OpenBazaar, a decentralized, unregulated and open-source marketplace that uses bitcoin, has released a roadmap to its second version following a better-than-expected response to its first version in April, according to Medium.
OpenBazaar, which opened for business last month, has long-term plans to be a major e-commerce player. Its immediate focus is traditional e-commerce for digital and physical goods and services.
An Evolving Roadmap
Customers’ favorite features could be missing from the new roadmap, the company noted. Such features might be nested in one of the cards. Depending on the feature, it might not align with OpenBazaar’s mission or it might be too long-term for the new roadmap. It encourages people to give feedback in its Slack group.
OpenBazaar is fundamentally a protocol with server and client reference implementations that can be installed on multiple desktop operating systems. The development stack will expand in the future to house additional platforms including mobile.
The roadmap is designed using cards and columns. Every card consists of a general feature to be deployed. Cards are grouped in the following columns: ongoing improvements, short-term (under three months), medium-term (three to 12 months), and long-term (more than 12 months.)
More Tasks Coming
The roadmap will add "subtasks" as the ecosystem matures.
The moderation system provides a minimum viable product that relies heavily on third-party platforms to assess and discover moderators.
Features under development include: moderator reputation system; dedicated discovery of moderators in application; a dedicated moderator page to show precedents and policies; “enable vendor” and “buyer” to switch moderators if the moderator is unresponsive; accept/reject moderator service terms; and reputation pledges such as CLTV, surety bonds, proof of burn, etc.
An additional long-term feature could be the creation of moderator protocols that have threshold signatures to distribute and minimize collusion risk.
Flexibility An Ongoing Process
Listing flexibility represents an ongoing process towards bringing the listing IUX on par with centralized platforms to enable. These include product variations such as color, custom or size, shipping costs and rules, tax rules and coupons.
An internal article explores how other platforms handle product variations from a UI/UX perspective, with implications for OpenBazaar.
The reputation system is built on transaction-based ratings. An overall score will be determined from aggregate transaction ratings for every sale.
Thus far, transaction ratings are visible only within the parent listing. In the future, the reputation score and transaction history will be visible for each store. Rating data will be sent across the network to prevent stores from shielding negative ratings.
Third parties will theoretically be able to access vendor rating data to determine their own reputational score or to create a web-of-trust graph from the data.
Network Privacy Needed
The absence of network privacy – the hiding of a node’s real IP address – has been a criticism of OpenBazaar. The use of a VPN, 12P or Tor has usually enabled this.
Tor, the most popular enabler, is not supporting OpenBazaar 1.0 for several reasons, mainly since it is not compatible with the rUDP transport layer that is used over Twisted P2P network connections. The transport layer was selected to allow UDP hole punching to provide reliable connectivity among peers.
OpenBazaar will upgrade the network back end to the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), which will be a step to integrate Tor.
Browsing the “discover” page or searching for keywords allows discovering new listings in the application. The listings are divided between “random” and “personal.”
“Random” shows listings from nodes that one randomly connects to whereas “personal” shows listings from nodes one follows. Browsing random listings can be unsatisfactory for users who want to browse a specific category. OpenBazaar will develop open tools to provide curated listings.
Documentation is currently incomplete. Writing first-class documentation remains an objective.
Features for short-term deployment include:
• Email notifications triggered by selected events
• Webhooks to allow a raft of third-party services for users
• Backups to store data locally or to cloud storage providers
• Order management to provide better management and visualization of orders at different stages of purchase
• Inventory management, such as exporting, editing and batch listing importing
• Order process UI, such as more intuitive representation of flow stages
• Sales control center improvements that give vendors more visibility into updates, comments and activity on their storefront
• Advanced digital goods to automate delivery of digital goods upon payment
• Blockchain ID onboarding to make the blockchain ID registration process within the application
Features for medium-term deployment include IPFS.
IPFS is a protocol for creating distributed file systems. This can be seen as an extension of the OpenBazaar network architecture to enable user data to be distributed across numerous network nodes. The benefits of this are:
• Better censorship resistance due to having data spread across more nodes, making it impossible for attackers to prevent others from reaching the content
• Persistent content so vendors do not need to run an OpenBazaar node full-time
• Multi-transport to support multiple transport protocols
• Local connections that listen to a variety of network interfaces and make it possible to connect nodes running on the same computer or the same local network
• Improved DHT implementation since the distributed table is already more reliable than the current OpenBazaar DHT implementation
The current search functionality includes users “tagging” products with keywords that get published in the DHT. Search results are often inaccurate as it relies on vendors’ tagging. The move to IPFS DHT will improve the reliability.
OpenBazaar believes an even more robust search is still needed.
OpenBazaar will introduce a third-party search functionality to direct the search bar at an API endpoint that runs a crawler and index listings. It will offer the ability to change the search API provider. The option of using hashtags will still be available to those seeking a purely distributed search experience.
Real-time communication among nodes will be encrypted and authenticated using a TLS-like protocol. The challenge will be in developing a more robust system for delivering messages to offline recipients.
Asynchronous messaging is required throughout the app. Sending chat messages, order messages, confirmations or dispute resolution messages to offline nodes are examples.
OpenBazaar wishes to protect the content of messages as well as the metadata. It needs to be done in a decentralized way allowing for the scalable and reliable retrieval of messages.
The design puts responsibility for a suitable location to host the ciphertext on the sender.
OpenBazaar will deploy the Signal ratchet for securing asynchronous messaging in the protocol to provide secrecy.
Tor To Give Privacy
OpenBazaar will integrate network-level privacy using Tor. Integrating Tor will require developing “onion only” nodes that operate as hidden services only taking other Tor nodes connections. This could slightly segregate the Tor network from the main one.
Stores should be able to operate in a “dual stack” configuration where they take connections from both onion and Clearnet nodes to allow a store’s products to be viewable on the main network in addition to Tor nodes.
OpenBazaar uses a basic BIP32 wallet for managing multi-signature escrow transactions. A full-featured wallet is an objective to make it easier for users to manage their bitcoin and incur fewer transaction fees when moving funds from the app.
An option is to integrate the lightning network daemon for these reasons:
1) lnd is written in Go, the language used to deploy the new OpenBazaar server that IPFS powers.
2) lnd uses P2P simplified pay verification.
3) OpenBazaar transactions will be compatible with segregated witness.
The Mobile Challenge
OpenBazaar recognizes it has to be mobile in today’s e-commerce world. With the integration of Webhooks into the server, OpenBazaar expects to see an array of third-party messaging bots such as WeChat, Slack, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Kik and more that relay notices and messages remotely.
A client-only mobile app will empower users to fully manage their node securely and remotely.
Other medium-term features include:
• Offline ordering
• Group and private listings
• Invitation to tender and job postings
• Improved social features
Features for long-term deployment include:
• A plugin system will allow third party developers to add functionality to the server and/or client without needing changes to the core code.
• A shopping cart will enable users to buy multiple listings in a single transaction by funding numerous escrow addresses as individual outputs and/or saving shipping costs when buying multiple items from a store.
• Contract flexibility will allow users to develop their own custom contracts with user-defined fields, trade flow and interactions. OpenBazaar will facilitate any complex transaction.
Images from Medium/OpenBazaar.