Bitcoins and Gravy #61: Episode #36 Revisited : Airbitz & Open Bazaar! (Transcript)
Episode notes and comments page: https://letstalkbitcoin.com/blog/post/ep-61-ep-36-revisited-airbitz-open-bazaar
Professional transcription provided by a fan and consultant of the show, who can be found at http://www.diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com
[0:00] John Barrett (Announcer and Host): Welcome to Bitcoins and Gravy, Episode #36. Today, Bitcoins are trading. That’s right. Bitcoins are trading. Mmm…Mmm…Mmm… Now THAT’S gravy!
John : Welcome to "Bitcoins and Gravy", and thanks for joining me today as I podcast from East Nashville, Tennessee, with my trusty sidekick, Maxwell, by my side. Say hello Maxwell.
Maxwell : Grrrrr…..
John : I’m just your average Bitcoin enthusiast who love talking about Bitcoin, and sharing what I learn with you, the listener. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.
[end of intro music]
John : On today’s show I travel to San Diego to speak with Paul Puey http://linkd.in/1JYUT8Y , the CEO and cofounder of Airbitz.co ( https://airbitz.co/ ), a mobile and web app company, soon to be launching a Bitcoin wallet on IOS and Android. Airbitz is also a business directory that helps you find merchants in 14 different countries where Bitcoin is accepted.
[1:02] John : Paul talks to about the launch of their Bitcoin wallet in a few weeks, and how Airbitz’s wallet differs fundamentally from many other Bitcoin wallets.
In the second half of the show. I speak with Sam Patterson (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/sam-patterson/1b/390/94 ), the Operations Lead for https://openbazaar.org/ . Open Bazaar is an open source project to create a decentralized network for commerce online using Bitcoin. Open Bazaar has NO fees and cannot be censored. Sam talks to us about Multisig addresses, notaries, arbiters and how peer-to-peer transactions and open source code of OpenBazaar is going to change how we buy and sell on the internet. In this interview we will find out if the definitive answer to this question : Is it possible for a notary and arbitration network to actually replace Trust?
[2:00] John : All right. Today on the show I am talking to a guy in San Diego, California. Paul Puey, who is the CEO and cofounder of Airbitz.co, which is a mobile and web app company, soon to be launching a bitwallet on IOS and Android. Paul, welcome to the show.
Paul : Thanks a lot. Pleasure being on the show.
John : Oh yeah, so what are you doing in San Diego, man? [laughter]
Paul : San Diego [is] now my home. I actually grew up in the Bay area in San Francisco, but I’ve been in San Diego for about the past five years, and it is where, just about, our entire team of Airbitz is located. We’ve got a great group of talented folks, all based here in San Diego. It’s great being able to work with everybody locally. We know how much companies are moving to a distributed environment, but we find a lot of benefit being able to work with each other locally, in the same place, and being able to interact quite closely.
John : Yeah, and it’s nice to be in San Diego. You’re away from that San Francisco craziness. The tech explosion there has just taken off. I was back in San Francisco in ’89, right before the “dot com” insanity started. I was actually there when the bubble burst. But I know now that San Francisco has changed so much that the tech thing there is just really crazy.
[3:09] So San Diego sounds really nice. I know you have beautiful weather. Here in Nashville we’re having our long, extended fall, which is like San Diego weather. So let’s talk about Airbitz, but before we do, let’s talk a little bit about how you first got involved in Bitcoin. When and why and how?
Paul : So Bitcoin came to me relatively late, compared to a lot of early adopters. Just in April and May of last year. I had invested in some stocks, [and] had some options from prior tech companies that I worked for. I followed the market, and I [knew] a podcaster/blogger who had just mentioned Bitcoin, saying, “Hey, I’m going to put a little bit of money in Bitcoin.” He didn’t really say a thing about it : what it was, how it worked, nothing. I spent the next 3-4 weeks researching it thoroughly; listening to podcasts, reading articles, reading the Satoshi white paper. At the end of those weeks I was just blown away. I decided that this is definitely the next revolution of our world.
[4:06] Obviously it’s financial based, but at the same time it has strong links to technology, which I had a strong interest in being a technologist for pretty much since I had been a kid, and graduated in electrical engineering, and worked in Silicon Valley for quite a number of years.
John : Oh, wow.
Paul : So I learned about it then, and I had actually been in small business at the time. I was working the past eight years in small business, and looking to bridge my experience in small business – consumers and merchants – and bridge that with technology. This was the perfect reentry point. A few months later I put in my two month notice, and said, “You know, I’ve got to do something in the Bitcoin space.” And I started realizing what the pain points were as a Bitcoin user. That’s when I came up with the concept of Airbitz, which is really trying to address the key pain points of an actual Bitcoin user, one who want to use Bitcoin, who wants to promote Bitcoin, and evangelize it to other people. Hence, the Bitcoin business directory - to help you find places to spend your coin – and a simple, easy to use, easy to secure, mobile wallet which addresses a lot of the pain points that we’ve experienced in trying to use Bitcoin.
[5:12] John : Had you all developed mobile apps prior to working on Bitcoin apps? Or is this your first foray into mobile apps?
Paul : I was in visual computing over at Invidio, so I hadn’t done mobile apps. Actually, at the time, when I was still an engineer, mobile apps didn’t really exist. So it’s been that long since I was in technology – working directly in it, although I’ve always been the technologist at these small businesses. However, my cofounders have definitely worked in mobile apps, and in web apps. We have other folks that – even though they are not cofounders, but employees –who have been developing like Android apps for years. So our team has a rich history and experience in mobile app development. We also brought in contractors early on, to get us started. So with respect to mobile apps, we’ve definitely got the experience. And from a UX-UI point of view, that’s something that I’ve always wanted to enter as my first foray into it. But so far feedback has been tremendously positive.
[6:06] I think we have a user experience of flow – a user flow -- that far exceeds anything in the Bitcoin ecosystem, especially for a wallet that provides financial autonomy. That’s my term for, “You own your own private keys.” There’s a lot of wallets out there that are hosted wallets, which is a Circle (https://www.circle.com/en ) or Coinbase ( http://www.coinbase.com ), which have decent user experience, but it’s a challenge to do it in a wallet where you give users control of the private keys. But I think we’ve done a good job.
John : Can you compare yourself at all to something like Mycelium (https://www.mycelium.com/ ). I think that’s the app that I have on my Galaxy S5.
Paul : We’re kind of a different wallet to Mycelium, in that we are definitely targeting mass adoption. We’ve built a wallet that we think a good 90%+ of the population can use. We want to make something that’s very familiar. So to create an account on our wallet a user just needs to provide a username, a password, and a 4-digit withdrawal pin. There’s no need to print a PDF to backup your wallet in case your phone gets destroyed, or you drop it in the ocean. There’s no need to write a 16-word passphrase in order for you to load up your wallet onto another device.
[7:09] It’s simply what people are already accustomed to, which is : a login, a password, and a 4-digit pin. Using that same login and password, you can go to any Android phone of 4.1 and above, punch in that login and password, and all of your funds, and all of your metadata sync up with that device pretty much instantly.
John : Wow!
Paul : You can then use that on an IOS device as well. So you can actually have MULTIPLE devices. You can have a tablet, an IOS device, and Android phone, log into the same account into all three of them, edit some transactions on one, and see it edit automatically on all three.
So we built in device-to-device synchronization, and that synchronization is a means to back up your information as well, because it gets backed up onto cloud servers. But at the same time, even though it FEELS like mobile banking – mobile online banking…
John : Mmm…Hmm.
Paul : Underneath the covers, what’s being implemented is actually very strong client-side encryption, and device-to-device synchronization. So it feels like you’re accessing a server, and the server is doing all the work, but really the server is doing almost NO work. It’s just hosting fully encrypted data, and synchronizing that between your different devices.
[8:11] John : I see. So you can also access this by way of a computer?
Paul : We are strongly focused on mobile, hence the name of our company “AirBitz”, and the wifi logo on top of OUR logo. So we’ve built a mobile client library, and that’s what is underneath the covers of our app. Now, it can be used on desktop. It’s actually harder to develop on mobile than on the desktop, but we’re focused on using mobile because we feel that mobile is, right now, actually your most secure device.
John : I see.
Paul : You look back at a lot of the malware that’s ever existed, and a lot of it will originate on desktops. Much LESS of it will occur on mobile, mainly because of the sandboxing of a lot of these mobile platforms.
John : Explain sandboxing.
Paul : Sandboxing is a means by which an application runs only inside of its own little sandbox. It acts as only its own memory, and only its own drive storage. Sandboxing is generally quite strong on an IOS device, a little bit weaker on Android, and generally significantly weaker on desktops, although that’s definitely improving over the course of the years.
[9:11] But people are accustomed to installing software that originates from anywhere on a desktop -clicking on a link on a web page and installing some software. But do they know that that software is fairly free of any malware. It’s pretty tough to determine that, especially if you are installing software right off any web page.
John : I just interviewed Max Hernandez, who wrote a book called “Thieves Emporium” (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/346807 ). He talks about some of the tech world, and some of the “dark net”, and Tor, and the “badlands”. Some of this is fact, and some of this is fiction, and it kind of melds together. We’re not exactly sure where we are, in many ways.
So there’s this idea that you buy a new Dell computer. It’s not an open source code operating system, right?
Paul : Correct.
John : What do they call it, executable?
Paul : It’s an executable. It’s a compiled executable.
John : Is it true, or is this just a rumor, that part of the operating system has some kind of spyware in there, that if somebody really wanted to access your computer for “national security” reasons, or whatever, they could. Do you know anything about that?
[10:08] Paul : I can’t say that I KNOW, firsthand or with experience with any of the code that goes into any of the operating systems, that that exists. But there is a strong sense of belief that that is very likely. To what extent they can actually capture information is unknown. Could they capture information as it leaves the network port of the phone? Can they capture the screen? Can they capture just data sitting on the flash drive? That part we don’t exactly know. I ‘m sure there’s people out there that DO know the exact, precise details. But I think that’s a strong, strong belief, and I wouldn’t necessarily doubt it. And so there’s a concern from that level, but there’s also the concern of malware that gets onto your phone that isn’t even from the device manufacturer.
John : Mmm…Hmm.
Paul : Meaning just users clicking on links, [and] installing software from who knows where. That is something that is historically much more prevalent on desktop computers. Which, to answer your original question – which we, kind of, sidetracked on – was, “Do we have something available on desktop?” And right now, at this point, we don’t.
[11:11] John : Mmm…Hmm.
Paul : So, we’re focused entirely on mobile, and we think that a wallet should fit in your back pocket, or in your purse. And a desktop doesn’t fit very well. [laughter] Although we will be launching, sometime next year, tablet versions that are much more large-screen friendly. For the sake of being able to spend, and receive, and actually do a LOT of functionality on a wallet, we’ve put a [ton?] that fits very well and that is very usable on a mobile device.
John : Wow. That sounds pretty powerful to be. So you can lose your Android, or you could lose your iPhone, and let’s say you lost all of your data - because you didn’t have it stored with Google, or in iTunes, or whatever – then you can get a brand new phone. And as long as you remembered your password and you login, your wallet, and whatever Bitcoin funds you had in it, would be easily accessible to you. Is that right?
[12:01] That’s absolutely right. And it’s not just the keys that are accessible, but we implement a lot of metadata that the user can add to every single transaction. This is another pain point that we had identified in trying to use Bitcoin. It’s that you use a wallet, you spend some money or you receive some money, and so a week later, after you’ve spent or received money, all you see is a long Bitcoin address for that transaction, and an amount. You have no recollection of what that was remotely for. So we’ve allowed a user to add a ton of metadata to each transaction. Such as : who the payee was. What is a person out of their address book? Was it a business out of our business directory? What’s the category? Was it an income, expense, a purchase of Bitcoin, a sell of Bitcoin?
Then there’s the generic notes field. All of that information is [on?] the client’s side. So, as a company, we at Airbitz have no access to all of that information. It’s entirely just for the user, and it’s synchronized between all of their different devices. So unlike a lot of other wallets, where maybe they back up your private key, so that your funds are backed up, we also back up all of your transactional metadata. So it really feels like mobile online banking, but underneath the covers it very, very much isn’t.
[13:06] John : Yeah, you know, I was a little bit disappointed in Coinbase the other day. I had sent a little bit of Bitcoin to my brother, months and months ago. I wanted to send him a little bit more, so I went to Coinbase and I couldn’t find his address. It showed that I had sent, but I couldn’t actually find his address. In other words, it wasn’t really intuitive. Now, it may have been user error. It may have been MY problem. It may have been some place where it was actually easy to find. But even though, Coinbase – you know, they’re a San Francisco company. They’re a bunch of smart guys and gals, putting this stuff together. Even so, the whole idea of something that is intuitive is [that] you’re not searching and learning. You’re using your intuition, “Where WOULD it be?” How about right in front of my face. Wouldn’t that be nice, right?
Paul : Right. I totally agree. And I think that’s the thing that we focused on, to the minutia of detail. We take every single screen, every single tap, and ask ourselves, “Is it obvious from this point?” And are these actions ones that a user needs to do with any level of frequency? If they are we want to make them quickly accessible.
[14:00] Are they “tier 2” actions? Well, we want to make those maybe an extra click away. Are they “tier 3” actions? We really try to determine what we believe people are going to be using most often, and make they flow into those actions as seamless as possible. We’ve burned a ton of hours debating amongst ourselves like, “Okay. Where should this go? Where should that go?” And so far the feedback has been tremendously positive. People say, “Wow! It’s pretty fluid. I can get from A to B pretty quickly.” That’s important to us, and I think we’ve had that focus far more than even larger companies such as Coinbase have put into it. They’ve got other problems to solve, which are arguably much more difficult, such as the regulatory aspect, and being able to connect with banks.
John : Right.
Paul : That’s [what] we DON’T want to deal with. As a company, we are a true Bitcoin company, in that we allow the user to hold their own funds. We never deal in fiat currency. And instead of putting time, energy and money into that aspect of running a Bitcoin company – the whole fiat, and banks, and regulatory aspect – we want to put the time and energy into a great user experience, and into the great technical aspects of the wallet as well. As opposed to the regulatory, fiat aspect of a Bitcoin company.
[15:02] John : Okay. Now I know my listeners are going to ask, “What is that bell that just rang for the second time in the background?”
Paul : Oh, I apologize. That was just my phone. I’m getting a text message. [laughter]
John : Oh, okay. Because it sounded like you’d say a certain phrase, and then in my mind you were ringing this big, brass bell, and that was your way to get people to remember, “And remember this point…DING!”
Paul : That’s not a bad idea.
John : So, I’ve always thought, whether it’s auto manufacturing, or manufacturing a new cell phone, or an app for a phone, that these developers really need to bring in somebody that is just your average user off the street. Just grab them, bring them in, and say, “Hey, walk through this. See what you can find as a problem. See what doesn’t feel intuitive to you. Tell us about it, and write up a little report on the good, the bad and the ugly of this new car seat, of this device, of this app.”
Paul : Right.
John : So are you guys doing things like that. Obviously, you are going to talk to your friends, and say, “What do you think about this?” But are you getting OUTSIDE of that tech thinking? Because sometimes, I’ve found, that when you get too many tech people together, you might just need some guy from the bar, who’s slightly intoxicated, to bring him in…
[16:07] Paul : Yeah, exactly. [laughter]
John : and say, “Hey buddy. Let’s see YOU use this after you’ve had four or five beers. How well does it work for you?” And the guy’s like, “Well, it worked really great, except for this one thing.” Then you all go, “Ah, man. We never thought about that, because we’re not drunks!” That’s probably a bad example, but you know what I mean? How do you vet that? How do you get those answers?
Paul : We’ve done that. We’ve actually shown the app, and we’ve had a beta launch for about two months, and gotten feedback from the community. In a way, I’m kind of the starting point, because I have not been a technologist, a developer, for eight years. Instead, I’ve been working in small business. I’ve been the guy behind the counter at a restaurant, bar, nightclub. I’ve been working in a climbing gym. I’ve been an outdoor instructor. So I’ve dealt with the technology from a consumer point of view, as opposed to the point of view of a developer. So that’s given me a tremendous amount of insight onto the pain points – the hiccups – of a lot of the technology that’s out there for consumers and merchants. Hence, this has been my opportunity to re-enter technology, but with a refreshed viewpoint on what UX SHOULD be, and how it can be significantly improved.
[17:06] So, I’ve kind of been the launching pad for a different, and more clearly though-out UX. Then we’ve also bounced around with people who are not in the technology space, and gotten great feedback. So it’s something we definitely value, especially [because] we know that Bitcoin tends to be a little gender biased to the male side of the equation. But we’ve gotten a lot of feedback from females, and they’ve been, so far, overall very positive on what we’ve built, but also given us some good feedback, as well.
John : So okay, Airbitz.co, a mobile and web app company. Can you tell us a little bit about your team? How many people, and how is that divided up?
Paul : Yeah. So our team is approximately is approximately 11 folks. Our CTO, Tim Horton (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/tim-horton/83/126/5a6 ), is an amazing developer. He is capable of full stack – everything from the back end of our web site to IOS front end development. He’s done Android as well, [and] Java. He’s also working on what we call the “core” of our wallet, which is a CC++ implementation that’s cross-platform. It runs on both IOS and Android.
[18:02] So he’s an amazing developer that we’re incredibly happy to have, and he’s one of our cofounders. William Swanson (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/william-swanson/a6/89/834 ) is our Bitcoin core developer. So he’s , kind of, our chief scientist in the Bitcoin land, and knows and understands the protocol tremendously well.
We have Damon Catillo ( https://www.linkedin.com/in/damiancutillo ), who’s our web developer as well. He’s been working on the web for near a decade, plus. We also have a dedicated Android developer, [and] a dedicated IOS developer. We have three curators. So there are folks that curate the business directory, and they also QA our wallet. And we have some part-time folks who are doing marketing for us. I’m our CEO, cofounder. Our CFO is Scott Morgan (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/scott-morgan/9/7b6/505 ), who has been in finance and insurance for quite a number of years. He was a CPA as well.
So we’ve got a great team. I’m really happy to have them together. I feel like probably one of the most fortunate things that I’ve had, in building Airbitz, is the team that we have. That’s what I’m absolutely most proud of, our team. No question about it. We wouldn’t be where we are today without these exact people working on the project.
[19:05] John : Man, it sounds like a great team. It sounds pretty exciting. You know, I wish I were part of a team. [laughter] It’s just me and my dog Max now. Just to be part of a team. You probably get together every once in a while after you’ve had a hard day of work, and you go out to dinner together. You maybe go down to the beach together. [You] have little siores where you get together and talk about tech, but you’re also drinking a little bit of wine. That sounds like a lot of fun, man.
Paul : We haven’t done the beach yet, although we do “Taco Tuesdays” pretty often. There’s a taco shop about a block and a half away from our place that takes Bitcoin. So we’ll do that. And we are headed to the Vegas conference in about a week, and if the weather holds up we’re going to do a little bit of a rock climbing retreat, since there are some great outdoor rocks over near Vegas, and the Red Rock Canyon area.
John : Oh wow, that sounds great. So I always like to ask people I interview for the show, “What is your overall opinion about Bitcoin? Where it’s headed? And where you anticipate it being in, let’s just say, five years from now?” I’m talking about Bitcoin the investment, the currency, or the token that a lot of people hold, and a lot of people use, and that a lot of merchants now accept.
[20:13] But also just Bitcoin the protocol, that base level protocol that’s changing finance as we know it. What’s your opinion?
Paul : My take is, “Gosh, in five years every single person on the planet is going to have known about Bitcoin, how much it’s incorporated, and what part of our economy it fits into.” I can’t help but think that it’s, at minimum, it’s going to be a strong way that different nations interact with each other, as a global reserve currency. Because clearly having a single country’s fiat currency doesn’t solve the problem of, “What do we trade in?” And we know that gold doesn’t work, just because it’s too hard to transport. I can’t help but think that this is definitely the strongest solution as a global reserve currency. How well we use it as a transactional currency on a day-to-day level is going to be heavily determined by how easy we make it to use.
[21:02] And that’s getting better and better, and I can’t help but think that in five years, compared to the PAST five years… Where we were five years ago, and the amount of infrastructure we were building, and the amount of innovation that was happening on a month-by-month basis for the past five years, versus what we think will happen in the next five years, gosh. What we did in five years, since 2009, we’ll probably triple in five years, from now to 2020. So, it’s going to be that ease of use; make it fast, make it simple. I can’t help but think that in five years we’ll all be using it to a strong degree.
I think fiat will still be around, but as a currency that is used by individuals and merchants, the merchant adoption scene is exploding. We’re getting more and more and more merchants. So I don’t see that slowing down. Now we just need to actually make it as easy as possible so that people who are not Bitcoin enthusiasts can manage to use it. So in five years I think we’re going to be much further along than we realize. I like to not speculate on it – or at least not to tell other people what I would speculate on it as an investment.
[22:04] John : Mmm…Hmm.
Paul : It hard to say what the price will be. So many things determine that, and we will have strong ups and downs, like we’ve had in the past. And I think we’re going to weather quite a few storms. There’s going to be quite a few storms with respect to price, and we’ll have to weather that, and bounce back the way Bitcoin has in the past.
John : Mmm…Hmm.
Paul : I think a lot of the bounce-back is going to come from people realizing its value, and companies like ours, and many others, building out the ecosystem. You had asked the question about Bitcoin as a protocol. This, to me, is a bit of a hot topic, because I talk to a lot of people about it. There’s been so much focus on the extension of the protocol through other currencies, through forks of Bitcoin, [and] the whole 2.0 aspect of it. My take is [that] those excite me. I think those are going to be very important. Those will make the concept of crypto-currency appeal to even more people than it does today as JUST a currency.
John : Mmm…Hmm.
Paul : But I think that Bitcoin 1.0 provides tremendous value all on its own, just as a currency. And I ask myself this, “What is the need in our global market for a unique, decentralized, no government-controlled currency?”
[23:09] I think it’s huge. Especially, as many have said, it’s huge for developing countries; countries with a currency that is holding a lot of the people down. Now if we look at 2.0 the protocol, smart contracts, how big is there of a global need for smart contracts? We’d like to think that we could replace lawyers with smart contracts. I think it’s much harder than we realize, to replace all those lines of contracts with a digital contract. I think the need is significantly lower, and I think the need tends to be a lot more [of] a developed country need. Whereas as a currency, it’s a global need.
John : Yes.
Paul : We need this, first and foremost. So our goal is to build Bitcoin 1.99999… And when everyone understands and trusts what a crypto-currency is, and what it can do, [and] how secure it can be, then putting our faith into smart contracts becomes much easier. It becomes much easier to DESCRIBE to people. People can barely understand how Bitcoin 1.0 works, let alone trying to explain to them how a smart contract implemented on a blockchain would work. That’s the “run before we can fly” type of theory, and we want to be running as fast as we can on [this protocol?].
[24:17] So I think [that] in five years we’ll have amazing smart contract technology. I would, as a preference, like a LITTLE bit more of a shift in resources, and money, and effort into building out 1.0 first.
John : Yeah. I wish there was a massive fund of money, or Bitcoin, that could be paid to developers to continue to develop 1.0. Gavin and those guys are doing a great job, I know. But I’ve also heard over the past couple of years that there’s a lack of funding. And I think, “How could there be a lack of funding for something that’s so important?” That shocks me when I hear that.
Paul : Actually, I can see how there is a lack of funding, in the sense that Gavin and those developers are working on one implementation of Bitcoin. Where the lack of funding lies is in that. That is just one implementation, and we need many different implementations.
[25:02] Even Gavin himself has admitted that having one implementation running 99% of the nodes on the network is incredibly unhealthy for the network. We support this because we’ve contributed tremendous amount of effort into an open source implementation of Bitcoin that is NOT the original Satoshi code. We’re contributing and utilizing a project called LibBitcoin (http://libbitcoin.dyne.org/ ), which is used and developed by the Dark Wallet (https://www.darkwallet.is/ ) developers, as well as the OpenBazaar developers. So, it’s a complete reimplementation, from scratch. It fits the client-server model of wallets today, which is not what the original Bitcoin core was designed for. In that essence, we’re trying to contribute to the ecosystem in ways that other Bitcoin projects aren’t. And we’ve definitely had to put in quite a bit of effort, because it is a nascent implementation that needed a lot of work, and we’ve hardened it tremendously since we started working on it, to the point where e can actually ship product with it. And I wish that other companies looked at that. Especially even other alt-coins. If they would look at putting their coin not on Bitcoin D, but onto LibBtcoin, or Bitcoin J, or BTCD. Which are, again, just other implementations of the same protocol. It’s all Bitcoin…
[26:12] John : Right.
Paul : It’s just growing the ecosystem such that if there is a bug in one the entire network doesn’t have the bug. That’s our goal, to have three to five implementations. [If] you introduce a bug in one, it just gets out outvoted by the rest of the network.
John : Yeah, that’s important. That’s REALLY important.
Paul : Incredibly. Incredibly important. We probably would have shipped our wallet four months earlier, if we decided to just go with current, existing implementations and APIs. But we said, “No. We want to support a different implementation.” We think this is going to be the best one, long-term, even though it’s going to hurt for us short-term. We’re going to have to put more effort into it short term. But we also believe in the fundamentals of the group that’s developing LibBitoin. They strongly believe in privacy, and financial autonomy. Like, own your own money, and have privacy in your transactions. We believe in that strongly, and so it’s nice to hop on a project that believes in that.
[27:03] I think that’s HUGELY important. I just met a young guy the other day who is working for a company – I won’t name the company – but he’s working in their anti-money laundering (AML) department. He and I had a discussion about Bitcoin, and basically I could not get him to see the importance of Bitcoin. All that he could see – and it sounds like it was from his corporate training – was that Bitcoin represents a huge risk, and it represents a great challenge for people who are working in the anti-money laundering field. What would you say to these people when it comes to Bitcoin? Of course we know that, yes, Bitcoin can be used to launder money. But we also know that the US dollar – when it comes to laundering money – is the number one vehicle, right? That’s just a fact. It has been for years. Bitcoin is a sliver of the big pie chart, right. The biggest piece of the pie chart is the US dollar. And the little sliver – you can put a piece of paper in there, maybe – that represents how often Bitcoin is used for money laundering. But what do you say to people when they say, “This Bitcoin thing is just going to make money laundering for terrorists so easy.” What do you say to them? How do you combat that argument?
[28:16] Paul : You took a majority of the words right out of my mouth. That’s the classic - and really common, answer , which is very correct – that Bitcoin can be used for money laundering. And so many other things that are somewhat innocent can be used for very evil things. In a way, [if] a lot of criminals that did do money laundering converted over to Bitcoin, the government would probably have a better chance of catching them.
John : I think it’s funny when people just get on a bandwagon, which is, “We’ve got to stop the terrorists. We’ve got to stop the money laundering. Bitcoin is the thing that’s going to allow money laundering to be easy, so if we stop Bitcoin we stop the terrorists.” It’s a very, very immature, media -driven way of looking at it, which really doesn’t take into consideration so many things that are important, in terms of what Bitcoin CAN do, for the majority of people, and how the majority of people are going to use Bitcoin.
[29:04] I think that’s really what we need to look at. When I comes to privacy, and when it comes to human rights, we need to look at what is going to be the best for the greatest number of people? Yes, there will always be bad players. We know that there are always going to be bad players. But, if Bitcoin had never come along, the bad players would still have existed. They’d still be laundering money. Wachovia, HSBC, would still be laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels, and for the Columbian drug cartels, or what have you. Like you said, it really isn’t about Bitcoin. It’s really about how can we stop these crimes from happening? And let’s start with, and continue the work that law enforcement is doing in stopping money laundering with the major vehicle for money laundering. That is, the US dollar. Let’s continue to put most of our effort into that, and not shift over to putting lot of effort into Bitcoin, when to date there is really no evidence that any money laundering, of any significance, has been done using Bitcoin AT ALL.
[30:05] Paul : Yeah, let’s continue to do that, and most of all, let’s not compromise everyone else in an attempt capture the illicit activity of the few. That’s the big thing. And we’ve – over the past few decades, especially since things like 911 – have been willing to give up a lot of our privacy in the name of protecting ourselves, not realizing that it’s not necessarily providing a whole lot of protection for us. We’re just giving up our own freedoms.
John : I love the idea that you guys are doing something. You’re finessing your way into the Bitcoin space, with Airbitz.co. I’ve been speaking with Paul Puey, who is the cofounder and CEO of Airbitz.co, a mobile and web app company that will be launching a Bitcoin wallet on IOS and Android very soon. Paul, how long until you all launch?
Paul : We’re launching in early October.
John : Woo-hoo! Coming up soon, man. Just in a couple of weeks. So Paul, can you tell our listeners how they can find you?
Paul : How they can find us? You can head over to our web site at Airbitz.co. You can also find us in the Google Play Store, and the Apple App store. Just look for Airbitz, and you’ll find our app. Right now it’s a business directory. It helps you find merchants in 14 different countries that take Bitcoin. In a few weeks it will also become a wallet.
[31:14] John : All right. Great. Hey, thank you so much Paul, and I look forward to talking with you soon.
Paul : Great. Thanks a lot, John.
John : Thanks. Bye.
Paul : Bye.
John : I know that it may sound absurd, but I have for you a magic word. And today the magic word is “trust”. T – R – U – S – T.
[music and lyrics to “Ode to Satoshi” song] http://bitcoinsandgravy.com/ode-to-satoshi-the-official-bitcoin-song
John Barrett : Now climb aboard y’all! This train is bound for glory… and there’s plenty of room for all…
“Well Satoshi Nakamoto, that's a name I love to say, And we don't know much about him, but he came to save the day. When he wrote about the way things are, And the way things ought to be, He gave us all a protocol this world had never seen.
Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name.
[32:20] Down the road it will be told about the Death of Old Mount Gox, About traders trading alter coins, and miners mining blocks. But them good old boys back in Illinois, And on down through Tennessee, See they don't care to be a millionaire, They're just wanting to be free.
Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name.
From the ghettos of Calcutta, to the halls of Parliament, While the bankers count our money out for every government. Oh, Bitcoin flies on through the skies of virtuality, A promise to deliver us from age-old tyranny.
[33:23] Oh Bitcoin! As you're going into the old Blockchain, Oh Bitcoin! I know you're going to reign, gonna’ reign, Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your name. Till everybody knows, everybody knows, Till everybody knows your -- "Give me some Exposure" -- Everybody knows your name.
Singing, Oh Lord, pass me some more, Oh Lord, before I have to go. Oh Lord, pass me some more, Oh Lord . . . before I have to . . . Go . . .
[instrumental finale] [applause]
John : Oh-ho! Thank you East Nashville! Y’all be good to each other out there, ya’ hear? [end of song]
[34:30] John : Today on the show I welcome Sam Patterson (https://www.linkedin.com/pub/sam-patterson/1b/390/94 ), the Operations Lead for https://openbazaar.org/ . OpenBazaar is an open source project to create a decentralized network for peer-to-peer commerce online using Bitcoin. According to the web site, it has no fees, and cannot be censored. Put simply, it’s the baby of Ebay and Bittorrent (http://www.bittorrent.com/ ). Sam, welcome to the show.
Sam : Thanks so much for having me.
John : Where do we begin, Sam? Do you want to tell our listeners about OpenBazaar?
Sam : Sure. The goal is to create a decentralized marketplace for trade online. Right now, if you are doing commerce online, you have to use CENTRALIZED services. So that’s Ebay, or Amazon, or any of these companies. The platforms that they use are centralized, meaning they have a server, or many, and folks will connect from all over the world to those servers, and engage in trade with other people doing the same thing.
[35:31] So OpenBazaar is a DECENTRAL marketplace. There is no central server that folks run their commerce through. So it cannot be censored [by] any organization [or] company. Also, there are no mandatory fees. Now to be clear, there are some payments and stuff you can make on the OpenBazaar network, if you want to increase your reputation, and that sort of thing. But it’s not to any central organization. It’s not to the developers. It’s just to make the system work better. So no mandatory fees, [and] no censorship. We think this gives folks a new avenue for online trade that didn’t exist before. So that’s what we’re trying to do with OpenBazaar.
[36:12] John : Okay.
Sam : The history of it starts back in April. Amir Taaki and a few folks from the Airbitz group did a hack-a-thon up in Toronto. And Amir’s group did the winning entry, which was called Dark Market. The goal of Dark Market was basically what we just talked about, a decentralized platform for trade. It was a 36 hour project. They showed off a “proof of concept” at the hack-a-thon, which they won. But because they’ve been busy with things like Dark Wallet, they decided not to continue development of Dark Market. So Brian Hoffman, who’s the lead developer on the OpenBazaar project, decided to fork it, rename it – there was some controversy about the name – so to just sidestep all of that he renamed it OpenBazaar. And it’s been in development ever since.
[37:04] John : I think OpenBazaar sounds much more friendly than Dark Market.
Sam : Yeah. We tend to agree. At the time, on Reddit especially, there was a big controversy over what it should be called. A lot of people were pushing to call it the “Free Market”, which sounds like a clever name for it, but unfortunately for trying to do search results, and that kind of thing, it’s just not going to work. So the name stuck, and we like it.
John : Well, I like the idea. And, of course, I know that there are some people listening who are applauding, and saying, “This is the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Then there are other people who are saying, “Decentralized? Uncensored? Image what that’s going to bring. That’s going to bring all of the crazy people. All of the gun runners. All the drug addicts, All of the child porn freaks. All of these horrible people out of the woodwork, and they’re just salivating, “Ah! We’ll be on the dark market… We’ll be on OpenBazaar. We will be able to do, sell, [and] buy anything we want to, and nobody can stop us.” So how do you answer those fears?
[38:07] Before you answer - if you have time here in the interview - I would love to read a little bit from “Thieves Emporium” by Max Hernandez. I just interviewed Max in a previous show last week, and that subject that I just brought up is actually addressed. But how do you address that?
Sam : So we hear this kind of thing a lot. There’s a few ways that you can address it, but I like to back up for a second, and try to put this into context. So the internet, itself, decentralized how a lot of people were able to interact with each other in society, and share information. Then the next step was something like Bitcoin, which is now decentralization of money, in many ways.
John : Mmm…Hmm.
Sam : And when you have things like BitTorrent, which is decentralized data sharing,. We’ve seen this trend toward people being able to interact directly with each other, and the results of that has not been the destruction of society, right?
[39:07] John : Mmm…Hmm.
Sam : I mean, yes, there are some people who choose to use those things in ways that we don’t all agree with. But generally speaking, the internet and things like Bitcoin have unleashed many positive effects on society, and I don’t see any reason to think why decentralized trade isn’t going to do the same thing.
I don’t know if people who disagree with this have a fundamentally different view of humanity?
John : [laughter]
Sam : Sort of like a Rorschach test, [on] how you believe people interact with each other. But yeah, we recognize that some people are going to use it in ways that we wouldn’t agree with. But a majority of people won’t, and [so] why cut off the ability for people to trade directly with each other, and have no fees in the process - a much more efficient way that a lot of people can really benefit from. Especially people who are in developing countries, [as you] cut out the middleman entirely.
John : Right.
Sam : Why would you try to disparage that, and shut that out, just because there are SOME people who are going to use it for things that you disagree with?
[40:07] A more specific view – I mean, we’ve already had the Beta running for about a month now, almost a month. In fact, Beta 2.0 is going to be released today, September 30th. We just don’t see that on the network right now. If you actually look at what people are listing, it’s: organic honey from a beekeeper in Ohio, and people making garlic and sauerkraut. There’s actually a lot of organic food on the network, which is interesting.
John : That’s great.
Sam : There’s a store that’s selling a bunch of retro Atari games. There’s all kinds of people selling just really neat stuff, and we haven’t seen anything illicit. So I think those fears are completely overblown.
John : Yeah, I think they’re overblown. So do you mind if I read, for just a second, from “Thieves Emporium”?
Sam : Yeah, please do.
John : Okay. So the main character, she is a former prostitute, and her name is Fawn. I think it’s “Dancing Fawn”. That’s a nice that was given to her when she first entered into this world of the “badlands”. That is the Dark Net, right?
[41:01] She’s looking, for the very first time, at the index of services, that include : Botnet rentals, custom cracks, custom wheels – that’s referring to custom computers that allow you to get on the Dark Net - discrete delivery, escorts, escrow, extraction, forgers, investigations, investments, persuasion, termination, waste disposal. Then it says, ‘or if she wanted to buy something, there was : counterfeit currencies, cracker products, documents, goods without titles, IDs. kiddy porn, meds, narcotics, snitches, snuff films, weapons, wheels. And for everyone who wanted to sell, someone was also advertising to buy. There were even help wanted ads, if she ever decided to give up her business.”
The someone else that she ends up getting into a chat with in a chat box, names Nairobi, asks her, after she reads through all of this, “Well, what do you think?” Nairobi asks, “Does it bother you?” And Fawn says, “Yes.” And Nairobi asks, “What bothers you the most?” And Fawn answers, “The violence. The killing.” Nairobi says, “And that doesn’t go on in the real world?” On page 98 now. Fawn says, “It’s just not so open here.” She means, in the real world.
[42:10] Nairobi says, “Does that make a difference? If a killer gets hired here, or in some real world bar, does it matter? Someone still dies. You still live your life, don’t you, in the real world?” Fawn says, “Yes.” Nairobi says, “Do the same here. You can’t control what other people do, so don’t accept the burden of their actions. Just forget about it, just like you do in the real world, and go on with your life.” And then Fawn asks, “But doesn’t it scare you?” Nairobi answers, “Everything scares me, here and in the real world. Be careful, everywhere, but don’t dwell on it.”
The reason I like that conversation between those two is because Nairobi answers her with the truth, “Hey, bad things go on in the real world. All of the bad things that anybody could imagine go on in the real world all the time. And we know what funds most of those things that go on in the real world, and that’s fiat currency – the paper currency that people hand back and forth, right?”
[43:07] John : So yes, I think [that] on OpenBazaar certainly there will always be bad players, just like there are always going to be bad players in the real world. But I don’t see all of the people concerned about this on the internet going out there in real world and marching to try to stop gun running, or drugs, or child porn, or any of this. Certainly there are people who have a cause, they go after it, [and] maybe they dedicate their lives to it, or write a book about it, and they’re really concerned. But your average citizen, the average person who’s going to whine about an uncensored OpenBazaar, most of those people are not doing anything to stop the bad stuff in the real world. So why are they so concerned with wanting to stop the potential for the bad stuff in the cyber world?
Sam : Yeah. I think people naturally are just skeptical of many new technologies, unless they can clearly ONLY see the positives. If there are any negatives, those tend to be blown out of proportion. [44:05] I think what you just read is interesting in that, in a sense, it’s not as though these markets are CREATING a lot of these new, unsavory actions. It’s just reflective of what exists in society already. Would we rather that stuff not exist at all? Yes. But it does exist, and it’s just a new technology for people to engage in it.
To be clear, our goal with OpenBazaar, even though we are creating it in a way that cannot be censored, just because of its architecture, our goal is NOT to facilitate any of that. I mean, we’re trying to be very clear. Our goal is to facilitate people engaging in voluntary trade that harms no one, and just helps individuals and communities. And we really think it’s going to do that. There is no question in our minds that most of what is going to happen on the network is really just going to help empower people to pursue their own ends in ways that don’t harm anyone.
John : This thing sounds great. I am 100% behind you guys. So how do you quell someone’s fears if they say, “It sounds to me like it’s just going to be another Silk Road.” And you know the bad rap that Silk Road has.
[45:09] Sam : Right. So when people talk about the Silk Road, I try to make it clear how we distinguish ourselves from them. Which is, the Silk Road was a centralized service, right? It was directly controlled by one person, or a small group of people.
John : “The Dread Pirate Roberts”.
Sam : That’s right. Which was being operated for profit. The Dread Pirate Roberts, and his associates, made a lot of money, a lot of Bitcoin. And it was catering to a specific subset of the population – people who wanted MOSTLY to engage in illicit activity. Now there was some legitimate activity on there, but that gets overlooked.
So the fact that it was centralized, it was run for profit, and it was marketed to people engaging in illicit activity, is completely different from OpenBazaar. Which is, NOT centralized. No one controls the network. There is no end goal that it’s being run toward by any organization. It’s just a peer-to-peer network of people engaging in trade with each other.
[46:08] John : Mmm…Hmm.
Sam : It’s not being run for profit. The development team is not making money from this. We don’t have a business model. This is really just us trying to give something valuable to the community. And it’s not being targeted to a specific subset of the population. It’s an open network that anyone can freely join for any purpose. So, I fundamentally reject the Silk Road characterization. I think they’re really just different all together.
John : It sounds like this is something that is going to fly, and is going to do really well. So I know [that] most of my listeners out there are familiar with the concept of open source versus closed source, or proprietary. Can you explain, just briefly, what you mean by “open source”, for people who are not familiar with that?
Sam : Yeah. It is what it sounds like, which is that the source code - which is how the program itself runs - is open. Anyone can view it, make sure that the code is not doing anything malicious on their machine. [47:08] Also, we use GitHub, which is one of the most common ways for people to collaborate on open source projects. Anyone can join the project and start proposing how they can change the code, or asking questions on how the code works. Fortunately, we have seen a HUGE influx of folks doing just that on our project. It’s been really exciting to watch. So Brian Hoffman forked the code back at the end of April. Since that point, we’ve had about 50 different people contribute to the project in one way or another.
John : Wow.
Sam : Which is pretty good for an open source project. Most of those have only contributed a little bit here and there. But we’ve had a pretty good sized core team in there contributing code.
On GitHub, how it works is you can open issues, which are basically like asking questions, or raising a red flag if something is an issue. Or you can submit what is called a “pull request”, which means you are specifically saying, “Here is how the code should change.” You’re submitting your own code.
[48:07] Since the project started we’ve had about 700 issues, or pull requests, submitted, and I believe about 400 of those have come in just the last month. Because we went into Beta a month ago. We’ve had a huge influx of people using the platform, and people joining the project in order to help us make it a better product. So we’ve been very excited to see the community response to what we’ve been doing. And this could not happen if it were no open source code. When you have proprietary code, closed source, other people cannot see and review your code. Open source has made this happen, and it’s been really exciting.
John : So I know a lot of people will ask, “Well, if it’s open source, and there’s no central authority, and you guys aren’t going to make any money at it, is ANYBODY going to make any money? How is this worth it for you guys if there’s no money involved?” I mean, I think I know the answer to that, personally. But a lot of people don’t understand that. “Why are you doing this if you’re not going to make a lot of money off of it?”
[49:01] Sam : Yeah, it’s a great question, and we DO get that all the time as well. There’s a few ways to answer it. One, the most simple, is [that] we want it to exist, and so, therefore, we’re doing it. That’s just the most simple way to answer it. All of the people on the project are, of course, bi Bitcoin users. And we want a marketplace out there to spend our Bitcoin on, and do it in a way that does not have fees, and isn’t censored. So, we just want it to exist, so we’re doing it.
Also, in terms of how our TIME is being rewarded, most of the core members of the team have full-time, stable jobs and careers. Actually, many of us have families, and we’re not hurting to be able to spend our time on this. We can do it without having to have our costs recouped, in terms of time investment.
John : Mmm…Hmm.
Sam : So we really are just, essentially, donating our time to the community. Right now there is not a clean path to how we’re getting rewarded financially for it. Down the road, maybe we start a 501(C)3 – “The Open Bazaar Foundation”, or whatnot - and we get community donations to continue development. I don’t know what it’s going to look like in the future, but because we want it to exist, we’re doing it. [50:04] We HAVE been approached by a lot of alt-coins, to incorporate into the platform. We’ve been approached by people who want us to make it an app coin. We’ve been approached for some seed funding as well. And we haven’t gone down any of those paths, because we want to make sure the community recognizes that we are NOT doing this for our own profit. This is not “vaporware”. That we’re not making promises that we can’t keep. There’re a lot of projects out there that are DOING that. We just want to make sure that we have community support down the road. So I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like in the future, a year from now. Is there going to be an official Open Bazaar Organization? Or are we just going to release the code – well, it’s already out there. Are we just going to be continually releasing code, and letting people do what they want? I don’t know where it’s going. But it’s exciting to be a part of, and clearly, the Bitcoin community finds it pretty valuable. We’ve gotten good, positive feedback from them. So we’re just going to keep going, and see where it ends up.
John : I love it. So, can you walk us through a transaction? Let’s say I want to buy some honey, and I want to buy a hand-knit hat. I imagine a lot of people from Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/ ) are going to go over to OpenBazaar, once they find out about it. So let’s say I want to buy some honey from a local beekeeper, and I want to buy a knit hat, from someone who knits their own Alpaca hats, let’s say.
[51:16] Sam : Yeah.
John : It doesn’t have to be Alpaca. It can be anything else. Maybe they’re using Husky – Max, sorry about that. So yeah, can you walk me through it? And is it that my only option is to pay you with Bitcoin. Is that the idea?
Sam : Yeah. We’ve actually had a few people from Etsy move over to OpenBazaar, or at least list products on both platforms, which is cool. So the process is the same, for honey or a hat. The way it works is he seller has an object, or a service, that they want to put on the network. They have the program running on their local computer. That makes them a node in this peer-to-peer network. So when you download the program and run it, you are now connected to everyone else doing the same thing. You publish what we call a “contract”. It actually uses Ricardian contracts, which we don’t have to get into, but it’s a special contract that contains all the data needed to give people information about your product, as well as digital signature, so that there can’t be fraud on the network.
[52:10] John : Okay.
Sam : So you put in your details about the honey you want to sell. You put in the price that you want to sell it for , [and] any other details you want. Then you publish it to the network. Now the buyer goes on the network, and there’s a couple of ways they can find your product. One, is they can navigate directly to your store front, with a link, like anything else. Or the other is that they can just use a search terms. [Let’s] say they search for “honey”, or “organic food”, or whatnot. They’ll see your honey pulled up in the search results. So they click on it if they like the price, and then they can go ahead and purchase it.
John : Okay.
Sam : OpenBazaar is a little different than centralized platforms, in the sense that in order to not get scammed, you have to have a trusted third party. Most of the centralized platforms ARE the trusted third party, right? [So] Ebay has buyer protection, [and] that kind of thing.
[53:02] OpenBazaar uses what’s called “notaries”. A notary is a trusted third party in the network, who is also running the OpenBazaar program – just like the buyers and sellers are. A contract is created when you purchase and item. The third party notarizes that contract. So they basically say, “Both parties have agreed to it, and I’ve observed this.” And they create a multi-signature address, which uses two of three signatures to allow the funds to move. So, for people who aren’t familiar with multi-signature, or “multisig”, essentially it breaks up a Bitcoin private key - you can view it like this - into three places, and you’re forced to use a certain number of those for the transaction to go through. In our case you have to use two of three.
So it allows you to engage in trade where two of three people must agree on how the funds are sent, for it to happen. The notary creates this multisig, which is created from the keys of all three users. Then the buyer sends the funds to that multisig address directly.
[54:08] John : Mmm…Hmm.
Sam : Once it’s in that multisig, it requires that two of the three parties agree to it being sent somewhere. So what’s going to happen MOST of the time is that you have an honest buyer and an honest seller, and the honey – once it’s in the multisig – the seller will send the honey to the buyer. They’ll put in an address that they want to have the Bitcoin sent to, at the end, from the multisig. Then once they say that they’ve shipped the product, that is one of the three signatures. Once the buyer receives the honey, and it is in good order and they’re happy, they go on the platform and they click, “Release funds to seller.” That’s TWO of the three signatures needed. And the funds then go to that final address, and everything has been done.
So the notary actually didn’t do anything except for create that multisig in the first place.
[55:00] Now if there’s a problem, that’s when the notary steps in. So if the seller never actually sent the goods at all, the buyer can contact the notary and say, “Listen, I never got anything.” And the funds are still in the multisig, right? They have not gone all the way to the seller. And so the notary can work with all of the parties and say, “Okay, who actually is right here? Who sent this?” And we actually have another party that we’re introducing to the network now, called an “arbiter”, whose job is just to resolve disputes. That’s a little bit down the road, but essentially their job is to be a professional who resolves disputes between parties, and tells the notary how to use their key.
So the basic idea, with the notaries and the arbiters, is that you now have buyer and seller protection. You can’t get scammed unless there is collusion between those parties, because no one can run off with your Bitcoin. It requires two or three parties to agree.
John : Well, this model of protection sounds to me like – in terms of infrastructure, in terms of paying for this – imagine what credit card companies, and Ebay, [and] Amazon. Imagine what they have to pay just to offer this kind of protection.
[56:05] Sam : Yeah.
John : It sounds to me like this protection is going to be there, and going to be offered for the customers – for the buyers and the sellers on OpenBazaar – but the COST of providing this protection is going to be really, really low, especially by comparison. Now how are these notaries – I’m actually a notary myself here in Nashville, so maybe I could be a notary with OpenBazaar, different kind of notary though – but how are these notaries chosen? That’s one question. How are the arbiters chosen? Then, after that, if you could talk just briefly about reputation , and how important that’s going to be on OpenBazaar.
Sam : Sure. So we’re actually rethinking how we do notary and arbiter selection. What is likely going to occur for notaries is both the seller and the buyer are going to already have gone through, and trusted, which notaries they want to use. They are going to basically have a list, and that’s based, most likely, on reputation, that you mentioned as well.
[57:02] And if the buyer and seller have an overlapping notary, the client will automatically choose that notary to use. So that’s, sort of, the ideal scenario. If they don’t have anyone overlapping, then we’re still trying to figure out exactly the best way to do it. I think it’s likely to be some type of combination of a random notary, along with the reputation network. You don’t want a TOTALLY random notary. You want to have someone who has a good reputation on the network as well.
And then arbiters are a different issue all together. We don’t know exactly how people are going to be able to choose those yet. It’s likely to be similar in terms of the overlapping, for notaries. But that’s just not been determined.
So, your second question was reputation. This is absolutely going to be fundamental to people using the platform, and trusting it. That is being built right now by Dionyziz https://blog.openbazaar.org/author/dionyziz/ , who is a computer science student in Greece. He’s doing this for his Master’s thesis. It’s a really neat project. He’s already gotten a white paper out there on the subject, which you can find if you go to the OpenBazaar GitHub. There’s a link to it.
[58:04] I won’t even get into the details of it, because I don’t completely understand it myself. But essentially, it is going to be – as far as I am aware – the first decentralized, pseudonomous, reputation network that’s going to allow people to use a web of trust to give people trust – or to NOT trust them – in this network. When we integrate that with the notaries, the arbiters, and then buyer and sellers as well, we’re hoping it’s going to be a really powerful tool for people to use to know when they can trust that someone is legitimate on the network, and when they aren’t.
John : Right. Obviously that’s hugely important if you’re going to be spending Bitcoin to buy something, or if you’re going to sell something on there. I think we’re seeing that more and more. I love the example [that] I would never use a cab company anymore, and that’s because at one point I decided, “Hey, I’m going to download this Lyft app (https://www.lyft.com/ ), and I’m going to check it out.” And I did use Lyft one night to go downtown. It worked so well. And part of why it worked so well was because that driver’s reputation was really good, and they showed up really fast, and then I gave them five stars – or whatever it is – and their reputation just builds and builds and builds.
[59:17] Whereas, with your average cab company, you don’t know who you’re getting. You don’t know their reputation. Having that reputation with Lyft is so important.Same thing for VRBO (http://www.vrbo.com/ ) and AirB&B (https://www.airbnb.com/ ). You’re not going to go stay at somebody’s chalet, or tree house, or cave, or spare room if the feedback that you’re getting from people is saying, “Place was dirty. I felt uncomfortable. Loud noises I the night.” [laughter] That reputation of that host, with AirB&B, is so important. And, of course, if you’re an AiB&B host, for instance,and you read these things about the guests,”They were dirty. They were rude. They came in at 5:00 in the morning yelling and screaming and drunk.” Well, you’re not going to allow them to come into your house. You’re not going to invite them in. You’re going to decline their request to stay. So that reputation in these peer-to-peer businesses – this new business paradigm that is being built – that reputation is the key to the whole thing, isn’t it?
[60:11] Sam : Yeah. I agree completely. The flip side to that is also making sure that it’s an open market as well. Because right now, you’re effectively using a third party that you trust whenever you’re using an online platform. Like I mentioned Ebay, or Amazon. The issue –
John : -- Right. And also with AirB&B and VRBO, and Lfyt and Uber, I should add, those also obviously are third party – it is not a completely decentralized system.
Sam : Right. And that’s why reputation is so fundamentally important on those, as you have mentioned, as well. But just opening up a notary and arbitration network means that you no longer are reliant on the third party services of those groups for resolving disputes. So the reason why this is potentially really importent – people don’t even think about this – is, for example, let’s say you’re a coin enthusiast, selling your wares on Ebay, or purchasing on Ebay. And you purchase a coin from someone, and you disagree with the quality assessment of the coin that you purchased, right?
[61:19] John : Right. That happens all the time.
Sam : Exactly. Now, Ebay is not probably going to be that expert on this sort of thing. And they may not respond with the sort of quality and knowledge that you would like to see. And so, what’s really exciting about OpenBazaar is that you can actually have an expert on the network specifically in whatever skill set, or whatever area you find necessary, and you can use their services. As long as both parties agree beforehand. You may need to pay a little bit more for this guy, who is really the expert on coins, than this guy who has no expertise. But you go into it knowing that you have that security. [62:02] So, opening up an arbitration network, we feel, to market forces, is really going to make the user experience, for any specific knowledge goods or services, a lot better than it currently is today online.
John : Man, I love it. It sounds like you guys have thought of just about everything. So, when is this going to launch?
Sam : We haven’t thought of everything, actually. It’s funny you say that, because we’ve put a lot of time and thought into this – about six months at this point. Everyday someone will open a new issue, where we’re like, “Oh yeah, we didn’t think about that.” [laughter] So it’s great to have the community involvement, because there’s a lot of gaps in what we’re doing, and we’re aware of that. It’s going to take us a long time to get to a platform that is really stable, and really able to be used by hundred of thousands, or millions of people. We’re not there yet. But, you asked when we’re going to launch. It’s already out there, in the sense that the code is already out there on GitHub. If you have some technical expertise, you will be able to get a node running, and be able to sell your stuff already. I mean there are people using the network right now.
[63:06] So it’s an open network. Anyone can join. But maybe part of your question is, “When is it going to be ready for other users to join?” We don’t know the answer to that yet. We originally had the goal of a full release at the end of this year. And after having out a huge amount of time and energy into this, even though our team has grown substantially, I think we’re going to be pushing that back a bit. We’re not giving a firm deadline on when we’re going to release the full platform. Instead what we’re going to do is have a monthly release for the Betas, which is what we’re already doing. So we had Beta 1.0 a month ago. We’re releasing Beta 2 today, September 30th. We’ll be releasing Beta 3 at the end of October, etc. We’re just going to keep iterating through those Betas until we feel comfortable that we’ve got a product that we can call a full release. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. It could be next March. We don’t know. But the community should feel confident that we are really invested in getting this to the point that it can actually be used by someone without a lot of technical knowledge.
[64:06] And we need the community’s help to get to that point as well. We need people to come onto the platform and test it, which is probably the biggest need that we have. There’s a guide that I’ve written to how people can become Beta testers. And we need developers. We’ve got a pretty good group of them right now, but we always can use more eyes on the code, and more people submitting pull requests. So people testing it, people helping us write it, and eventually we’re going to get there. No question.
John : Well I wish I could help with some of that tech stuff. But unfortunately I cannot. But I can help in one way. As I read from your web site, in describing OpenBazaar, put simply it’s “the baby of Ebay and BitTorrent”. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to pick up my guitar [laughter]
Sam : Please do.
John : -- and as we close the interview [guitar music begins]. So this is if Ebay and BitTorrent got together and had a baby. The baby they would have would be OpenBazaar right?
Sam : That’s right.
[65:06] John : Okay… [singing] If Ebay was a man, and BitTorrent was a lady, [and] they got together and they had a little baby. Oh, OpenBazaar, I know you’ll go far… Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.
Sam : Oh, that’s great.
John : [laughter] Some people’s children. I just don’t know. So ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been listening to Sam Patterson, the operations lead with OpenBazaar. “OpenBazaar is a different approach to online commerce. It puts the power back in the hands of the users. Instead of buyers and sellers going through a centralized service, OpenBazaar connects them directly. Because there’s no one in the middle of the transactions, there are no fees. No one can censor transactions, and you only reveal the personal information that you choose.”
[66:08] I was reading that from your web site. I love the way this is worded. I love your web site. I love everything about what you guys are doing, and I hope that we can interview again, let’s say in three to six months. I’ll put the ball in your court. I’ll wait for an email from you, when you say, “John, this is exciting. We’re moving forward at a rapid pace. We’ve got a lot of the bugs out. The community is behind us, and we’re ready to really launch this thing.” I hope that you will do that, Sam. And I thank you so much for being on the show today.
Sam : I’ll definitely do that, and I really appreciate you letting me come on.
John : It was great. Hey, we will talk to you again sometime soon, and I know that everybody out there in the Bitcoin community is – if they’re not involved in the tech end of it, we’re supporting you with our moral support, certainly.
Sam : Wow! It’s great to hear that, and I really appreciate all of the support we’re getting from the community. It’s very exciting, and we really appreciate it.
John : All right, great. Thanks so much Sam. We’ll talk to you soon.
Sam : Yeah. Thank you.
John : Bye.
[show outro music]
[67:14] John : I’d like to thank my guests on the show today : Paul Puey, the CEO and cofounder of AirBitz.co, a mobile and web app company soon to be launching a Bitcoin wallet on IOS and Android. I’d also like to thank Sam Patterson, the operations lead for OpenBazaar.org . OpenBazaar is an open source project to create a decentralized network for commerce online, using Bitcoin. Imagine if Ebay and BitTorrent got together and had a baby. That would be OpenBazaar [baby laughter sound effect]. To find out more about my guests and sponsors check out the show notes on the Let’s Talk Bitcoin page: https://letstalkbitcoin.com/blog/post/ep-61-ep-36-revisited-airbitz-open-bazaar
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[68:03] And remember the Bitcoins and Gravy hotline. Have you ever wanted to be a podcaster? Then call Bitcoins and Gravy at : 615-208-5198 and leave your message with your comments, questions, or complaints. This is your chance to give me a piece of your mind, and tell me what you really think about the show. And if you give me your permission, I will put your call-in comments on the show. And, of course, I offer a number of ways for you to download all of the past podcasts. You can go to http://www.letstalkbitcoin.com or directly from Soundcloud. Or you can go to the web site, which of course, is http://www.bitcoinsandgravy.com .
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[69:00] I also thank you for your generous donations, in Bitcoin or Litecoin, that help me keep the lights on, and coffee in the kettle. Signing off now, from East Nashville, Tennessee. I’m your host John Barrett, with my trusty companion, Maxwell. Say goodby Maxwell.
Maxwell : Whoof… Whoof.
John : Y’all be good to each other out there now, and remember, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing.
[outro music conclusion]