OpenBazaar is integrating the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) into their decentralized online marketplace. While no official announcement about this move has been made, OpenBazaar developer Chris Pacia, who is currently working on the IPFS integration, has shared some of the details related to this change with Bitcoin Magazine.
According to Pacia, the main advantage of integrating IPFS into OpenBazaar will be the increased availability of storefronts. Currently, a store operator must maintain his or her own server at all times or pay someone else to do it.
What Is IPFS?
IPFS is a hypermedia distribution protocol that enables the creation of distributed applications. The team behind IPFS is creating a peer-to-peer file system that can be accessed by all of the computing devices in the world. The brains behind this new protocol, Stanford graduate Juan Benet, has said that IPFS allows people to create websites and web apps with no central server. He added, “They can be distributed just like the Bitcoin network is distributed.”
What Are the Advantages of IPFS for OpenBazaar?
Since OpenBazaar is a marketplace with no central server, IPFS appears to be a solid option for hosting storefronts.
Pacia agrees with this sentiment. He told Bitcoin Magazine, “The main advantage is data will become more distributed and most of it should be viewable even if the originating node is offline.”
Pacia went on to describe the current issues with OpenBazaar when it comes to opening and operating a store on the network:
“We have a situation now where you have to fetch store data from only one person, and if they have a slow or buggy connection (or if they get attacked), then you can't access that data, despite potentially hundreds of other users having that data from a previous download.”
Essentially, IPFS will allow OpenBazaar users to connect to specific stores via many other peers who already have that data rather than just the owner of the store.
“So IPFS seeds everything you download which makes the data much more permanent. It also provides a more robust DHT implementation than what we have written, and it's better to spend our resources collaborating than trying to maintain our own.”
Many early users of OpenBazaar have complained about having to operate a server 24/7 to keep their stores “open” on the network, which is why the removal of this requirement has been a top priority for the development team behind the project.
Layering Anonymity on Top
Other commentators have wondered whether Freenet may be the best option for OpenBazaar, but it appears the network’s developers have no intention of going in that direction at this time. Pacia noted, “I don't know [enough] about Freenet to comment on it. But what attracts us to IPFS is its scalable approach to data replication.”
Although OpenBazaar launched without native support for anonymizing networks such as i2p or Tor, OpenBazaar project lead Brian Hoffman recently reiterated the development team’s dedication to privacy.
“Anonymity can be layered on top of [IPFS],” Pacia told Bitcoin Magazine. “It won't be too much work to enable onion nodes to connect to each other.”
OpenBazaar’s support for IPFS is not strictly theoretical, as code related to this change is already available on GitHub.
Kyle Torpey is a freelance journalist who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured on VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, RT’s Keiser Report and many other media outlets. You can follow @kyletorpey on Twitter.