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The Marketplace that Forbes Calls ‘an Anarchist eBay on Acid’

What if you could buy and sell on a decentralized marketplace where transactions are truly between the buyer and the seller? One such marketplace is under development and making news over the past week or so. As WeUseCoins.com describes it, “OpenBazaar’s peer-to-peer nature means there is no company or middleman that can remove or block listings, charge fees, or hold money.”

Sound too good to be true? As with any brand new marketplace or service, we don’t recommend sellers go running to sign up, and that’s especially true in this case. After all, you must have special nerve to sell on a site that is being compared to the infamous Silk Road marketplace, or as Forbesdescribes it, “an anarchist eBay on acid.”

OpenBazaar sounds a bit like the Wild West without the protections users have come to expect (buyers pay for purchases with Bitcoin). Nevertheless, it received seed funding for some big names in VC, raising $1 million from Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, and angel investor William Mougayar, it disclosed in June 2015.

However, the type of user fearless enough to try it and comfortable enough with Bitcoin payments will likely be disappointed to learn that it doesn’t offer anonymity – yet. BitCoinMagazine said, “Although OpenBazaar will not offer anonymity to its users by default in its first full release, the team behind the project view this feature as a fundamental aspect of the protocol.”

OpenBazaar also requires users to download software to their computer. Here’s an excerpt from the website explaining how it works:

“Right now, online commerce means using centralized services. eBay, Amazon, and other big companies have restrictive policies and charge fees for listing and selling goods. They only accept forms of payment that cost both buyers and sellers money, such as credit cards or PayPal. They require personal information, which can lead to it being stolen or even sold to others. Buyers and sellers aren’t always free to exchange goods and services with each other, as companies restrict entire categories of trade.

“OpenBazaar is a different approach to online commerce. It puts the power back in the users’ hands. Instead of buyers and sellers going through a centralized service, OpenBazaar connects them directly. Because there is no one in the middle of your transactions there are no fees, no restrictions, no accounts to create, and you only reveal the personal information that you choose.”

It goes on to explain what happens if something goes wrong with a transaction.

In its March 16th article, Forbes said OpenBazaar is only operating in test mode, with a full launch expected later this month. Security reporter Thomas Fox-Brewster said OpenBazaar has a list of several hundred individuals and businesses who want to be notified when it goes live. It told him it doesn’t yet have the inventory-management tools required by bigger merchants.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out and if a Wild West atmosphere is conducive to ecommerce.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.