If you always wanted to go shopping on the Dark Web but didn’t have the technical know-how, there is a new easy-to-use solution for you. OpenBazaar is a bitcoin decentralized marketplace for goods and services that was launched on April 4th 2016.
The open-source project promises an alternative to the centralized online shopping experience offering more freedom via cryptocurrencies. Other projects that were linked to bitcoin have tried creating a true free market in the past, but were stopped by the authorities (the most famous case being Silk Road and the FBI). OpenBazaar is meant to be immune from a government takedown as it is not a company and no individual or organization is running it. This is my review of the network in its infancy.
Dark Social Network
The first thing to notice is that instead of vising a website, OpenBazaar is a program that anyone can download and install on their computer. When you run it for the first time you are given a user ID that you will use to trade, which you can decide to link to your name or leave it completely anonymous.
It feels much more like a social network than just a shopping catalog with profile pages and avatar images. You can follow other users whether they are sellers or just shoppers and get their updates on your platform. There is also a built-in chat function for encrypted communication. Becoming a seller is very easy too, all you have to do is to activate the store mode on your page and start listing items.
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Offering a degree of protection from scammers, OpenBazaar features moderators – people that you can send bitcoin to for a purchase (as an escrow service), and they release it to the seller when the transaction is finished without dispute. If you do have a dispute with a seller, the moderators can offer a resolution for a fee (or for free).
In its default settings all I could see were old Nintendo game cartridges, various fashion items and other boring objects. To get to the real interesting stuff you have to set it to over-18 mode so it will display ‘not safe for work’ material. Considering all the hype around the Dark Web, I immediately switched it on and started looking for the illicit designer drugs and contracted killers (hitmen) that it is famous for.
The marketplace is very new so obviously not everyone on the Dark Web has joined yet. However, I was able to find cannabis, poppy seeds, fake New York IDs, replica military guns, fake Rolex watches and what looked like second hand porn. It is possible that much more is there but I did not have the right connections in my network or know the right keywords to find them.
So is it ready to disrupt online shopping giants like Amazon and eBay? Not yet, but if it can get some more interesting items that you can’t get anywhere else – and somehow not get infested with scammers and undercover FBI agents – it just might do that one day thanks to its freedom and no fee trading.