If we’re going to stop complaining about tech companies exploiting our data to maximize their gains, then we need to stop giving them our information by leaving a multitude of digital breadcrumbs while using the usual social and web apps we depend on.

So far, we haven’t had too many good choices for “switching off data collection”, and even companies that give us those options aren’t completely letting users off the hook. An emerging choice will be to completely switch to using the products and services of a new breed of companies where user privacy is a key feature. 

For example, DuckDuckGo, a Google alternative is one of the better known such apps for searching.

One by one, each segment is being targeted by this new generation of up-and-coming privacy-minded apps that are relying on blockchain infrastructures and peer to peer networks to deliver new experiences where the user owns their own data, and no else.

In the e-commerce space, that’s where OpenBazaar comes in.

Yesterday , OpenBazaar (the P2P protocol) launched their long awaited mobile app, Haven to place peer-to-peer commerce in the hands of consumers.

4 years ago, OpenBazaar got started on their vision for free commerce, and they had already delivered a desktop version that does that.

Today’s mobile version makes their vision more easily accessible to consumers, and with some added features.  

What’s unique or interesting about Haven:

  • No listing fees. You’re not paying to list your products.
  • No credit card fees. As a merchant, you are not penalized due to the fees being deducted by credit card companies.
  • Choice of cryptocurrencies. Currently, the platform supports payments in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Zcash (and soon Ether).
  • Escrow services. The presence of escrow services (optional) basically is a kind of reputational feature that gives an added level of confidence between a buyer and seller that don’t know each other, while preserving their anonymity.
  • Private chat. You can instantaneously engage with a seller, buyer or any user over a private chat channel to discuss your transaction or anything related. 
  • Social stream. I can’t think of any other e-commerce application that has a built-in social feed to let users engage with each other, discover new content or publish related material and thoughts, again within a private and secure environment, not available for Google indexing. You can follow users, stores and allow others to follow you.

Technically, there is a breakthrough worth mentioning about the Haven implementation. Every install of the App maintains its own connection to the network and connects directly to other participants. We take this for granted in other mobile apps that typically rely on a Web server, but this is not the case in peer-to-peer networks. In essence, when you’re buying or selling or chatting, it’s all done end-to-end encrypted directly over P2P rather than through the OB1/OpenBazaar servers. The good thing is that users will be actually on a P2P network without even knowing it, because their experience will be similar to that of being on a normal mobile App. This is a breakthrough because most other decentralized App (aka Dapps) typically require the user to first install an add-on like Metamask for example. The future of Dapps will include embedding all the connection logic inside, in order to insulate users from the technical barriers they would have to jump through otherwise.

You might think,- how about Craigslist where you can sell (almost) anything, pseu-anonymously. True, Craigslist and classifieds in general are quite open and cheap to use, but most sellers still need to pay to list their products, and there are no built-in payment capabilities, therefore fraud is difficult to control, especially when selling over distances when the buyer and seller are not meeting in person, or when the product is a digital good. With Haven, you have the benefits of an integrated payment capability alongside an escrow agent to secure the veracity of your transaction and protect you against bad actors.

You can read more about Haven from their blog post introducing it, and you can download the app from either the Google Play or Apple Store.

If you are interested in seeing where the future of e-commerce might be headed, particularly as enabled by blockchain, cryptocurrency, decentralized peer-to-peer technology, and where privacy is a primordial feature, then it’s worth experiencing it by downloading the Haven App

Once you are there, here is the link to my profile where you can follow me as I plan to be an active user, both as a seller and buyer. 

About 13,000 products are currently listed by a few hundred sellers catering to a few thousands worldwide buyers, but this is only the beginning and a good foundation to grow from.

Welcome to the future of privacy-minded peer-to-peer e-commerce!