OpenBazaar creators claim system will not become a "Super Silk Road"

Home » OpenBazaar creators claim system will not become a "Super Silk Road"
OpenBazaar logo.

OpenBazaar logo.

There are few bitcoin-focused projects currently generating as much curiosity and buzz as OpenBazaar. Due to enter public beta testing this weekend, the open-source, decentralized marketplace aims to create a completely trustless, uncensored and impossible-to-close hub for trades and deals of all sorts. To many people, this claim instantly evokes one of bitcoin’s biggest PR problems: The massive online black market site Silk Road, where almost any kind of illegal or illicit good or service could be had for the right price in BTC. In a new interview with Wired, however, the creators of OpenBazaar claim that their software is designed to be disruptive, but not specifically illegal.

“We’re just really passionate about allowing peer-to-peer trade to happen online. We want that to exist,” OpenBazaar’s operations lead Sam Patterson told the publication. “The internet allowed you to communicate directly. Bitcoin allowed you to send money directly. Now you can trade directly.”

The fact that Patterson, as well as the rest of the OpenBazaar team, are putting their real names and reputations on the line for the project is a strong indication that this isn’t just a PR smokescreen. Unlike the decidedly anti-authority DarkMarket project, from which OpenBazaar takes many of its concepts, the project isn’t designed to simply serve as a thorn in the sides of law-enforcement agencies. As Patterson explained to Wired, the software is actually designed to be a rival to eBay and Craigslist.

“We’re not the ‘Super Silk Road.’” Patterson said. “We’re trying to replace eBay in a better form. We recognize that people may choose to use that technology in a way we see as distasteful, immoral, and illegal, but we’re giving them the option to engage in a kind of human interaction that doesn’t exist right now.”

The OpenBazaar system uses a BitTorrent-like distributed hash table (DHT) system over a peer-to-peer network to operate, and relies on a combination of multi-signature address escrow accounts, user reputation scores, and a community-based “notary” (paid with a small fee) to ensure that transactions can be resolved in a decentralized, largely trustless and “pseudonymous” manner. Although certainly a novel approach to creating an online marketplace, there is considerable cause for concern for law enforcement, who will suddenly find themselves faced with the collision of nearly untraceable virtual currency transactions happening on an easy-to-obscure network that is globally distributed and virtually impossible to shutter, censor or even effectively monitor.

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