • How it compares to traditional dark markets like The Silk Road
  • OpenBazaar’s position on deplatforming and how it responds to pressure to censor content
  • How OpenBazaar works under the hood as a collection of decentralized technologies
  • The company’s business model and future plans
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Transcript

Sebastien Couture: Today we have a repeat guests which doesn’t happen often. But today our guest is, well we have a repeat guests and another guest, Brian Hoffman and Washington Sanchez of OpenBazaar. We did an episode on OpenBazaar in February of 2015 on Episode 67. So if you want to listen to that one you can, OpenBazaar is this decentralized open marketplace where people can buy and sell goods, kind of like eBay or Etsy and use crypto to do the payment. What’s really interesting about this project is that it started in 2015, you know, just as Ethereum was starting. I don’t even think the crowdsale had occurred already, maybe it had, but anyway it was just at the beginning and a lot of the infrastructure that we have now and we take for granted didn’t exist back then and the conversation at the time was very much centered around, let’s make Bitcoin a payment mechanism and people were talking about merchants adoption and when you go to your favorite bar, you try to encourage the bartender to start taking Bitcoin and that conversation has changed a lot over the years and that narrative is not really what’s driving Bitcoin anymore. But OpenBazaar has really tried to stay true to the vision, this trade marketplace that sort of champions privacy and an openness in terms of what you can sell there, so it’s really great to see this project still exists and seems to be doing well and growing and they have plans now to build a mobile app etc, so it was really interesting conversation. What do you think about it?

Sunny Agarwal: Right, I think OpenBazaar is, you could actually consider it one of the earliest apps, it is sort of adapt if you think about it and I’ve had OpenBazaar on my computer for a while. I use it like once or twice to actually buy Bitcoin Graphics or something like a desktop wallpaper. This is two or three years ago now but you know, if you just open up the app it looks nice, the UI is sleek, it seems usable and that’s just something you don’t really see much in the UI UX of the dapp ecosystem right now. And so I think a lot of it part of it is just the age, like you mentioned four or five years old now and so it just had a lot of time to iterate and see what works see what doesn’t and it’s really cool because it’s literally like an entire decentralized marketplace built completely on decentralized infrastructure, it uses cryptocurrencies for payments, IPFS, it has Tor integration for privacy. So, you know just takes a lot of cool technologies and puts them together into a seamless user experience, which is really cool to me.

Sebastien: Yeah, and it’s not a blockchain, it doesn’t have an underlying blockchain other than just the payments that you use, Bitcoin or some cryptocurrency for venmos, but the data itself and the peer-to-peer aspect of the app itself doesn’t use a blockchain which I think is is important because it shows that you don’t need a blockchain for everything that’s decentralized. You can also use certainly these peer-to-peer libraries or you can use something like IPFS for data. So, yeah. So without further ado here’s our conversation with Brian Hoffman and Washington Sanchez of OpenBazaar.

So we’re here with our guests today Brian Hoffman and Washington Sanchez of OB1 and OpenBazaar. And today we’re going to be talking about OpenBazaar and the evolution of that project since we last had Brian on over four years ago. So thanks so much for joining us today guys.

Brian Hoffman: Thank you for having us.

Washington Sanchez: Yeah, it’s wonderful.

Sebastien: So Brian last time you were on was Episode 67 which is over four years ago. I was listening to it earlier it was February 15, 2015 and back then OpenBazaar was just starting or at least maybe he maybe had launched but wasn’t quite like a production version yet. Certainly you guys had not done your crowdsale at that point. So please introduce yourself for our new listeners, those who maybe haven’t heard that episode and tell us how you got involved in crypto.

Brian: Sure, so, my name is Brian Hoffman obviously and I got into crypto probably early 2012. I think the last time we did the podcast, I think we were actually in negotiations to get our funding for ob1 because we founded a OB1 just a couple months after that or a month after that podcast. But yeah, I mean I got into the space early on, just interested in it because I came from a PKI background doing secure messaging encrypted stuff for government clients and stumbled across Bitcoin and was always looking for an interesting project to work on when I came across Dark Market, which is what OpenBazaar spun out of and it kind of just led to me ending up taking over the project. And so, you know, that was my first opportunity to actually get heavily involved in actually building stuff within Bitcoin as we all know being a core dev is a pretty high bar, a barrier to entry so,  that wasn’t really an option at the time. So I was really fortunate to come across this and be able to work on this for the last four and a half years.

Sebastien: I’m sorry. Was I mistaken in saying that you guys had the crowdsale, you guys raised you guys actually raise money.

Brian: Yeah. Sorry. I should have corrected that. But yeah, we did we have not done a crowdsale at all. When we were running OpenBazaar it was kind of hectic and crazy hours and we wanted to fund it through some natural crowdsale process. But at that time those were not even a thing. I think the most anybody had raised through crowdfunding was Dark Wallet, which I think only raised like $50,000 and so we ended up seeking traditional venture capital. And so we raised our first round with Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square ventures in early 2015.

Sebastien: I think Swarm had raised quite a bit. I don’t know if Swarm had raised already by then or not. I think they had, I feel like they had and they had raised over I think over a million dollars on counterparty. I don’t know.

Brian: Yeah I think they were trying to raise some ridiculous amount like 20 million, some huge amount at the time which seems huge at the time but now it was like overshadowed.

Sebastien: So Washington, we’re turning to you. How did you get involved in blockchain and crypto?

Washington: I heard about Bitcoin, I mean I vaguely recall hearing about Bitcoin either sometime in 2010 or maybe even earlier and I kind of thought, oh, that’s cool, but I don’t know whether it will work. And then I kept on seeing it pop up here and there and I went back and I read the white paper had my you know, the amazing moment where I was like, this is amazing. It’s going to change everything and so I just followed it on, and just really cheered the project on. When it came to OpenBazaar, leading up to it, I was already very much thinking about the idea of a marketplace that would match Bitcoin’s fundamental design being decentralized and open and how this is really a complementary piece of infrastructure that needs to exist. And then you know, I all of a sudden saw in my emails something called Dark Market that Amir Taaki was working working on and that was just a hackathon and they didn’t do any work on it after its end. And then on Reddit I saw that some dude called Brian Hoffman was working on something called OpenBazaar and I kind of followed in passing and then I got sucked in just coming up with ideas, writing articles and here we are so many years later.

Sebastien: So let’s go back to that origin story. So the OpenBazaar is a project that originated at a hackathon, I think in Toronto. Amir Taaki was working on it, it was called Dark Market and I was listening to the previous episode and was reminded of that story but let’s let’s maybe go back there and talk about how that idea originated and how it became OpenBazaar.

Sunny: Yeah. I remember that was actually a very interesting hackathon because Amir Taaki started Dark Market at that hackathon, he placed first place and then Ethan Buchman and Vlad Zamfir, this is when those two actually first got into blockchain and they actually came in second place at that hackathon. So a very eventful hackathon that day in Toronto. Brought a lot of people into the space.

Brian: Yeah, and a lot of people don’t know too that the the team that Amir lead in Toronto for that hackathon actually consisted of a bunch of the devs from Airbits at the time which is now Edge Wallet, which is another project and company that’s been around for a very long time. Yeah, I mean basically I’ve talked to the guys from Airbits and stuff. I haven’t talked to Amir directly about that experience. But evidently when they were at the hackathon they were trying to come up with an idea and Amir had been tossing around the idea of an unstoppable silk road for a while because Ross had just been apprehended a couple months prior to that and late 2013 and I think that was still in everybody’s minds of why if it was using Bitcoin, how did it get shut down? It was all centralized. You know, how could we take the technology behind things like BitTorrent and use crypto and build this in a way that there is nobody running it or that, it can’t be shut down or censored. And so that was the impetus for for Dark Market. I think the problem though is that at that time they were heavily invested in Dark Wallet and really we’re just trying to raise more capital to continue working on that and so they didn’t really have the bandwidth or the organization to build out Dark Market into a real product which is where we came in.

Sebastien: Do you have anything to add there Washington?

Washington: Yeah, I mean it was it was quite a short hackathon but extremely impactful. I know there was a very very strong response in the Bitcoin Community too, I think everybody understood the idea of what this could accomplish if it was created.  But yeah, I mean from what was created in that hackathon to you know, what we started with and what OpenBazaar has become today has been quite a significant technical journey.

Sunny: So Brian, how did you pick up the Dark Market project from that? Were you at the hackathon and you heard about it there or did you hear about it afterwards? And at what point did you realize that the Dark wallet team? It’s not their primary focus. And so what inspired you to step up and take over this project essentially.

Brian: Yeah, I mean as I mentioned before I was kind of looking for something that I could get in on and, like many others I saw the coverage of them winning the award and I saw the video of them showing the product off and I thought it was super fascinating. I mean not just the idea of creating a silk road so to speak but just the idea that this was actually something beyond a wallet, you know up until that time most of the things that people were doing with Bitcoin were just wallets. It wasn’t any kind of like real dapp so to speak, it hadn’t even been kind of coined in phrase and so, then I found out they released the GitHub. They released the source code for that hackathon project on GitHub and said here it is and so I started like submitting some pull request to their code and then I emailed Amir directly because I didn’t get any response from them on GitHub and I was like, hey, I’m really serious about contributing to this project. You know, let me know where I can help and he wrote me back and said look, I’ll be honest with you, we’re not going to do anything with this, you know, if you want to fork it and just go to town, I’ll link your repo in our GitHub page and you know, I’ve had a couple other people interested in doing so but we don’t want to manage this thing, and I was like alright fine. So at that point I was like if I’m going to fork it I  don’t want to, so if they’re not associated with it, I don’t feel it’s genuine to call it Dark Market still because they had the dark branding they had Dark Wallet and Dark Market and I was like, okay, let’s just do a clean slate. The idea is that this is a truly open marketplace, not just for illicit goods. Obviously dark implies, it’s the black market. We want it to be open to everyone and so I re coined it OpenBazaar it forked it and then they linked us in the original repo and I think it’s still there. I believe if you go to their their GitHub repo for Dark Market, it just links to us. And then I went on Reddit and I put a post and I said, you know, I’m going to be forking this is if anybody wants to work on it with me, you know come along and I think the first comment was like, fuck you you’re a poser, and I was like, alright great. I guess I’m not going to get any help. But slowly and surely I started getting more and more people contributing patches because they were going to the Dark Market repository and getting linked over to mine and they just started following it and joining it. And you know, I’d have to go back and look exactly all the people but there’s actually been some really great and and somewhat prominent developers that worked on it early on that contributed. There’s a couple people that went to Blockstream and and stuff like that. They were contributing really good ideas and Washington was actually one of the best early contributors not from a code perspective, but he had come with a bunch of already thought out ideas of how we could improve the marketplace. I mean originally it was a very basic, you know escrow type marketplace idea, but he brought along these ideas of like doing more contract-based transactions that had state and you know, it was more involved and and several other really interesting ideas about where we could take OpenBazaar that made it much more than just a simple hackathon project. So, those early contributions were massive in terms of getting brand awareness and interest in what we were doing. I mean, it’s a project that quickly escalated, within like three weeks I had spoken to Wired Magazine and Forbes and all these people were calling me. It was kind of crazy.

Sunny: So before we go any further, maybe the first thing we should do is, you know, some people might not be aware, what exactly is OpenBazaar? What are the goals here? I think maybe many people have heard this tagline or decentralized marketplace. But what does that mean and maybe a good way to do it is maybe you could explain or a walk through a user story in how a user would be using OpenBazaar.

Brian: Sure, so decentralized marketplace. What does that even mean? I mean a marketplace itself is kind of centralized right? It’s a grouping of merchants and buyers. It’s a way to connect people to do transactions. Right? I mean, you have to think to the idea of the name OpenBazaar, like a bazaar is a marketplace where vendors come from wherever you go in there, you’re interacting with them closely. There’s negotiating and haggling, there’s private conversations. It’s a loosely organized group of vendors and buyers and that was kind of the idea behind OpenBazaar which was, can we take peer-to-peer technology and crypto and open this completely global marketplace where there’s no facilitator. It’s just a protocol that everybody knows how to speak with each other and do the same kind of concept on a much grander scale, and do it absolutely free. Not just free as in terms of doing what you want, but also the cost is not there because everyone shares their part of the infrastructure, you’re not going through a bunch of centralized servers and some huge data center managed by a company. You’re just connecting directly with the people you want to do business with and so that was idea. It’s like you don’t pay for the internet, you pay for hosting and everything at the edge, but the core protocol is free. You don’t pay to transact on the internet and this would be like a commerce layer on top of that, a free-trade protocol because we have the technology to build something to to supplant Amazon and Etsy and eBay who are basically just rent seekers. They’re just slurping up your information and taking a cut for for matchmaking. We don’t need that anymore. We have these consensus protocols and things that allow us to do that without people intervening. So you can expand upon it forever and ever and ever but the core idea is really just free trade over the internet.

Sebastien: Since you were last on the podcast, I mean it’s it’s been four years and I want to point out that there’s not many projects out there that have stood the test of time like OpenBazaar and also have stayed true to the vision. I mean, obviously there are companies as we started back then that are still around but OpenBazaar is one of these open projects that has continued to exist, to grow, and hasn’t really changed its vision or even it’s technical underlining, even though you know one could argue that there are all kinds of technologies today that could perhaps achieve the same thing or better. But I would like you to walk us through the history and the timeline, what has happened since then in these four years. What are the major milestones and major achievements that have come?

Brian: Yeah, I mean the stuff that’s happened since then could probably spend many podcasts on. But I think not only has our work changed and our organization changed but the whole crypto ecosystem has changed dramatically. I mean you have to think when OpenBazaar came out, Ethereum hadn’t even done their presale I believe, and think about how much has changed since Ethereum came on the scene, but in 2014 we started the project. I mean it was just an open source side project that we were working on at nights and weekends and whenever we had spare time, by the end of that in early 2015 when we podcast with you guys it was starting to morph into more of a business, we were hoping to build this company around it so that we could do it full-time. So we secured funding in early 2015 and at that point we raised about a million dollars from that and so then it became like okay, so we’re going to try and solidify this team. We’re going to have this loose group of contributors through GitHub. But now we want to form a company around this that’s going to support it sort of like what Blockstream does for Bitcoin and so we started picking out our best contributors and bringing them on board and building out the company team and then we realized, okay now we have the time, the money, the team, to really do this in a much more mature way and I come from a development background so, I understood that these contributors that go in and out and it’s not a consistent way to build a really great product to scale, so we decided to redo the the product and we started rebuilding it from scratch. So we kind of had this like hacked version of Dark Market code and tried to morph it into something good but we realized that just had to scrap most of it. So we rewrote the whole product through to 2015 and I guess the beginning of 2016 we released OpenBazaar Version 1. That was the first complete version that we felt was as close to the vision as possible. And when we release that we had truly decentralized search, it was the first complete product. It had dispute resolution so people could use escrow services to figure out if they had problems and things like that and create more trust, but one of the things that we learned quickly is that the technology is really nascent. Even though we were one of the most mature products in the space, a lot of people got frustrated because it’s very difficult and cumbersome to do simple things, things that were very simple on the internet through a web browser, were very difficult to do with Bitcoin and desktop application, which is already a huge hurdle for users. And the search was really really bad. I mean you can think of it, we have all these computers all over the world, computers and slow connections and Africa, you know, they have data on their computers and now your search engine has to go out to all those guys and create like a very fast experience, for when you’re searching bicycles and you have to compete with Google who is like a very centralized optimized index of all that stuff, the disparity between the experience we were providing and what people  could get on centralized services was just too too great. And so 2016. we were looking around for some alternatives to what we had built and we stumbled across across IPFS, which was just getting out of the gates, and they were doing so much of what we were doing but they were dedicated to just focusing on the networking piece of it. And so we went back to the drawing board and we rewrote all of it over again on top of IPFS. And that was probably one of our best decisions ever because it opened up the doors to do so much more with the way that OpenBazaar worked in terms of user experience. One of the huge things that people complained about in our first version was that if you were a store you had to keep your computer running all the time, you had to have the app running 24/7 in order to take orders and that was a really bad experience. IPFS for instance allowed us to introduce offline orders. So, Bitcoin doesn’t require you to be online to send payments to people, why should OpenBazaar be required to be online to take sales. And so that was a huge benefit of moving to IPFS for instance and there were a lot more than that, but so 2.0 came out in late 2016 I guess. I think we were beta baiting at the end of 2016. And so that’s the software version that we currently run and we’ve been working on improving that and in late 2017 when we had the huge bull run up to 20k and and all that, we started to come across the whole fee crisis, which was like SegWit2x and all that drama and that was a major milestone for OpenBazaar as a project because fundamentally we’re not a Bitcoin project. We weren’t a Bitcoin project. We were a free trade project. We just happen to use Bitcoin as our payment mechanism. And so even though we were really well-known in the space, we wanted to do commerce, we wanted to do payments, we wanted to do this peer-to-peer communication, all these things that we thought Bitcoin could do really early on that even Satoshi thought about early on. And it was starting to morph into this whole store value kind of conversation and narrative at that time. And so the fees were going really up and all we did was allow people to use Bitcoin, no other payment mechanisms and people were selling t-shirts and stickers and books, things that were like sub 50 dollars in the fees were almost getting to the same prices the products. So our users were getting very frustrated. They were complaining to us with support tickets all this stuff. And so we realized very quickly we had to do something about that. And so we changed our thinking and said look what if we were a marketplace that was agnostic to payment mechanisms. Let’s just not be so married to bitcoin itself. What would we look like? And so we had to design what we call the multi wallet, which is allowing us to accept and use multiple different coins and plug-in more as we go and so we became more of a neutral in terms of which coins we support platform and in right now we only support a handful but the flexibility is there for us to expand as needed in to others to accommodate different types of approaches. So if you’re more of a privacy focused person you can use Zcash, if you’re just Bitcoin, Bitcoin, if you want Bitcoin Cash, whatever, so that’s that’s kind of how we changed as an organization through that time period and now we’ve got a whole bunch of other things going on as well. But yeah, that’s kind of s much of a quick history lesson on OpenBazaar I can give you right now.

Sunny: Yeah, so I know currently the four coins you support right now from what I saw was Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash Litecoin and Zcash. How have users been reacting to the actual idea of using Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies for payments, especially given the high volatility of last year. So one of the things that happened last year was the fees made it harder for people to spend Bitcoin, but then also the changes in price made it hard and so what was the UX like around that last year then also any plans to support more like stable coin like mechanisms like Dai and whatnot.

Brian: I’ll take the first part and maybe Washington could talk about the other part. So the volatility. Yeah, I think that’s a huge double edged sword – 1. that run up in crypto created massive interest in Bitcoin and all the other coins. And so we got a massive influx of people interested in using OpenBazaar and learning about it and stuff. But at the same time it was very unusable for certain user cases because of the cost of the fees and so, it was It was kind of a pro and con and in since then, you know, obviously interest has waned a lot more in terms of that hysteria and so we have less traffic as do all the exchanges and everything else in terms of interest in just the products, but it’s a much more focused and usable technology. So it’s like you’re damned if you do damned if you don’t in a lot of ways and I’ll let Washington talk about the coin stuff or if you want to add to that.

Washington: Yeah, I mean, I think something that especially people who have just joined this crazy circus in the past two years are not aware of is just how significantly the mentality to spending cryptocurrency has changed in just a few years. I mean before everybody in the Bitcoin space was saying yeah,  Bitcoin is going to take over the world is going to be the major payment system we’re going to use to buy things, and now because of the fee runup and the absolute co-decision of not increasing the block size, not making it friendly for payments at the base layer ,the entire narrative to justify that decision has completely changed. Now it’s like Brian said it’s a store of value, you’re not supposed to pay for it. You should use Bitcoin to pay for things, if anybody who tells you to spend your Bitcoins is an enemy of Bitcoin, you have these kinds of extremists coming out there saying it’s nonsense, and this is the kind of thing that we’ve had to ride and adjust to but there are other cryptocurrencies and it’s a very different world just in a few years. I mean when we got started it was Bitcoin and over 90% of the market was was Bitcoin. And now it’s just a little bit over 50% and you have other cryptocurrencies where they’re very much focused on using crypto for payments to buy things, to sell things for real economically utility, not as a gateway to get rich in a few years by huddling. So I mean that’s one of the major obstacles we’ve had to face particularly in the last couple of years but to your point about stable coins and as an answer to the volatility, that’s obviously something that’s been huge. I mean the emergence of Dai in particular makerdown and Dai as a stable coin has been quite significant in the Ethereum community and something that we’ve been working very hard on these past several months is integrating Ethereum into OpenBazaar so not only can you buy and sell things in Eth but you can buy and sell things in any C20 token and especially the stable coins. So we’ve been working very hard on that and that should be coming out hopefully soon.

Sunny: Another question around how the UX of OpenBazaar works is why are there only a certain number of supported coins? So let’s say I searched OpenBazaar for you stickers and I find a sticker I want to buy, why can’t I make an agreement with that merchant that hey I want to pay you in Grin or Dogecoin, right? Why do I have to use one of the fork supported currencies, can’t he give me a Dogecoin address, I’ll pay him the dojo and he’ll send me the sticker. What does it mean to support a currency in OpenBazaar?

Brian: Yeah, sure. So what you’re describing is very similar to our crypto trading feature. So if you can create a listing within OpenBazaar marketplace to sell crypto and you can actually list for sale over 2000 coins, all the ones from coin market. We obviously don’t have that wallet in OpenBazaar, we only have four coins like you said, but how do we do that? Well, we kind of do what you’re saying. Like when people they’ll pay Bitcoin, one of the four coins out of their wallet to that listing, the other person will send them Dogecoin to their address and then they’ll release the funds out of OpenBazaar to them. So it’s kind of like it’s similar to what you’re talking about. And yeah that can be done. I mean, that’s what’s happening there. Why do we not do that for the for the primary purchases? Well, what’s going on within OpenBazaar as we use multisig escrow accounts to create trust for that payment. So in that scenario that I mentioned to you that wouldn’t work. I mean you’d have to put a lot of trust in that person to deliver the product or coin, if I just paid you Bitcoin and said, okay now send me Dogecoin to this address, there’s no assurance that you’ll ever do that. I mean you can’t be anonymous, you’re not going to trust that person. So in so in order to get around that what we do is we pay into a multisig OpenBazaar wallet that’s owned by the merchant, the buyer, and then a moderator, which is like if there’s a problem that person will step in. It’s a two of three multisig wallet that’s created by OpenBazaar and then that allows us to create a mechanism within OpenBazaar so that you send it into the escrow, they deliver the Dogecoin that you bought and then when you’re happy, you release the funds out of that two of three multisig wallet to the merchant and then there’s this inherent trust there. And if there’s a problem now you have a third party to step in and do a dispute resolution process if needed. So that’s why we do that and what we mean by supporting the coin is we have to build that multisig wallet, like Ethereum for instance doesn’t even have need of multisig support. So we had to build the smart contract to do multisig for OpenBazaar. And that’s when we integrated and we have different wallet interface requirements for the app itself. So that’s what I mean by building a wallet and that takes work, that takes some time.

Washington: And even the wallet itself has been a bit of a technical journey. I mean when we moved here from Bazaar 2.0 one of the things we were very proud of was using an Bitcoin SPV client and the background as the wallet, but then when we moved to the multi-currency Paradigm, then it was just not feasible to use multiple coins running multiple SPV nodes in the background, especially if we’re going to be adding more coins and well then what do you do when you have Ethereum, like it just becomes ridiculous and then the problem escalates when you try to port OpenBazaar over to web or to mobile, so changing the way that the wallet works so it becomes an API base wallet where it’s fetching information about the blockchain by an API rather than using a like client for one of those coins was not only technical work that we had to do but also putting up the infrastructure to support that scalable.

Sunny: So speaking of these escrows that we were talking about, how do you choose the moderator, so you said there’s a two of three multisig and the buyer, the seller, and some third moderator. Where does this third moderator come in? Who decides it and is there a public listing of trusted moderators or how does this work?

Washington: The moderator role can be fulfilled by any node on the network. So if you want to join OpenBazaar and you just want to do dispute resolution, you can set yourself up as a moderator. You can say well these are the fees when I take on a dispute resolution, you could even put a little description, this is how I’m going to do my dispute resolution. Then it’s up to buyers and sellers to choose you and to include you in their transactions and that process is completely open and anybody can join. OB1, the company, has a list of what we call verified moderators. These are people who we know are moderators on the network. They’ve been involuntarily publicly associated their identities to something that’s verifiable. So they have to have key-based profiles. We say alright we need you to state very clearly what your fees are, what your dispute resolution policy is, a whole bunch of criteria. And if they meet that criteria, then we add them to our verify moderator list and that’s really just a guide for people who are just joining OpenBazaar and they don’t really know which moderators should we trust here which ones are the good guys that are not going to screw me or you know who are really good at dispute resolution. And so that’s what we try to help out.

Brian: Yeah. I mean, it’s important to note that it’s still pretty early days in terms of like decentralized trust, right? We’ve spent a lot of time thinking and working through ways to improve that mechanism. And we get a lot of suggestions from the community. In fact, we funded an effort called Trust is Risk, which is a research project based out of a university in Greece and we helped fund that project so that they could look at ways of using web of trust in order to create trust graphs and make better decisions without having to rely on someone like OB1 blessing certain moderators as being verified so to speak. I mean that’s ideally where we’d like to head. Our approach is like, okay decentralize everything we can and then slowly start to decentralize the pieces that we haven’t been able to or as we discover new technologies. So that could be searched, that could be the dispute process, any place where we’re too heavily reliant on centralized actors. Those are ripe for us to disrupt and that’s what we’re always working towards.

Sebastien: So let’s maybe dive into some of the technical aspects a little bit. So we mentioned IPFS already and some of the underlying structure there. So can you describe the tech stack? I think a lot of people listening to the show will be familiar with smart contracts and maybe the way other applications and dapps were built on this on this maybe like a dow principal or some kind of a structure similar to a dow but OpenBazaar. Is it really built this way? Let’s let’s dive into that.

Brian: Yeah, so when you hear the word dapp, you usually just assume Ethereum dapp and most of them kind of have this same kind of stack which is that you have the blockchain and all the code and data is residing in the blockchain and then you have this thin client dapp layer, which is just a bunch of interface code really that interacts with the blockchain through MetaMask or whatever through the web3. In our case it’s a little bit different, we’re more like a BitTorrent peer. So the logic that drives OpenBazaar does not reside in a blockchain. We really only use blockchain for the payment mechanism in the escrow scenario. And so for us our tech stack looks more like, we use libp2p at the networking layer, which allows us to do peer-to-peer networking and and every device connects to the OpenBazaar network independently and then on top of that IPFS, which is like the data storage layer which talks on top of libp2p, so this allows us to store data into the network. So we’re not storing it in a blockchain. We’re storing it in a peer-to-peer network and it gets distributed across all those peers. The whole Idea behind this is, so early on when we were building OpenBazaar We were like, okay, how do we do Bitcoin scripting or like how do we use Opera turns and all this stuff. I remember very early on we went into the Bitcoin Wizards IRC chat and one of our guys was asking questions about how we could store data on Bitcoin blockchain and I think it was like Greg Maxwell was like, you guys are fucking idiots you got to get out of here, and wanted to boot us out of the IRC chat. He was like you’re going to spam the blockchain and we went down a really dark path there for a little bit. So very early on we realized, okay data is not going into blockchain. How do we get around that and IPFS was like a perfect marriage of solving that problem. So we keep all of the non-payment data out of that into the IPFS network, which is great. So that’s the data layer and then we have the application code, which is a desktop app in its current form. But we use that logic in code within our upcoming mobile app, and we’re hoping to port that to the web as well and all that is open and that is what allows you to understand how do I create a listing? How do I buy it? How do I dispute it? You know all these different things and then obviously there’s the wallet component which is kind of to the side and that’s where we have the multi wallet that can do many different coins and payments and you pull that in for your transactions as needed. So that’s where the blockchain fits in. So that’s why I say, we’re not really like a Bitcoin project so to speak, we’re more of a free trade project that happens to use crypto to enable that.

Sebastien: Interesting. So when one opens the OpenBazaar app, and I encourage you listeners to download it and try it out. Actually it’s been on my it’s been on my Mac for years, it was just there in the application folder I realized, so I opened it up just before and went back into it and it’s quite nice, and it looks kind of like eBay and you can search and you can filter and so from what it looks like is that there’s there’s an OpenBazaar, kind of I don’t want to say curated but somewhat filtered search engine because all of the stuff that you see here in the open store are app on that provided search page, that’s not all of what’s on OpenBazaar. I mean there might be other listings on other marketplaces or maybe perhaps even not even on marketplaces people might be even just sharing OpenBazaar end points on social media or forums, this sort of thing. But there’s a set of listings that you guys feature in your search engine. Can you explain how that works and why you do this?

Brian: Yeah. Sure. I think Washington will have some ideas on this as well. But I think this is a prime example of what has served us to last so long too, is this constant battle of pragmatism versus ideology. Early on when we started OpenBazaar everything had to be completely decentralized and we fought every little effort to try and centralize anything and we produced a search experience within the app that was just abysmal because just the technology doesn’t really exist to do that efficiently and in a way that could be adopted by even crypto enthusiasts. Not just mainstream casual users. It just was a very bad UX and so one of the one of the compromises that we made when we moved to 2.0 and IPFS was that we would make the search more federated. So in that respect what we did was we said, okay, we can’t stop people from putting these products and services on the platform, but we’ll make the search controlled by third parties, sort of like the web browser does, like Mozilla Firefox doesn’t have a search engine, they let you use Google or Yahoo, or whatever your choice is. So that was the approach we adopt. So we said we’ll open source all the search code and we’ll just let people create their own search engines and if they want to filter out guns and drugs on one and make it safe for users fine, if they want to add in a verified moderator scheme to help people find trusted merchants, do that, fine. But people could have different approaches to the way that they curate or sensor or whatever control search results. The network itself is unstoppable, but the view that you have of the network is your choice because when you think about it, how was your mom or dad ever going to use this if the first thing they see when they open up the app is drugs and guns. They just don’t care about that. Their view of the internet is through Google. Google essentially sensors that,  but you should have the freedom to explore beyond that if you want to, so that’s the approach we’ve taken. So when you open the app and use OB1 search, we follow US federal guidelines in terms of what we can show there and so you won’t find heroin or cocaine or you shouldn’t, hope you don’t, but if you choose to seek that out, there’s other ways of getting to that data. So that’s kind of the idea behind that.

Washington: Yeah. I mean the thing to really understand and in many ways this understanding was really well established before Bitcoin came along, but Bitcoin comes along and we have this idea that the entire blockchain and all of the data, all of the transactions, everybody has that data and it’s replicated however many thousands of times on everybody’s nodes and now everybody thinks that this is the way you do peer-to-peer and this is how decentralized networks work. Whereas the reality is that BitTorrent has proved for many many many many years before Bitcoin came along that people opt in to host the data that they are interested in and so when I want to like, okay, so if I were downloading an illegal movie, hypothetically, I would go and I would find that data out and my application would download it via BitTorrent and then I would seed that data to anybody else on the network who wanted it. And in exactly the same way, this is what happens on OpenBazaar. Your application on your computer doesn’t have the entire marketplace because that’s just gigabytes and gigabytes of data that you don’t need, but when you go and you fetch data from the network, you become part of the swarm that’s seeding that information to other people on the network and so as data on the network becomes more popular, becomes more redundant faster because you know more people are seeding that to other peers on the network. So it has this very beneficial response to scaling as opposed it crumbling when there’s more demand it actually gets stronger and more resilient as there’s more demand. So as a result of that architecture that requires people to crawl the network and index what’s on the network in order to comprehend into soft through. Okay I want to find listings that are t-shirts. So unless you go and you build a crawler to find out information for yourself you’re just going to need to resort to a third-party search engine to find where those listings are on the network and then fetch them.

Sunny: So isn’t this something where maybe some sort of middle ground between putting all data on a blockchain versus all data in the peer-to-peer network can be found. Because when you put all the data on the peer-to-peer network, like you said now we have this issue where we have to consciously crawl the entire network, but could you do something like you keep everything on the peer-to-peer network, but then you throw the IPFS hashes onto a blockchain so that way they’re easier, you use the blockchain as indexing while obviously all the real data is off the blockchain and you could even then start to get fancy with it. You can start doing like TCRs for token curated registries for finding the best merchants for a certain product or category and stuff like that.

Washington: Yeah 100%. That is the ideal way to do it and then not mutually exclusive you can have the centralized third party search engines that crawl it in a traditional way like we do. We’re also, in some of the token efforts that we’re going to be doing in OpenBazaar exactly what you’re describing so you can embed the hashes of the content that you want to promote out there into the storage of some smart contracts and in a way to make certain listings outshine others on the network. And so yeah, all of those are valid approaches.

Sunny: Okay. So you mentioned this future token listing, can you maybe go a little bit more into this and what are some of the other things that you’re trying to build here around this future token.

Washington: Yes, so the token itself is is not in the mould of the or traditional ICO. I mean, we’re not doing this to raise 200 million dollars in a ICO thing like that. It’s very much our way of thinking okay, if we did a token how would it out value to the network? Well we went through so many iterations of where a token would make sense and many of the traditional ways that were people were suggesting to us, which is like, oh, you know, you have to spend some tokens to create a listing that was immediately rejected because that immediately places a barrier to entry on anybody who wants to create a listing and if you’ve got 10,000 SQUs where you going to buy 10,000 tokens just to create those listings. It’s unnecessary, but from a technical perspective and also from a cost perspective because that’ll cost gas to to do. I mean at the end of the day the long story short was that what made the most sense to us was a scenario where you would spend some tokens and add weight to listings that you wanted to advertise. So we’ve designed a couple of different smart contracts where you can take a listing and you want to promote it to other people in the network and clients would look at that smart contract at the storage and see which listings have the most tokens that are staked for that listing, and that is built into an incentive mechanism that we’re going to use because we’re creating these tokens. We have the ability to just distribute them to early adopters of OpenBazaar. So I mean, this is one of the reasons why we’re not doing this with straight Ethereum or Dai because it would require people to have money to spend to stake onto listings. Whereas we can just give it away and try and create an ecosystem where these incentives are operating by themselves. So yeah, we’re going to be experimenting with that and we’ve also created smart contracts that reward people when they purchase listings on OpenBazaar, rewards points. I mean our focus really has been on trying to make this token that we will be releasing have real utility particularly from an ad space promoting content point of view. And we’re optimistic that that’s going to work out really well.

Sunny: Cool, and so maybe another interesting topic especially given a lot of the origins of OpenBazaar from Silk Road or a spiritual successor maybe, is around privacy. So I remember we talked about one of the things that you guys have done is added support for Zcash. So one question is, do you support the actual proper Zcash shielded payments or right now is it only just the complete transparent ones?

Brian: We actually don’t support the shield of transactions yet. There’s a couple technical reasons why but yeah that is one definite limitation of using Zcash at the moment. I believe it’s mostly centered around the fact that we use multisig transactions, so it’s a little bit more complicated and we’ve actually been having some detailed discussions with some of the developers over at Monero and kind of walking through what that looks like for theirs as well, which there’s definitely some UX challenges around how you create these kinds of  ring signatures and shielded transaction things like that. It’s not as straightforward as just doing a Bitcoin transaction.

Sunny: Cool. And so what are some of the other privacy centric things that you guys may be working on developing. Is there any plans for Tor integration? So, Silk Road had that whole Tor with paying with Bitcoins, what OpenBazaar seem to do is it allowed the infrastructure to be decentralized but did it add in the privacy aspect of Silk Road kind of started off with?

Brian: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the most unique things about OpenBazaar versus some of these other platforms in terms of privacy is just that when you’re doing transactions it’s completely peer-to-peer and it’s not peer-to-peer in the sense that like Uber is peer-to-peer, you know, it’s truly peer-to-peer. If I’m going to buy something from , let’s say you are doing something illicit. You’re selling something you illicit. I’m not going through some central hub where they’re like monitoring what I’m doing and see me connect to that storefront or making purchases and things like that. The privacy is me to you and I’m making my order directly to you. So that information is not sitting on some server where if they take down the owner they find all your orders and bust you or whatever, you know, it’s completely private.  And it doesn’t even have to just be around illicit transactions. Like most people just want to be private in general so that they’re not at risk of getting exploited in some other way. I mean if Amazon gets hacked tomorrow they have a database wide-open of credit card information purchase history, social connections, anything that you were looking at or thinking about buying, all that stuff. It’s just ripe for the taking and it’s everybody in one place. If OpenBazaar was to get exploited somehow, this data is spread across all these, however many ever peers that are on the network and it’s all encrypted end-to-end. So privacy from that standpoint is already inherently built into the platform. Beyond that we do allow people to connect through tor. So if you’re running Tor Browser for instance and you fire up OpenBazaar and it’ll detect that and say hey, do you want to run all your stuff do Tor. Now we haven’t got a security audit yet and it’s not perfect, there could be issues with that but it’s something that we want to continue to improve. Things like, integrating toward like natively within the app rather than having to require other people to you know, set it up outside of OpenBazaar or even maybe incorporating I2P is an option since IPFS could support that. You know, that would be another Improvement we could do and there’s obviously doing the security audit which we’d like to do at some point in the near future when the code is a little more stable. But yeah, I think privacy is top of mind and we want to get much better at it. Sam who’s not on the call with us is kind of like our chief privacy guy, he’s shifting into a more serious role regarding addressing some of the things that we feel like we’re not doing as well as we could. But yeah, we’re juggling that with user experience as well and so there are some trade-offs and compromises and we would try to make those as transparent as possible to our users.

Sunny: One of the things that actually originally brought me to OpenBazaar was I had a lot of interest in web of trust based stuff and reputation model. And so one of the things that a lot of these open market places and decentralized ones like Amazon or Ebay, one of the main things that they do is provide ratings for buyers and sellers and reputation so that scammy sellers get pushed off of the marketplace and I remember you guys put out a few papers. I think you Washington, one of your thesis or something was on one of these topics, but how has your thinking changed about managing reputation within the OpenBazaar marketplace?

Washington: Well decentralized reputation is a complete shambles. Basically. Yeah, it’s an incredibly difficult topic that really hasn’t improved in several years that we’ve been involved, and I mean our approach has been to keep it simple. One thing from our research we found is that the more complicated a reputation system you design it’s like the more financial incentive you create and then to scam people. It’s ironically safer to be simpler. And so from that perspective what we have at the moment in OpenBazaar is just basically a simple rating system that if you’re a buyer and you have a successful purchase or a successful dispute resolution in your favor, then you’re able to leave a rating against seller and right at the start once funds are put into escrow, the seller gives the buyer a rating key that basically proves that the seller and the buyer interacted, that it’s not sort of a naive rating, that it actually required both the buyer and the seller to have interacted at some point in order for the buyer to make the rating, but when it comes to the rating, nothing fancy. It’s just scores out of 5 for different criteria.

Sunny: But how is that a civil resistant?

Washington: It’s not really, I mean the the civil resistance is limited in as far as I can’t go in the network and just create thousands of ratings naively against every seller I can come across, I actually have to go through the order process and actually put funds in escrow in order to obtain a rating key to generate a valid rating against the seller.

Sunny: No, but isn’t the concern that a seller would just give himself millions of fake ratings that are really not.

Washington: Yeah our rating system isn’t resilient against that and we don’t claim that it is and to be perfectly honest, we haven’t seen a good solution to that problem. I mean this problem you find on centralized marketplaces where sellers will create thousands of fake buyers and then buy stock from themselves and send the money around themselves and then they generate all these fake ratings. That’s not a problem that we think has been solved on either centralized or decentralized way and unfortunately once you try and solve it in a decentralized way, it starts to add a lot of cost and a lot of UX burden on to users that kind of undermines your entire rating system. Now having said that, there’s been a lot of really interesting work done. One of the things that you mentioned was Trust this Risk, which was done by Dionysis Zindros. So it was an idea that he and I were discussing and then he wrote a paper on that, so he wrote the paper not me, but the idea essentially was creating essentially payment channels with other people on the OpenBazaar network and the magnitude of the payment channel that you open with other people in the network would reflect the level of trust that you have with other peers on the network, and this was something we discussed several years before the Lightning Network came along and I think that the Lightning Network in many ways improves upon that initial idea and could be superimposed onto the OpenBazaar network to establish that kind of web of trust, but I think there’s a lot more research to be done there and I think it’s like one of the big unsolved challenges of this entire ecosystem. One last thought on that, the rating data itself is all open. So other people can find the rating data that buyers make against sellers that they’ve interacted with and our thoughts there are, you could have third parties or interest groups that crawl the network for that rating data and then can wait and rank that rating data based on associated factors like was the buyer anonymous or did they choose to include their identity and how well connected to their identity on OpenBazaar to real-world identity and then you could basically rank the overall rating that you calculate based on other third-party criteria. So in like search the approach was to make the rating data nice and open so that other people can analyze that data and go from there.

Sunny: So coming back to the usage of the platform, can you give us a sense of how many people are using it, how many transactions and sales are happening here and how it’s grown over the last couple years.

Brian: Yeah. Sure. So in terms of transactions in sales, it’s all private. So we don’t really have great numbers on that other than anecdotally from talking to some of our more contributing vendors and things like that, but I can tell you that generally we have around twelve to fourteen thousand listings at any given time available on the marketplace. Since we released our second version we’ve had about a hundred sixty thousand people on a network and we see between 400 and 700 new nodes on the network every day. The way that we are able to see that data is that through our search engine and crawling the network we know which IPs and peers were connecting to in order to crawl their listings and and reviews. So that’s based on raw data that are nodes see when it crawls the network every day. And so, and in terms of usage, I would say we’re still at a very consistent kind of horizontal growth just slightly above horizontal, you know, it’s not like hockey stick growth or anything, and we tend to ebb and flow in correlation with the popularity of crypto across the mainstream. So, when we get price spikes and everybody gets excited we tend to get more traffic and when it’s down we tend to be down. So I think that we haven’t really been able to get that escape velocity outside of just general crypto insight and to us that means that our users are mostly people within crypto space and people that are knowledgeable in that, we don’t see a lot of people outside of that that network using the platform, which is something we’d like to change with the mobile app. And I think we have a good chance at improving that but for now we’re looking at, we call them crypto curious, you know, it’s like people that just want to know more about crypto and how to use it in a day-to-day fashion, because there really aren’t a lot of ways, so once you get Bitcoin you can buy something from a website or whatever but like beyond that what else are people using it for other than kind of speculating and trading, and this is one of those good options.

Sebastien: Yeah, this is something I think we also see in other types of user facing products like social networks that emerge from the crypto space often are very crypto centric. So a lot of the news and information that converges there is about crypto. I think Steam, to some extent has been able to pop out of that a little bit but a lot of the stuff there to me still feels very crypto related. So I think that’s a challenge. So you mentioned this mobile app. And this is what I want to get to next. It’s called Haven. Can you talk more about that? What’s the goal here?

Brian: Yeah. This is Washington’s baby. So I don’t want to steal too much thunder from him, but we’re really really excited about this. I mean for years we’ve realized that a desktop app is really not the modality that’s going to explode into mainstream usage. Like it just isn’t. No buyer wants to have to download a hundred megabyte desktop application in order to purchase a t-shirt. So we’ve known for a long time that we wanted to get away from that and get to mobile and we’re on the cusp of releasing the mobile app, which is called Haven and I’ll let Washington explain a little bit more but this is definitely a game changer for us. We’re really targeting people beyond the crypto sphere. This is like a product designed to try and help us get out of that loop that you just described.

Washington: Yeah, I mean Haven in many ways really takes it takes OpenBazaar in the direction of you know, what we saw when we first started this project. I can speak for just for myself but when I started thinking about it I didn’t see OpenBazaar as just the protocol to buy and sell things. I thought that was exciting in itself but really when I started thinking about it, it’s like Bazaar is really a platform for self-expression and self-determination in a way that it marries uncensorable payments and an uncensorable marketplace and then you can use that to you express yourself to other people on this network that we’re creating and we can use the marketplaces as center of gravity to pull together multiple strings, you know, social and chat and we can use OpenBazaar to put together so many things that we can really create another parallel economy to the to the legacy financial economy. So Haven itself is really designed and inspired by WeChat and as opposed to shorthand description of Haven is calling it the crypto WeChat except that it’s not ridiculously monitored and controlled by the Chinese government. So yeah, but it’s private. So as we discussed before the marketplace interactions the enter and chat is all encrypted. It’s got the multi currency wallet, it will have Ethereum, you’ll have access to payments and all the other SC-20 tokens, stable coins, Lightning network will be in there at some point. So, and the other for the other major feature that we’re bringing into the app is the social network as a decentralized social network built on IPFS. And the idea is okay, the primary purpose of the social network is obviously to promote things that you want to sell and create a brand and create a following but really it’s a social network. I mean on a decentralized network, it could really go anywhere, and of course you’ve got the core experience which is all of OpenBazaar and I think the one technical aspect if I can geek out for a second is that we have all of the OpenBazaar server code, the actual node itself running on your mobile device. It’s not like promoting into some infrastructure provision somewhere, it’s your mobile device running an OpenBazaar node. So the potential here to have millions of people walking around running OpenBazaar on their iOS device or Android device connecting with each other directly, chatting privately, doing trade, buying and selling things, speaking, it is just super exciting. So we can’t wait to release it to the world. We really think that this is going to be the answer when people say, okay so what do I do with my Bitcoin? What do I do with my Litecoin? What do I do with my Zcash? Well, this will be it, you take it to Haven and you go to town.

Sebastien: So what’s the plan here? I mean, so this sounds like a great idea but as Brian mentioned earlier, the goal is to get this into the hands of people outside the crypto space and there’s a whole ecosystem of people and creators and artisans and people who make crafts and you know, clothing and all this kind of stuff that sell these products on platforms like Etsy and these are massively successful. I think Pinterest is now getting into this is some extent now they have a Marketplace or they’re thinking about it and then you know eBay, obviously these platforms are massively successful. There are millions of people here people have businesses there. There’s all kinds of transactions occurring there. What’s the incentive for them? So beyond the privacy aspect of course, what’s the incentive to use something like Haven? How is this going to become successful essentially how you plan to do that?

Washington: Well, I think in terms of incentive there’s obviously the financial incentive. There are no transaction fees or no listing fees, or no platform fees at all. So you’re not going to have an eBay taking a 10 percent plus or minus 20 cut on every transaction that you make on the network. There is not the risk that the platform will suddenly turn around and say alright, we’re going to start charging you fees for this that and the other. The other incentive I think is the risk for deplatforming is eliminated because you can’t be deplatformed off OpenBazaar. Yeah a search index might not pick you up, but it fundamentally doesn’t remove you from the network. You can still be accessed. You can still be reached out to people, can still place orders with you. I think the privacy aspect is not to be underestimated especially, you know in recent years where we’ve seen abuses of privacy of customers and people feeling that you know, it’s not okay that these platforms have deep insights into what I buy and what I sell and I mean we even heard recently that Amazon is charging different prices to different people based on their purchase history. So they know if they’re a little bit more affluent they’re going to bump up the price so all of these things don’t happen on OpenBazaar.

Sebastien:  This is true and I am fully on board and I fully agree with with the fact that companies like Amazon are crossing some lines with regards to users privacy and I personally try to use them as little as possible and I buy things locally as much as I can and I’ve really reduced my dependency on them a lot in this last year or so, as sort of a personal goal. But it feels like your customer base or at least the merchants are not typically merchants that you’d find on Amazon. If I’m looking at some of the the listings on OpenBazaar today, you’ve got one guy who makes this beautiful wooden artwork, it’s more like the the types of folks that you’d find on Etsy or these other marketplaces and I don’t think that these platforms, like no one’s pointing the finger at Etsy saying like, oh I see you guys are you know, this big gaffa type company that are exploiting people and following us on the internet and selling the data to others etc. So,on that point maybe you do you respond there. On the on the privacy I think this is true, I think people want to have that but that’s the small fringe of people. On the deplatforming side argument I don’t think most people are concerned with this. I think the people who are concerned with this are probably selling products that are questionable or maybe illicit or maybe that don’t appeal to the masses or to everyone.

Brian:  Yeah, I mean, I think those those are those are two good points. I think to refute that argument that those things are needed. In terms of the Etsy thing, it could be a reality where a platform like OpenBazaar is somewhere people go for more serious purchases and toilet paper and paper towels is all done on Amazon and people don’t care that you know that I bought toilet paper and toothpaste and toothbrushes and maybe that’s not the type of platform that OpenBazaar will become, and maybe it’s more sensitive things that they decide to purchase through OpenBazaar, but in terms of a small audience, privacy minded audiences are not small. If you look there was a study that I think DuckDuckGo did recently that looked at the last five years of their growth and the massive amount of increase in adoption of DuckDuckGo as a search engine in terms of privacy because people are more and more freaked out and they’re becoming more technically literate and they’re moving to these platforms. You have Brave browser that has over a million downloads now, which I never would have thought of that a year ago. I mean it just goes on and on and on and what is your marketplace alternative? Where do you go to do private shopping? I mean you can go to independent websites, but that doesn’t provide the same kind of experience as a truly global marketplace. And secondly, you’re talking about exposure across the planet. I mean go to Amazon, you’re not buying stuff from people in South America, you’re not buying stuff from people in Africa, you’re not buying stuff from all these different economies that could expand and grow if they just had the ability to have that global reach. All these different Amazon platforms are all siloed into Mercado Libre and you know now you have Alibaba over in the East, and all these different things. They’re all separate.  OpenBazaar has the ability to destroy those barriers. I mean you download the app in say Argentina, you could sell your products right off your Android phone directly to someone else. Now, logistically maybe it’s not there, shipping and whatever, but it could start out as digital goods or cross-border services. It could be trading, it could be all these different things. I mean, why is an artist not able to sell a PDF, or a graphic service through OpenBazaar using crypto and he’s not paying any cross-border fees or transaction fees any of that stuff. With the mobile app that opens up a whole new possibility. We did a pilot in Argentina several months back and it wasn’t really great in terms of adoption, but it was very enlightening. I mean they had to set up the desktop app in a computer center, people had to come to the computer center and be trained to use it etc. Imagine how that changes when they can just download it from the App Store onto their Android device and just run it right there. It’s just a completely different experience and they can start selling to Americans or whatever and there’s no restrictions there. Now apps are also, we haven’t gone through that battle yet, but theoretically it is a game changer for us.

Sebastien: I don’t dispute the fact that it’s valuable and useful, I really want to see these applications take off and I’m still myself looking at these and saying like what’s what’s the use case? Like, where’s that use case that really takes this thing and catapults it into mainstream adoption, and maybe these markets like Argentina and these places where cross-border payments are not so simple, maybe that’s a good place for these things to emerge from but yeah we’ll see. When is the app coming out?

Brian: We don’t have a firm date yet, but we’re getting towards the end of it. There’s only a little bit left really to do before we get it out into testers hands and start rolling it out. But yeah I think it’s great to have a healthy skepticism over this. I think we’ve been doing this long enough to know that this is not going to be an overnight thing. We’ve been in this for over four years now is not something that we wake up the next morning and were like today’s the day! I don’t know, most big successes, there was kind of one thing that kicked it off and then it just kind of snowballed from there and we don’t know what that will be. I’m as curious as you sound, as to what that will be. The only thing we can do is try and get our user experience as close to parity with our competitors as possible and hope people start to see the pros beyond it that you get from using cryptography and privacy minded applications will override in the end. So it’s definitely an uphill battle and we’re preparing for the worst in terms of that battle. So yeah.

Washington: I think the one thing that works to our advantage though is that sellers on these marketplaces aren’t afraid to try different platforms and to expand. I don’t think it’s a case where we turn to a seller who’s on Etsy and say, you know screw Etsy, you need to come over to us and shut down all of your stores. It’s more like inviting them to spread their footprint on to now a decentralized marketplace and get a whole bunch of interest and focused attention from an ecosystem that is eager to make another economy in real-world goods and services using crypto. So I think that’s one thing we’re looking forward to.

Brian: Yeah, and just one more point on the deplatform, you kind of made it sound like it was a fringe thing, like the deplatform only affects like Milo Yiannopoulos and these these a-holes that probably don’t deserve to be on these platforms at all anyway, but what you have to realize is that if this is a platform that they can come to and use as a so-called safe haven from those deplatform risks, they have millions and millions and millions of followers that will listen to them and they will be influenced by that and those people will come over and perhaps they’re not the ones that are instigating all this but that’s a huge amount of audience that you potentially lose out on, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword. You may have a situation where you let people onto your platform that a lot don’t agree with but you can’t deny that they have huge and massive audiences that may come over and become users.

Sebastien: Well, I look forward to seeing Alex Jones selling tinfoil hats.

Brian:  He’s weird but he’s entertaining right?

Sebastien: So yeah just before we wrap up I did want to ask you this but forgot to ask during the shows, but what is the business model for the parent company OB1?

Brian: It’s a work in progress. In reality we’re a decentralized company in centralized clothing and we have to figure out what is the right model. And right now we’re approaching it from two angles, one is the token that we talked about that we plan to release in the future is something that we will consider as equity for our business as well and have ownership over a portion of, and and try to derive value for for users, and grow that organically so, the token is not a sale, it will come out and it will have no value essentially and we will hope to grow that over time and make that a valuable asset. And on the traditional side, we will be exploring normal things like Etsy and do what the others do which is allow people to promote their listings and products and services to others for compensation and also providing value-added services, for instance maybe you want someone to give you secure backup for your merchant store, you know in case your device fails or something etc, in-app purchases things like, just traditional revenue streams. So we’re trying to explore both of those but one fact remains that neither of those succeed unless they’re scale. So right now we’re focused on building the platform and making sure that people can use it and want to use it and that continues to grow, so, kind of a no answer but we’re figuring it out is really what’s going on.

Sebastien: Okay, great. Well, thanks so much to both of you for coming on, it was great to have had OpenBazaar on again. It’s not often that we have we do repeat shows about topics. But when we do it’s because they’ve been on long enough for sufficient things to have happened. So congratulations for having stuck around this long to be on Epicenter twice. Okay, good. well, we hope to see you in 2023. .

Brian: Yeah. I hope we’ll still be here in 2023.