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OpenBazaar is a decentralized Dark Net market that's 'untouchable' by police (dailydot.com)
187 points by dil8 on Nov 8, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 107 comments



I see several comments questioning the legitimate value of a peer-to-peer marketplace. Some cannot see any use other than illegal commerce (drugs, porn, etc).

It is true that such illicit trades will take advantage of that network but is it really impossible to envision legal business as the major activity? Yes, cars can be used as getaway vehicles from bank robberies and also smash terrorist bombs into government buildings. However, cars also have tons of other legitimate uses.

Consider that ebay has about 200 million users.[1] Their fees have been going up every year and they are now at 10% (which does not include the separate insertion fees.)[2]

If one can sell a legal item such as a $50 book on ebay, why not sell it on a p2p marketplace and avoid paying $5 of that sale to ebay? If not OpenBazaar or similar p2p architecture, what alternatives do folks propose?

Do 200 million ebay users have lawful reasons to avoid paying ebay commission fees?

At this point, I believe low-volume selling is too dependent on proprietary platforms such as ebay or amazonmarketplace. As an analogy using email, I'm glad that SMTP won over closed systems such as CompuServe, AOL, and Western Union's EasyLink. Even though SMTP email has many bad uses such as phishing, malware delivery, and spam, I'm still glad it won. The good uses outweigh the bad.

Can a more open platform for sellers without the stigma of illegal activity be realized?

[1]https://www.google.com/search?q=ebay+"200+million+users"

[2]https://www.google.com/search?q=ebay+raises+fees+10%25


>Can a more open platform for sellers without the stigma of illegal activity be realized?

Probably not.

Cars weren't invented to make bank robberies more difficult to stop. These networks were invented, to a degree which shouldn't be dismissed when considering their acceptance by the mainstream, to make enforcing laws against trading in anything more difficult, if not impossible.

I think most people (not most people on HN, or in tech, but most people in general) would rather pay the extra few dollars than support the premise of a truly free market. While I would agree completely that there are perfectly legitimate uses for these networks, and there is nothing at all evil or malicious in the technology itself, I also think it would be disingenuous to state that their use in illegal activities is somehow orthogonal to their purpose.


> , I also think it would be disingenuous to state that their use in illegal activities is somehow orthogonal to their purpose.

The Haber Process[1] was a new way to manufacture ammonia in large quantities. Fritz Haber was originally motivated by Germany's war objectives to kill people via poison gas and explosives. Germany needed a lot of synthetic ammonia to do that.

Now, the Haber process is mass producing fertilizer and feeding the world.

It's possible to divorce the original evil uses of the technology from the later good ones.

The potential 200 million ebay and whatever millions of amazonmarketplace legal sellers can outnumber the criminals. The 10% ebay fees and 15% amazon commissions are very compelling motivators to create an "open SMTP" type of marketplace for sellers.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process


>It's possible to divorce the original evil uses of the technology from the later good ones.

Yes, but I would argue that doing so in this case means undermining the entire purpose of an anonymous, decentralized marketplace.

The first question most people are going to want an answer to when presented with something like OpenBazaar is "what are you going to do about the pedophiles, gun-runners, drug dealers, etc?"

If the free market's response to this is "nothing, so long as the customer gets what they paid for, everything is cool," then for most people accepting this equivalence will be a non-starter.

I think the only ways to avoid this problem are 1) hoping for a widespread shift in the way most people view the value of the force of law on commerce, 2) breaking the system enough so mainstream users are convinced of its legal integrity, or 3) pretending it's not an issue and redefining the terms by which it's sold to the public. And i'm not entirely certain the latter can scale.

I won't say it's impossible though.


> The first question most people are going to want an answer to when presented with something like OpenBazaar is "what are you going to do about the pedophiles, gun-runners, drug dealers, etc?"

And the answer is simple: treat them as early adopters. Learn from their needs, and find out how they attempt to game or break the system. (They certainly will.)

No, I'm not trying to be flippant. For ANY new, more privacy-minded tehnology, you have to expect that the dubious and/or illicit users will flock to it first. They are the ones who will actively seek out the communication and exchange mediums that are hard to monitor. Their presence will then act as a catalyst for media to write about the technology, effectively taking it from the fringes to mainstream.

PGP. Tor. Bitcoin. Hell, even the attacks on encrypt-by-default storage technology in mobile phones. The fearmongering of the law 3-letter agencies and the media's need to find new monsters under the bed all act as drivers for more widespread knowledge, and eventually through acceptance to adoption.

The pendulum swings, and right now it's starting the backswing towards more privacy-minded approaches.


The motivation for development was actually producing fertilizer, as it says in the article you linked.


Yes, my memory was not accurate and I should have specified Haber-Bosch Process & Carl Bosch[1] instead of Haber Process & Fritz Haber.

Apparently, Carl Bosch's refinements to the original Haber Process had the priority goal of ramping up Germany's war munitions instead of feeding the world.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Bosch


I think you underestimate the average Joe's desire to save a few dollars... The key barriers I see are having to install special software and getting to grips with Bitcoin.

Perhaps it is possible to ship a client with some default blacklisting of certain products, sellers etc, if a person wants to avoid stumbling by accident across such stuff. (Maybe even such blacklists would become updated and mandated by law.)


You need to insulate the user from the Bitcoin transaction entirely. It should look to the user like they're paying in local currency. Unfortunately, we're not there yet. We know how to create an automated p2p currency exchange, we think. But nobody's done it yet.


oh yeah? you have a repo I can check out?


Uhm no. Wasn't that the entire point of my comment?


I read it more along the lines of "some folks and I have come up with a reasonable solution, but it's nowhere near production ready so no one would want to test it."

My bad


Ah, I see now. My apologies.


For a long time Alibaba.com was a haven for counterfeit goods. Some argued that was its primary purpose (and indeed there were hints of racism in this - claims that the Chinese did no original work etc.)

You can still get some counterfeit goods on Alibaba. That didn't stop the platform becoming valuable for legitimate purposes too.


it's also worth considering that while existing middlemen are slightly more expensive they also offer strong consumer protections that are totally absent in these alternatives


OpenBazaar uses a three-way transaction. Buyer, seller, mediator. Only two keys are required to release or revert the transaction. In the event of a dispute The mediator is the final judge, they're supposed to decide based on evidence whether to release th payment to the seller or refund the buyer. I do not recall off-hand what the selection criteria is for the mediators, but I believe that it's not in the control of either party.


> I see several comments questioning the legitimate value of a peer-to-peer marketplace.

The problem with P2P is that it requires a much more complicated architecture than if you simply use a more centralized model. There's the old joke: I had a scalability problem so I switched to a distributed system. Now I have n^2 problems.

It is true that many architectures are moving towards a more decentralized model, however, they still have a central controller typically.


When OpenBazaar seems more mature I will definitely consider listing (my entirely legal) items on it first, at least to experiment. Lower fees + I'm happy with Bitcoin = Win.


There are absolutely legitimate uses for this kind of platform. It's the online equivalent of the local boutique retail shop, street vendor, or home yard sale.


While there are absolutely benefit of a system like this for legal sales, the problem is most sellers of legal goods have many existing outlets that they can use. While they might not like the fees, most accept them as the cost of doing business. Since there are few organized marketplaces online for illegal goods, the first adopters (as with Silk Road) will most likely be the black market, which will likely stigmatize the marketplace, making it far less likely to be adopted by legal sellers.


I think the problem for "legal" users of distributed markets is not stigma; it's cost, ease of use, and likelihood of fraud or other problems with transactions. If a distributed market arose that was inexpensive, as easy to use as eBay, and not significantly more affected by fraud, I think it could be adopted by "legal" users.


Interesting that you used the example of eBay.

I remember reading about the alleged reason eBay acquired Skype.

Skype is a peer to peer network. The guys behind it were the guys behind Kazaa, an earlier peer to peer network.

In Skype's case, the network is used to send audio and video.

In Kazaa's case the network was used to send "files".

If I recall correctly the article said eBay planned to use the Skype network to allow buyers and sellers to communicate with each other, directly.

It's also interesting you mentioned SMTP. I do not think I have ever seen anyone mention it online but SMTP works well over a peer to peer network.

Peer to peer SMTP obviates the need for intermediary SMTP servers and third party "email providers". With peer to peer networking there is no necessity for users' data to be stored and forwarded by third parties.

Not to suggest anyone would be interested in that.


Microsoft owns Skype, not eBay. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype_Technologies


Read the wiki you cited. Before MS, eBay owned Skype and that's the transaction he's referring to.


    > I see several comments questioning the legitimate value
    > of a peer-to-peer marketplace. 
No, you see comments questioning the legitimate value of an anonymous or pseudonymous peer-to-peer marketplace.

Also, you misunderstand what eBay provides: eBay provides marketing and payment handling. That's what their margin is for. You are entirely welcome - today - to set up a webpage, list your wares, and accept Bitcoin for them. The problem is that there's little centralized reputation management there, and also, no-one is ever going to find your stuff. Unless a p2p marketplace is solving those needs, what benefit does it provide over nginx + a bitcoin wallet?


A part of the problem is that something truly secure will equally be useful for legitimate and illegitimate uses. There's no way to make a safe that only keeps honestly earned money. Any solution with a backdoor added exclusively for use against bad guys is inherently unsafe, and this will bite good guys sooner or later.

This article explains this in greater detail: http://techcrunch.com/2013/07/06/tools-for-treason/


Why does a distributed marketplace intended for legal trade need to run on Tor? Do you need anonymity if you're selling towels?


OpenBazaar developer here. This is the "nothing to hide" argument that we've seen used to much by the NSA and governments.

The answer is that we believe people simply have the right to privacy in trade. Here's a discussion by the OpenBazaar team on the matter:

https://github.com/OpenBazaar/OpenBazaar/issues/189

Do you want your credit card company to know exactly where you've shopped for the past two years? Would you like your employer to know what porn movies you enjoy? Would you want your neighbourhood burglars to know exactly how much money you spent on your brand new Swiss watch this month? Is it OK if your super-market chain only offers discounts to you on the condition that you don't buy anything from other super-market chains?

Should your wife be able to scrutinize what trips you went to and how much you spent on expensive chocolate and alcohol without your permission? Discover before her birthday that you bought her a ring as a present? Would you feel alright if Google used all your shopping history to show you targeted ads? As a seller of rare books, do you want the prices of all purchases to be published to potential candidate sellers instead of being treated as trade secrets? Would you want your annoying jealous nephew to know you've booked snowboarding tickets to Austria without inviting him?

Is it acceptable for these things to be posted on the Internet and commented-on by Redditors?

Please, I invite you to post your credit card records for the past year here. We'll be happy to look over them and leave some comments for you. After all, you've got nothing to hide, yes?

Anonymity is important for people. For some people, it's more important than others. Different people have different needs. Sometimes anonymity is a matter of life and death, sometimes it's just a matter of personal privacy and the right to be left alone. Users can use the anonymity feature as they see fit, but we need to be there to protect them if they require so.

And, yes, some trade can be only marginally legal or completely illegal. Sometimes illegal trade is ethical, and laws vary from country to country. At least at the trade level, we should be free and anonymous. What if your Internet provider disables the Internet in your country by secret warrant request of the government if you live in North Korea, or Turkey in the times of Twitter-censorship, or Egypt in the time of the revolt, or Iran at times of war? Is it OK to leak to your government that you purchased an antenna off of OpenBazaar to access the Internet through mesh networks? Sometimes the penalty can be death.

Not everyone lives in free regimes where privacy is a matter of a warm, cozy feeling and convenience. People need privacy in trade to be free.

That said, freedom comes at a cost, and the price for being free is not low :)


> Please, I invite you to post your credit card records for the past year here. We'll be happy to look over them and leave some comments for you. After all, you've got nothing to hide, yes?

That's a ridiculous counter argument. If I buy a bunch of towels/etc. from an online merchant, I have every reason to believe they will not use any information they gather to publicly embarrass me or otherwise do me ill will. Their business relies on them not abusing their customers. If they showed any indication that they aren't trustworthy, I wouldn't do business with them.

On the other hand, I don't have any reason to trust someone on the internet requesting my credit card records in exchange for the privilege of being publicly embarrassed when they post it on the internet. The argument is never "I've got nothing to hide", the argument is that I have no reason to hide my Amazon purchases from Amazon.

Most of your examples are either non-issues or not realistic. My credit card company does have a right to see how much and where I'm spending - I'm borrowing their money when I make a purchase. I don't know of any service I use that sends my porn history to my boss (unless I decided to do it at work on computers owned by my employer). I don't know of any supermarket discount program that prevents you from shopping elsewhere - every rewards program I've ever seen is structured to encourage you to shop with them more, not punish you for shopping elsewhere. My wife has every right to scrutinize our bank account - if I didn't trust her I wouldn't have married her. If she finds out what her birthday present was, that's her loss for ruining the surprise, not mine. My annoying jealous nephew can get over himself - if he wants to come on trips with me then he needs to be less annoying.

If I don't want any of these things posted publicly on the internet, I a) won't post them publicly on the internet, and b) won't share the information with anyone that I don't trust to refrain from posting it publicly to the internet. Anonymity is not the same as privacy - privacy comes from keeping personal information to yourself.

So, to reiterate the grandparent poster asked, why does a distributed marketplace intended for legal trade need to run on Tor? Do you need anonymity if you're selling towels?


> The argument is never "I've got nothing to hide", the argument is that I have no reason to hide my Amazon purchases from Amazon.

The argument most definitely is "you've got nothing to hide." This argument is bandied about a lot. With some sort of idea that your entire life should be laid bare before the whims of law enforcement/signals intelligence agencies. The idea always comes with the assumptions that:

- If you want to hide something from others is means that you must be guilty of some sort of crime, and deserve to be punished.

- All employees of said law enforcement/signals intelligences agencies are will never abuse their power for any reason, and if they do it's probably for a "good reason" (e.g. see Supreme Court Justice Scala(?) arguing law based on "Jack Bauer" scenarios).


I'm going to take a karma hit for this one, I think...

Well, the conversation has apparently gone from asking why someone needs total anonymity when conducting completely legal activity online to protecting oneself from signals intelligence agencies. I have a vested interest in protecting my sensitive information online from identity thieves, scammers, people who would want to rob or injure me and people making arguments like the one I responded to who would likely use my information to embarrass me in an attempt to make a point about having "nothing to hide." When I have a credible reason to add the cops or the NSA to the list, I'll start taking measures to hide my perfectly legal activity from them as well.

The reason I don't fear them isn't because I believe they're infallible, free from abuse, etc. - the reason is that I'm significantly more likely to be assaulted by one of the hundreds of people that walk past me on the way to work than targeted by a rogue NSA agent trying to collect my online activity, and yet I can still walk down the street without being scared of everyone around me.

In the mean time, I know that if the NSA or FBI wants to target me they need a court order, and if I'm going to be arrested and tried in court the cops need evidence of illegal activity to convict me. When I see credible evidence that this is not the case, I'll take steps to protect myself from them. Despite more than a year of Snowden revelations, however, Greenwald and friends have yet to show evidence of a single American being thrown in jail because of the vast, Orwellian surveillance state that has supposedly developed around us.

If it was happening, that would have been the first thing they reported a year ago. The fact that they have yet to come up with anything tells me that in that giant trove of the NSA's deepest secrets, there is nothing to indicate any harassing or incarceration of regular citizens.


so, you don't believe that it's a fragile system, before you saw it break?


I've followed the reporting that Greenwald, Poitras, Gellman et al. have put out fairly closely, but I've also watched the debates, watched several of the Congressional hearings, read both of the PCLOB reports, quite a few of the declassified documents, etc. The conclusion I've come to is that talking about nuances in surveillance law doesn't bring in advertising dollars, but you can't go wrong by stirring up hysteria talking about all of the things the NSA could technically do without showing evidence of them actually doing it. This is the Ebola scare of the tech community.

So to answer your question, I believe it's an ugly system with a lot of warts, but I have yet to see it break.


> you can't go wrong by stirring up hysteria talking about all of the things the NSA could technically do without showing evidence of them actually doing it.

A couple of questions:

* Are you a fan of the "benevolent dictator" ideal? (The idea that forming a dictatorship is ok so long as the dictator has the best interests of the people in mind)

* Do you agree with the NSA's redefinition of the word 'collect' to mean that something is only "collected" when a human see it? If not, then why would you trust people that attempt to redefine common terms to mean things that normal people wouldn't expect in the hopes of deceiving them while appearing to be completely honest and up-front?


> Are you a fan of the "benevolent dictator" ideal?

I'm not an authoritarian if that's what you're getting at - and this is getting way off topic...

> Do you agree with the NSA's redefinition of the word 'collect' to mean that something is only "collected" when a human see it?

I'm going to repost part of an older comment I wrote that addresses the issue:

This is the actual legal definition of 'collected' per DoDD 5240.1-R[1]:

"C2.2.1. Collection. Information shall be considered as "collected" only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties. Thus, information volunteered to a DoD intelligence component by a cooperating source would be "collected" under this procedure when an employee of such component officially accepts, in some manner, such information for use within that component. Data acquired by electronic means is "collected" only when it has been processed into intelligible form."

That would include sent to the NSA, processed by algorithms and stored. The "read by a human definition" as far as I can tell comes from the EFF selectively quoting that definition[2] and drawing their own conclusions from their selective quotation, not the regulation itself. As the regulation itself states, as soon as any DoD intelligence components receives it and processes it, it is considered collected.

The misunderstanding is compounded by Clapper's June 9th 2013 interview with Andrea Mitchell, where he tries to explain that there's a legal difference between collecting content and metadata and fails miserably[3]. Mind you, Clapper is not part of the NSA. That's not an excuse, since as DNI he should know better, but it does explain it somewhat...

[1] http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/524001r.pdf (see page 15)

[2] https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/wordgames#collect

[3] http://www.nbcuni.com/corporate/newsroom/nbc-news-exclusive-...

I hope that answers your questions. (and, btw, I hate it when people downvote because they don't agree with someone. I think it should be reserved for actual abuse, so I voted you back up a point if it matters to you).


    > The answer is that we believe people simply have the 
    > right to privacy in trade
That's nice and all, but then all your examples are anonymity in PURCHASE, where OpenBazaar primarily appeals to people who need anonymity in SALE.

People who ignore the massive body of work that is Common Law, and the safeguards it provides are doomed to repeat them. Common Law wasn't dreamed up by some idiot politicians, it's the result of hundreds of years worth of "how do we protect the public?".

Which is why you'll find that it's 100% legal to purchase items with cash, under an assumed name, with a mask on, through an intermediary, or whatever the hell else you want, but it's generally illegal to sell anonymously because "caveat emptor" just doesn't cut it.

So come on, let's get some examples of legal goods for sale where there is any significant benefit in the seller having anonymity...?


Thank you for your work on OpenBazaar, and for your comment here.


Well said!


I'm not familiar with the architecture of openbazaar, but whereas with centralized services like amazon and ebay only your credit card and the marketplace have access to your full history (and people tend to trust these entities, begrudgingly or not), in a p2p model, the marketplace is everyone in the network. While for most people its reasonable to trust a reputable organization for their legal transactions, very few people would be comfortable letting any scriptkiddie with an hour of time analyze the public network activity and get access to their entire purchase history. In order to avoid this drawback of a p2p architecture, additional privacy guards must be used.


> Do you need anonymity if you're selling towels?

Yes. When I sell towels, I put my business reputation on the line. Not my personal one. The customers don't know my real name.

Tell me this. When was the last time you knew the full name of a store clerk you interacted with? The name tag might say "Sally", but is it really "Sally"? Or is it "Sally Smith" or "Sally Jones" ?

You don't know, and you don't care. All you know is you went to a business (with a prominent name and location), and bought a towel. If you're happy with the towel, you'll go back. If not, you'll write bad reviews.

At no time do you know the full name or address of the store clerks you interact with. Therefore, it is completely appropriate for the clerks to demand the same level of anonymity online.

Now, this isn't always true. You might have a neighborhood hardware store you've been going to since you were 5. You might know the full name and home address of the owner. But that is his choice. It is entirely inappropriate for you to demand to know his full name and address, or to forbid him from operating behind an anonymous "Hi, I'm Bob" nametag.


You don't currently need to reveal your identity to customers when doing business online, but complete anonymity is something else altogether.

I might not know the full name and address of the store clerk, but his employer certainly does. That clerk is representing his business and should be held accountable to business for anything he does. If I have I bad experience purchasing from that store, it doesn't matter to me that it was a bad clerk - it's Local Towel Sales, Inc. that's not going to get my business in the future.

I also as a customer don't need to know that "Sally Smith" owns the corner store, but the owner of the lot that she's renting out for her storefront certainly does. If she's running her business in such a way that it affects the value of the property or will result in legal action, she needs to be held accountable to someone.

It works exactly the same online. When I buy a product that Online Towel Sales, Inc. posted to eBay, I don't care about who posted the product online or packed it up and shipped it, I only care that it came from Online Towel Sales, Inc. and will choose whether or not to do business again with them based on that experience. Likewise, if the owner of Online Towel Sales is using eBay to peddle illegal counterfeit towels or something, eBay needs to know who to hold accountable because they have a vested interest in not having their website associated with illegal activity. I'm not going to come back to eBay if it gets a reputation for being a criminal safehaven.


    > Yes. When I sell towels, I put my business reputation on
    > the line. Not my personal one
lolwut? If you're the cashier, yes, you get a little bit of implied anonymity.

If you're the business owner, absolutely and categorically not. Firstly, in every sensible country you are required to prominently display and let customers know the name of the legal entity with whom they're dealing. Secondly, in almost every sensible country, the owners of a business and the directors of a business are public record.

I have no clue at all why you think "store clerks" have any relevance to this discussion at all.


If that store harms me in some way, then I can come back with the cops, serve it with a lawsuit, or complain in a public forum.

In any case, the store is "stuck" with its identity and the employees involved will not only be fully identified, they might even go to prison. Or, at the very least, customers will know not to shop there and the store will have a very hard/expensive time starting with a clean slate reputation.

Stores are semi-anonymous for employees, but their enclosing corporations have Registered Agent addresses on file to receive (enforceable) process.

I lose all consumer protection by using something OpenBazaar.


It could have been "Fred".


> need to run on Tor?

I don't know the technical details of OpenBazaar. From the article this thread is about, it says:

"OpenBazaar is open-source software that runs a peer-to-peer network that can be used with the Tor anonymizing network."

I interpreted that in the literal sense that it "CAN" be used and not "MUST".

If the only possible way to use the OpenBazaar client is to log into Tor, that would understandably raise skepticism about its ambitions for legal trade. A representative from OpenBazaar is in this thread and maybe he can clarify that technical detail.

As for hiding my sales of legal items, maybe I don't want my friends to know that I sold that ugly shirt they got for my birthday. I'm sure there are all sorts of legitimate reasons for being an anonymous seller of legal goods.


Just as an aside, use of Craigslist obviously avoids these fees, with the caveat that market participants be within the same physical vicinity. I wonder if there could be a potential for some sort of integration. I bought my truck in another state using CL, and flying one-way with cash in hand.


Well no, but if I'm doing nothing wrong, then you have no need to see it.


Using Tor isn't required.


In my world view (also OpenBazaar developer) I think OpenBazaar shouldn't make false promises on delivering anonymity, not even Bitcoin can do that.

I believe that OpenBazaar's initial motive was to distance itself from DarkMarkets as the opportunity to directly link people worldwide for trade without intermediaries, or barriers of entry to the market outweight the needs of those looking to trade anonymously.

I foresee market forces killing off the sellers that prefer to remain anonymous and misterious unless they're selling special items.

In practice I believe people will be less scared to transact with someone who has an identity, who can be accountable. Honor and trust are necessary for all kinds of commerce.

If it were up to me, I'd build OpenBazaar to work flawlessly on the OpenInternet, if anybody needs to use the technology in a different way the code is open and I'm sure they'll find a way to try to hide themselves, but I think it's a fool's errand, no amount of Tor will hide you from the authorities if they want to get you.

I think the size of illegal markets as big as they can be are minuscule compared to the new era of trade I envision, never in our history we have been able to directly trade with anybody else out there. Centralized ecommerce outfits like ebay and amazon have only given us a glimpse of what's possible, but as good as they are, they can't scale to 100% of the planet, I believe a great p2p solution can do this and the consequences of this will be of historic importance.

This slide stack will give you the bigger picture OpenBazaar should be going after http://www.slideshare.net/yiibu/the-emerging-global-web

Worrying ourselves with pleasing users that want to be on Tor, at this point in time, I believe is a waste of time that draws the wrong kind of attention to the project. There's a much bigger opportunity to be seized, a truly world changing one.


Google searches aren't valid citations.


Hey HN, this is Sam Patterson, operations lead on OpenBazaar.

Please note that this open source project is about 6 months old, and not production ready. It has just started integrating Tor, but should not be considered private or secure yet.

We welcome testers, we are about to release 0.3.0 sometime in the next few days. Our Github is here:

https://github.com/openbazaar/openbazaar

We've gotten a lot of attention from the recent dark net markets being shut down. As I've said elsewhere, viewing OpenBazaar as SR 3.0 misses the true potential of creating a protocol, network, and client that allows individuals or companies to conduct trade directly with each other online.

We welcome feedback on our project, I'm happy to answer questions, and of course we'd be delighted if you want to join us. Let's make trade free.


I think you should reconsider integration of Tor. This is quite likely to end badly for you. If the police reports are true SR2 had 150,000 users: if even a fraction of those decide to migrate to OpenBazaar at some point, any legitimate usage will likely be overwhelmed by illegal usage. That would put you in the unenviable position of being the next DPR, except not anonymous (Silk Road sold books as well as drugs but that didn't matter).

Your best bet is to just not ensure IP addresses are recorded and unobfuscated. That'll help tip the balance towards legal activity.


I'm not sure it's equivalent. What you're saying is that whoever wrote the stack that SR used should be prosecuted for facilitating the site's creation.

This is simply a project in the same way BitTorrent is a project - it can be used for many things, illegality being just one, and even if that is the main usage pattern (which isn't clear at this point), that's no reason for the creator to be punished.


Tell that to the creator of cryptocat


TMK, he was never prosecuted. Baited, yes.


Nope. PHP is overwhelmingly used for ordinary, legitimate websites and has no particular features designed to aid criminal usage. It's all about volume and intent.


DPR and the SR2.0 guy profited from illegal transactions. That wouldn't be the case here. No different in my view from the developers of bittorrent or tor itself.


if each transaction has to involve a mediator i suspect they would be the one in the frame when it comes to facilitating illegal activity


I think the interesting thing about these Dark Net markets is how they enable sellers to market their product and maintain their reputation without the need to "get out on the streets" and push their wares. It is fundamentally better for society.

What governments need to get over is the failed "War on drugs". Legalise and tax the lot. Decriminalise possession, release all prisoners on non-violent drug related internments. Provide health care support to help people come off drugs as we do with alcoholics/smokers.

Let's stop being so damn hypocritical about this.


I don't think we should push OpenBazar into the illegal drug corner. It is a neutral tech and follows the decentralization vector the internet opened. Amazon, Ebay, alibaba and so on, all could very well get absorbed by an open bazar concept.

This happened imho to bittorrent, which remains in the piracy corner, even though it is brillant tech solution. E.g. BTSync still has this reputation problem (besides missing open sources) which curbs adoption from sys-admins.


One advantage of the Silk Road style markets was that, being centralised, they could choose to filter their wares down to a particular niche. By permitting everything by design, OpenBazaar is probably going to become infamous for facilitating trade in child pornography, materials of terrorism, and other such items considered a great deal more disreputable than prohibited drugs.


I think your fears are purely speculative and are distracting from what's really going on here. We are witnessing a demand for unregulated markets because regulated markets are way too slow in responding to social changes.

Let's face it - governmental decisions are made in the best interest of influential parties, not in the best interests of the individual.

Do not protect me from myself.


Nobody is protecting you from yourself. They're trying to protect other people from the damage you can do as an addict, a child pornographer, or a terrorist.


Everytime you, or someone who thinks like you, about the "Next Big Thing" in Terrorism, Child Porn and Drug Trafficking, replace that "Next Big Thing" technology with the "Internet", and reconsider the argument you were about to make.

I don't think too many people could've envisioned the good the Internet could do in the future, when it was launched. And it's also so much easier to think about the bad ways in which it could be used. Heck, I think the Internet today is still mostly about porn. Does that mean we should ban it because it's only 30-40 percent "useful"?

Look at Popcorn Time and torrenting. Netflix, Amazon, Google, Apple, could all use the same technology to drastically reduce their bandwidth with only a few servers to seed all shows at all time. But there's so much stigma about it from the beginning. Torrenting for legal stuff could be huge. But it's not because people like you yelled from the beginning about how it's a "piracy tool".

So let's try and not repeat the same mistakes with new innovations such as Bitcoin. which was also in the news mostly for drug trafficking in the early days, but fortunately Bitcoin users managed to successful promote and overcome that with the "good uses", and by yelling at sites for continuing to talk about Bitcoin as a "drug tool".

Same goes for OpenBazaar, Ethereum, Storj, Firechat and other innovations that may start gaining adoption.

It's also really unfortunate that the Facebook era + massive US government propaganda against Tor, is also making Tor and anonymity seem like a "bad thing" these days, even though most people on the Internet were "anonymous" in the early days. And guess what - the world didn't collapse!


>Nobody is protecting you from yourself. They're trying to protect other people from the damage you can do as an addict, a child pornographer, or a terrorist.

This is patently false. Counter-examples include A) non-addictive, very safe drugs are also illegal B) NYC tried to outlaw large sodas C) unpasteurized milk is illegal.


Just because you can pull out three (or any number) examples of shitty laws doesn't mean he's wrong.


Except for the fact that the OP claimed "Nobody is protecting you from yourself." To which the person you responded to directly disputed with examples.

I think you need to re-evaluate what you classify as incorrect.


What is terrorism, actually? If you give this question some serious thought, it becomes apparent that the term is full of confusion. Politicians perpetuate – and exploit – this ambiguity; causing greater harm by diverting attention away from issues which really do need to be addressed.

More people are killed by the police than terrorism in the United States.

http://www.alternet.org/more-americans-killed-police-terrori...


You can question what terrorism is when you're in the grey area. But some things are just black/white terrorism, like the Boston Marathon bombing.


The Boston Marathon bombing was a terrible tragedy. They purchased their supplies from regular retail outlets, not a unregulated internet market. [1]

Which goes back to my original point. Linking terrorism to OpenBazaar is a far stretch and is rooted in fear, not data.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Marathon_bombings


It will always be possible to cause harm with legal objects, unless they ban fists and teeth.

While I think linking terrorism is a stretch, there are benefits to regulating the sale of things designed specifically to cause death, automatic firearms, high capacity magazines, warheads...


you are right, but child porn and addicts are already in the world. You fear addicts for good reasons. But if one looks how countries which legalized drugs are doing, you will see that violence, crime and number of addicts are decreasing.

e.g. Portugal: - Drug use among adolescents (13-15 yrs) and "problematic" users declined.[15] - Drug-related criminal justice workloads decreased.[15] - Decreased street value of most illicit drugs, some significantly

(although recreational (soft) drug use seemed to increase)


Child porn prohibition is not about consumers. It is about increasing the risk on (and taking the market away from) producers, who are necessarily actually abusing real children (who are not the producers themselves) in the real world in an unambiguously horrific way, with the end result that less child abuse happens.

You will have to try pretty hard to spin that into being the same thing as drug prohibition.

Arguments are, of course, less strong for convicting 16/17-year-olds of child porn for sexting, and even for removing images that were produced long ago.


I don't agree that regulated markets aren't sufficiently adaptive to social change. Silk Road was also a regulated market, just one that dealt in mostly illegal narcotics - so this clearly was adapting to the liberalisation of drug laws that is desired by so many.

But if Silk Road had also dealt in child pornography, for example, we can be pretty sure that most people would know about it as a haven for paedophiles, rather than an online drugs den.

My point is that purportedly neutral technologies become best known for their predominant use case. The Internet is mostly synonymous the web and email, as these were its first killer applications. Bittorrent is notorious for copyright infringement, as that is what it is overwhelmingly used for. Bitcoin has connotations of being a get rich quick scheme crossed with illegal drugs currency. And so on.

Despite its intentions of neutrality, as an anonymised, unregulated, decentralised market, OpenBazaar will most probably become known for facilitating illegal trades - of all types.


I read your argument in two parts - one that appeals to my own emotions and one that hides behind the law to demonize illegal trade.

Let's ignore the emotional part because that is highly subjective.

I'd argue that the current legislation is not effective in representing the best interests of the general public, which is what I understand the spirit of all laws to be. It takes too long to change, and for change to even be considered it takes a significant amount of money or collective effort which is not always practical.


What need is there for selling non-illegal things in a darknet market? Let's be honest, OpenBazaar will be used to sell drugs, stolen ids, and other illicit things.


if one would have introduced back in the days the concept of the internet with it's possiblities, it's positive effects and it's dark side - it wouldn't have happened!

People would have declared it a danger, a lawless non-place which poisons the youth and will be dominated by child porn and surely not by kitten pics.


Therapeutical herbs. Prohibited books.


If these are illegal, then you're not really presenting a counter-case that darknets are only useful for illegal trade. If they're not, you don't need a darknet to get them.


> If they're not, you don't need a darknet to get them.

False. Some things are restricted by abuse of power, not by law. For example, it's very hard to massprint antiputin agitation in Russia despite there is no law against it.


Fair enough.


> What need is there for selling non-illegal things in a darknet market?

Avoiding platform fees and payment processor fees is no small thing.


Also taxes. What is the VAT like 20%? That is a lot of savings.


And again, illegal.


Not every law/tax is fair or should even exist in the first place. You don't change things by being complicit.


I think I just down voted you by accident. Sorry. :-(


That depends. Individuals generally need not pay tax for selling their private property.


I'm not sure where you live, but this is not the case nearly everywhere in the US.


It's the case in most european countries, and I am sure also in lots of other places.


No, you're probably thinking of sales tax.


Keep in mind, a lot of people are hyping OpenBazaar more than it deserves or is helpful. The basic question about OB no one has answered is: assuming they get it up and running and with a good security model, why will the mass of black-market - or legal - users ever use it, when using Amazon or something is easier and more familiar?

You may say that they'll use it so they don't have to worry about police, except black-market users' revealed preferences are that they don't care: SR2 was doing millions a month without any escrow at all, and multisig usage is uncommon even on the markets which support it (vendors generally estimate <10%). The users seem to simply not care. Why are they going to use OB?


The users that don't care are almost always the users buying the smallest (personal) amounts, and they usually don't care because they know if they get scammed or it gets lost they only lost $30. The customers who want larger quantities very much do care, and they're the ones who spend real cash.

Furthermore it's pretty common for a dealer who has a good enough reputation to start requiring early finalization. Most of the reason people still used SR2 is it was the easiest place to find their favorite vendor, and the lack of escrow didn't matter because you trust him and/or he requires FE no matter what the market.

As for why people will use OB (I have no idea if they will), cops aren't the only thing to worry about when buying drugs on the darknet (in fact they're close to the bottom of the list). Several marketplaces (including SR2) have been hacked and had all the users money stolen, and a couple have just disappeared with everyone's money. I suspect the selling point will be more like: "Hackers and corrupt admins won't be able to steal your money! Plus it's never down! Plus it's harder to get arrested!".


> The users that don't care are almost always the users buying the smallest (personal) amounts, and they usually don't care because they know if they get scammed or it gets lost they only lost $30. The customers who want larger quantities very much do care, and they're the ones who spend real cash.

No, you're just wrong. The multisig markets do little business, period. And lots of SR2 sales were for quite large amounts, see Judith Aldridge's paper on this topic - the larger quantities made up most of the revenue.

> I suspect the selling point will be more like: "Hackers and corrupt admins won't be able to steal your money! Plus it's never down! Plus it's harder to get arrested!".

And yet, none of that has made PGP or multisig standard.


It seems to me that what OpenBazaar is trying to do is to use software and the network to create a truly voluntary marketplace that offers many or most of the structural benefits that we get from centralized marketplaces but without the regulations and risks imposed by those who control such marketplaces. It is very much like what bitcoin does for currency, but applied to a different subject.


Sellers might prefer it


If authorities acted against OpenBazaar users, they could arrest individuals, but the network would survive.

This sounds exactly like the current physical marketplace for anything illegal. Individual drug dealers are arrested, sometimes even big distributor organizations are taken down, but the trade network always goes on.


Sensationalist title, just like saying "Bitcoin - an untouchable crypto-currency for drugs".

This has the potential to be used by everyone in the world to sell anything.


As someone passionate about decentralized systems, I'm curious how OpenBazaar would deal with, say, a marketplace for assassinations and other things that would clearly be illegal and unethical.

Can any distributed system deal with it? Probably best to leave it in place and expose such people, but who gets to decide which crimes warrant exposing the participants, and how would that even work? I can think about sting operations but that's about it.


Looks like they are also developing a Search API for OpenBazaar https://search.bizarre.company


Untouchable by police? That's a pretty big claim. What would happen if the government were to round up some computers and control 50% or more of the network?


untouchable is such a overused word. everything is touchable. the government just has to order some products and track their origin using the mail system, get enough orders, you find the vicinity, spy on the drop off area and the businessman is bound to make mistakes, we are human after all. there are many ways to skin this cat.


untouchable is such a overused word. everything is touchable. the government just has to order some products and track their origin using the mail system, get enough orders, you find the vicinity, spy on the drop off area and the businessman is bound to make mistakes, we are human after all.


For my business, I order thousands of items on Amazon and Ebay per week. Even with the protections in place, sellers don't ship the items and then never respond/won't refund, I get the wrong items/broken items (and they refuse to let me send it back).

Why would I shop anywhere without these assurances?


OpenBazaar uses 2-of-3 multisig, meaning that the buyer doens't send funds directly to the seller but instead sends it to a Bitcoin account that is jointly controlled by three parties; the buyer, the seller, and a trusted third party called a notary. Both parties agree to the notary, and then in order for the funds to be released from the multisig, any two parties must agree on how the funds are released.

In a normal transaction, once the item ships and is received, both the buyer and seller agree to the transaction and funds are released. If there is a problem, then that third party enters the picture, and sends funds from the multisig by agreeing with either buyer or seller.


Thank you for clarifying.

The buyer and seller both get a say in who the notary is, correct? What if they can't agree on a trusted notary? Is it possible to have more than one notary (eg 3 notaries requiring 4 people in agreement for a large transaction?)


How will they be able to prove anything though? The seller could send an empty box. They'd have a tracking code then "proving" they'd sent the item. The buyer could claim it was an empty box but the 3rd party wouldn't be able to know if it was or not.

A scammer would just have to ensure they cycle 3rd parties so their actions aren't noticed(or cycle accounts). What's to stop that?


That (fraud) is a problem for current ecommerce too. It can be addressed in part by reputation systems.




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