zBack Issue #1 Saturday Bazaar Review
Issue #1 - 7 July, 2018
In this first real issue of our Bazaar Review, we're going to take a closer look at the OpenBazaar application and network, and look at a couple of the more difficult issues facing both buyers and sellers. Each week, we'll grow our Review a little more. We'll show you some of the tricks we learn about how you can use OB along the way.
Shut Up and Take My Money!
OpenBazaar supports 3 different coins today, but how do we use the wallets? How come some items are "not purchasable"?
This is perhaps the most difficult part of the shopping experience for people who are new to both cryptocurrency and OB. This is a temporary situation, and we know the team is working hard on the solution. What's the issue?
OpenBazaar was originally built to use BTC for all transactions. Years ago when the OB dev team first started, the idea that most stores would be interested in accepting most coins besides BTC was not quite preposterous, but nearly so. BitcoinCash didn't exist yet, Ether wasn't really being used as money, and most other coins were simply too small and volatile, and wouldn't see much use. But then came the First Great Wave of Fees in Bitcoin. Whatever your feelings on the ongoing debate between Bitcoin and BitcoinCash, it should be easy to see how this affected OpenBazaar vendors and their customers. With fees to make a transaction on the BTC network approaching $50 in some cases this past winter, many items found in the Bazaar were simply not affordable. Customers can't be expected to pay more than the value of their purchase in fees, unless that total price is still competitive with prices for the same on Amazon or locally. Vendors with more expensive items were able to carry on with business, but many sellers were priced out of the market.
The OpenBazaar team has had some guidelines for integrating coins for some time, but had not implemented any into the production releases. They stepped on the gas to get BitcoinCash into production so that sellers could insulate themselves from any future fee volatility on the Bitcoin network.
So why do items come up "not purchasable" when I'm shopping? How do I sell things for BitcoinCash?
The short answer is "because the wallet is for one cryptocurrency".
When you first open up the OpenBazaar application, with all the standard default settings you will have started a fresh OpenBazaar node and a fresh Bitcoin (BTC) wallet. You can make a store or head out to go shopping! If you make a store, you'll be able to accept Bitcoin (BTC) but not BitcoinCash.
How do I get BitcoinCash in my wallet?
Today, your OpenBazaar node is essentially either Bitcoin, OR BitcoinCash. Your wallet only serves one coin, and items you find are only purchasable if your wallet matches the vendor's wallet! If the vendor's shop only takes BCH, and you're using your default setup, you need to startup an OpenBazaar node with a BitcoinCash wallet.
Click your avatar in the upper right corner of the application
Select "New Server"
And Select BitcoinCash
This will shut down your original OpenBazaar node, and will create a brand new, unrelated node with a BCH wallet, and now you can fill your wallet with some Cash, and shop. Now, if you visit a store that accepts BitcoinCash, you'll see the items are purchasable, but stores that accept BTC will show as not purchasable.
So, how do I take both coins in my store?
In short, today, you don't. The store is dependent on the wallet, so in order to take Bitcoin and BitcoinCash, you need to make 2 stores!!
But that's a lotta work!!
Yep, it sure is. Have a look at the differences between our mazaclub, and mazaclub - BTC stores. We've done some to interlink our stores by putting links in our listings, and letting our customers know we're happy to create a listing in our BTC store for any items we have in our BCH store. But, it's still a lot of work, and as we're finding out today, a little prone to human error. You have to remember to run each node for at least an hour or two every week, and check to see if you have orders or messages from your customers!
Please! Make it STAHP!!!
We know that the OB team is working as hard as they did to bring BitcoinCash (and Zcash) into the application to get you a wallet and store that operate on multiple coins. While multicoin wallets are commonplace (mazaclub made one of the first multicoin Electrum forks all the way back in 2015!), there's a good deal to integrate multiple coins into the store, contracts, and orderflow, and make that easy for shoppers and vendors alike. When this is complete, you'll be able to take Bitcoin, Ethereum, BitcoinCash, Litecoin, or ZCash.
Will they stop there?
Well, we don't actually know what the team has planned, but we do know a thing or two about making wallets. With the coins they've chosen first, the majority of the work will be done that's needed to integrate networks that are near-clones, which is a majority of the market. But, OpenBazaar is much more than just a wallet! We're sure that they'll need to do some tuning of the user interface once people start using their multicoin nodes.
Of course, we've been Maza developers for a long time, so we're still hopeful that in the long run it's possible accept a multitude of coins, and spend what you have the handiest.
What is Seen CAN be Unseen!
Running an OpenBazaar store isn't like running a store on eBay or Etsy. Since there is no central OpenBazaar "server", you have to do some work to make sure you're on top of your sales and can keep in contact with your customers. We've been using OpenBazaar since 2015, and there's been a lot of improvement with version 2, but you still need to do a few things regularly to make sure your store is visible, and your customers are happy.
Do I have to keep my OpenBazaar node running all the time?
Nope! This was a huge limitation for a lot of sellers in the v1 OpenBazaar application. With the team's decision to move the node's data storage to a customized version of IPFS, your store can be visible even while you're offline!
IPFS? What's that?
IPFS is the InterPlanetary File System. It's a pretty magic piece of software. It stores data in much the same way as a blockchain, and provides for immutable file storage. Just like transactions, or blocks in the blockchain, each file on IPFS has a unique hash, and can't be changed once it's there. With this, we can allow other nodes on the network to copy, and serve copies of that file, and not worry that they could change the contents.
The hash of an IPFS file looks like this: QmVqt2oBKQ67RhmwejX67D49VFXmPy3SwyRYNMQ5WDmFVM
You'll notice that's just like the link to your own OB home page or store! We're no experts, but it looks to us like pretty much everything that your OB node needs to make public is stored as an IPFS file. IPFS is a peer-to-peer network, and your peers are here to help!
Your OpenBazaar node connects to other nodes, and they automagically share the IPFS data. Once some of the other nodes on the network have copies of the files that make up your store, your store will be visible still while you're offline. OpenBazaar is even smart enough today to allow your customers to make orders while you're offline, and notify you when you're back online.
But there's a catch...
You knew there would be a catch didn't you!
Remember, OB is a decentralized, peer to peer network. If you're free to take your node offline, so is everyone else!!! Your node won't see every node on the network, and many nodes will be offline while you're online.
It takes time for your node to transfer all your files to other nodes, and store files from other nodes. Nodes have no real way to know how long each other will be online, so your data could become inaccessible, and your store invisible if the nodes storing your data all go offline.
If you're a vendor on OpenBazaar, we really recommend that you start your node up every day, and run it for a little while. You'll keep your data fresh with other nodes, and you'll get notifications of your orders and messages in a timely way. Your data should be visible on the network for several days, but don't let it go more than a week! To make sure we've connected to a good number of peers we like to open up OpenBazaar over coffee and our morning news. This gets us into a good habit of checking our orders in the morning, and we can close down once we're ready to move on to fulfillment of them. We've got a bunch of stores, so this can be tedious! This week, we're going to be moving most of our stores from the built-in servers that come with the OB client application onto remote servers in our datacenter.
Have a Bazaar Week!
Next Saturday, we'll review that process, and show you how to make sure your remote OB node and wallet are secure!
Next week we'll also take a look at the email notification feature for vendors, and explore the search options that we've found to help you find your way around the Bazaar!
Check back here every Saturday for your weekly Bazaar Review, and every Sunday for our Bazaar Shopper, your guide to the Bazaar, and get some free coupon codes to use with your favorite vendors!
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