OpenBazaar notes

From the 2016 bear market

Here are some unedited personal notes on OpenBazaar I wrote up while in my first crypto winter at Coinbase in April 2016. I think another attempt at eBay as a protocol would be interesting today given all the progress with the underlying crypto infrastructure.

High-level thoughts

  • Finding good items/shops is hard — there are 3 ways to find items on the OpenBazaar client: 1) search for #tags 2) whatever stores you follow and 3) the Random tab.

  • Slow UX with learning curve (slightly off from traditional commerce design patterns)

  • Feels more Yahoo! (directory) and less Google (search engine)

  • Mainstream adoption question: compare friction of opening up a new tab vs. open up a new app; lack of a quality mobile client

What is for sale?

Physical goods


  • Legos

  • Organic, small-batch food (e.g. honey, hot sauce, spices)

  • Bitcoin-themed jewelry, clothing

  • Electronics, hard drives, GoPro, Raspberry Pi

  • Semi-precious stones

  • 2nd-hand clothing, shoes

  • Custom 3D printing

  • Old physical media: console games (Xbox, SNES), vinyl records

Gray market

  • Sex toys

  • Precious metals

  • Gift cards

  • Adult content

  • Fake watches

  • Generic but regulated pharmaceuticals

  • Guns, weapons


  • Drugs

Digital goods

  • Steam accounts/video game skins/game key (CS:GO)

  • Ethereum/Bitcoin (a la Local Bitcoins)

  • Pirated software (e.g. MS Office)


  • Sysadmin services

  • OpenBazaar 24/7 hosting

  • OpenBazaar consulting services

  • Q&A session, therapy phone call


  • Hosting — If you download the official OpenBazaar client, the OpenBazaar shop is only online if the client is running. There’s currently also no way to determine if a given shop is online or offline. For more serious shops, a set of OpenBazaar VPS hosting services are available ranging from $10/mo to $100/mo. This involves running the OpenBazaar Server.

  • Moderation — When a given OpenBazaar transaction between a buyer and seller is disputed, the protocol supports the concept of moderation. Moderators advertise via the “Discover” tab or


  • Search engine / curation

  • Alternative desktop/web client

    • Assumes you want to sell (problem with eBay as well)

    • Orient around search terms, not stores

      • e.g. with both Google and Amazon you search for products across the web/within a massive store (that has marketplace sellers)

    • Early sites are OK—but opportunity for well-designed

  • Built-in on-ramp into bitcoin for consumers

    • Alternative: fiat-to-bitcoin translation layer (never deal with bitcoin directly)

  • Additional merchant tools

    • Instant Exchange

    • Digital goods infrastructure (a la Gumroad; IPFS?)

    • Inventory management API (to sync with fiat store on Shopify, Amazon, Squarespace, etc.)

  • Mobile app

  • Messaging and simple bot-like commands to complete transactions

  • Shipping — Given a shop owner can, in theory, operate anonymously and shoppers can purchase anonymously, it seems odd that a real-world physical address is required in order to complete physical good transactions. cf. RPO and the concept of “re-shipping”

  • Payment processing — While bitcoin is best tool for a decentralized commerce network, bitcoin is not the most convenient option for most consumers. This is esp. relevant as more OpenBazaar stores will be less oriented toward grey market and simply leveraging the lower fee environment/distribution OpenBazaar provides. Related: And while OpenBazaar’s native support of bitcoin is great, many businesses will want the ability to instantly convert any transaction into fiat to minimize currency volatility risk. Currently there is no default liquidity provider for OpenBazaar.

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