In the wake of the collapse of the Silk Road 2.0, many are looking to decentralized alternatives like OpenBazaar as the future of anonymous internet marketplaces. Today, OpenBazaar released its third Beta release, which is a major step towards establishing a safe, reliable, and permanent venue for free commerce.
OpenBazaar, when complete, will be to the Silk Road what Bittorrent was to Napster: replacing an ultimately vulnerable centralized system with a free and open decentralized and international system, which can be freely participated in by anyone, anywhere, at any time. No rules, no restrictions, no spying on users.
That said, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that anonymous marketplaces are entirely about drugs. True, these represent the bulk of transactions, but it’s worth remembering that these markets are international by design, and not everyone lives in an environment as free as the US. Dark markets serve a valuable function in getting banned electronics and literature past the walls of repressive regimes, and circumventing shortsighted import-export restrictions. Sure, eliminating the violence associated with drug trafficking is nice, but free trade has a lot of advantages. Even for entirely legal peer-to-peer commerce, the largest broker (eBay) has an archaic and nigh-unuseable UI, and has been dropping in usage for years. Creating a distributed, open-source, international competitor with multiple community-designed user interfaces can only make things better for the consumer.
The latest beta update (named Tabriz, as per the new naming scheme based on historical marketplaces) is still very much a beta – it isn’t entirely functional, or thoroughly vetted for security: it is not ready to replace eBay just yet. That said, it is host to a number of improvements. The biggest is probably the addition of support for Windows (versions 7+), and some initial support for Tor integration, to help bolster the anonymity offered by the software. Aside from that, the software contains numerous bug fixes, improved security practices, and a decent amount of code-refactoring and testing. You can download (or contribute to) the new version from the OpenBazaar Github here.
Image via OpenBazaar.org