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OB1 CEO Brian Hoffman Explains Levels of Anonymity in OpenBazaar

Privacy & security - OB1 CEO Brian Hoffman Explains Levels of Anonymity in OpenBazaar

Many people in the Bitcoin community see OpenBazaar as the next iteration of darknet marketplaces, but the first version of this network will not be suitable for those attempting to sell goods or services in an anonymous manner. During a recent guest appearance at the Coinscrum Members Club, OB1 CEO and OpenBazaar project lead Brian Hoffman discussed anonymity on the OpenBazaar network, and he noted that these features have been deferred to a future section of the development roadmap.

At one point during the Q&A session, Hoffman stated, “Right now, it’s fairly obvious, based on your connection information, where you are or where you’re running it from and things like that.”

Privacy and Anonymity Are Key Features for OpenBazaar

Although OpenBazaar will not offer anonymity to its users by default in its first full release, the team behind the project view this feature as a fundamental aspect of the protocol. During his recent appearance at the Coinscrum Members Club, Hoffman said, “I think [anonymity] is, without a doubt, one of the most important, fundamental things that we need to have in OpenBazaar.”

Hoffman added:

“If you hear anybody say that we don’t care about that, it’s patently false. We definitely do. It just becomes a matter of how you do that gracefully without scaring off any other clearnet type users.”

Hoffman also noted that a roadmap for incorporating more anonymity into OpenBazaar has been developed.

Growing OpenBazaar on the Clearnet

The plan to avoid anonymity for now should not be viewed as a dismissal of the need for this type of functionality. Instead, the deferment of these features to a later date is part of a grander vision. Hoffman described the OpenBazaar developers’ perspective on anonymity during his recent Coinscrum Members Club appearance by asking a question:

“What is the best way to bootstrap a decentralized, private marketplace without basically inviting all of the darknet marketplaces to just shift their stock onto this and scare the crap out of any potential normal user from joining OpenBazaar?”

Hoffman then explained that deferment of anonymity for users would be the best strategy to help the network attract more buyers and sellers over the long term:

“We’ve basically deferred it to a little bit later in the development process. This, we hope, will give us time to establish a baseline of nodes on the network and liquidity of items without overwhelming it with just darknet items.”

While it’s possible that portions of the OpenBazaar network could become the new, decentralized hub of darknet commerce, the developers behind the project also want to see the general public use the platform for legal commerce.

Technical Reasons for Deferment

In addition to the strategic reasons for temporarily avoiding anonymity, the OpenBazaar team is also currently avoiding Tor integration for technical reasons. Hoffman explained:

“One of the reasons we’ve also deferred it technically is that we’re using a UDP network. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s not compatible with Tor, which is kind of the primary [anonymizing network].”

Hoffman said the team is also looking at i2p as a possible option for anonymizing users. He added that some of the i2p developers are already starting to collaborate with the OpenBazaar team.

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.