OpenBazaar: Continuing The Quest for Dark Web Coffee

Ever since starting to use the dark web, it’s been a running joke with friends that you could find “dark web coffee” (assuming that such a thing didn’t actually exist). Not long ago, it turned out that the opposite is true!

The concept of “dark web coffee” all started with a DeepDotWeb article written back in 2014 entitled Now You Can Buy…Coffee! On The DeepWeb. The site that they were referring to, Darknet Roasters, no longer exists (tragically), but this is where the subject in question comes in.

The software making this possible is OpenBazaar, which has been around for several years but in 2018 released version 2.2.5, with some new changes such as a native wallet, cryptocurrency exchanges, access through Tor, and other features.

Unlike some of the other darknet markets that you may be familiar with on Tor, OpenBazaar isn’t exclusive to selling drugs or even just illegal goods. It’s much more like a decentralized version of Amazon or eBay. For instance, they carry such goods as books, cameras, art tools, clothing, and video games. Nonetheless, as opposed to corporate online shopping, OpenBazaar only accepts cryptocurrencies for payment, specifically bitcoin, bitcoin cash, Litecoin, Zcash, and Ethereum.

Another way that OpenBazaar differentiates from most darknet markets that you would access through Tor is that it has its own app that you can download and install (though it can also be accessed via the Tor Browser).

So, too, does OpenBazaar one-up its clearnet competitors by not requiring personal information when you sign up. Although you can (in theory) do this on sites like Amazon, most require credit card information and other identifying details. In your profile, you give your store a name and an avatar (the latter of which is optional), as well as a brief description.

In addition, you have such options as being able to connect to peers, saving metadata (or not), purging shared files (for privacy reasons), managing data sharing, and using Tor. You can use OpenBazaar’s on-site wallet, but you could just as easily use your normal cryptocurrency wallet and be fine.

A disadvantage seemed to be its search function, which often didn’t find results that were relevant, though this may have had something to do with the search terms that were used. For instance, a search for “movies” turned up results like “Premium Car Backseat Headrest Mount Holder,” “USB Wifi Adapter,” and “Kate Hudson Yellow Evening Prom Dress.” With regard to searching, it may help to filter results down to specific categories or items rather than a general search like “movies.”

Another issue that occurred initially was that OpenBazaar wouldn’t connect to Tor, but this was because by default, its connection port was set to 9150, when it should have been 9050 (port 9050 is the default connection port for Tor).

Of course, due to COVID-19 being a risk right now, you may want to be cautious about ordering goods online (especially internationally), but if you take proper disinfecting precautions, it may not be an issue. One item that may be of interest to people affected by coronavirus is toilet paper, which, at the moment, is like gold!

More recently, OpenBazaar released a mobile version of their store through the app Haven, which has a similar interface to its desktop counterpart. Haven uses the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) protocol as its network, so that vendors don’t have to be connected to their stores 24/7 in order to remain online. The Haven version looks like this:

IPFS, in short, is a distributed file system that creates the possibility of data being shared across multiple devices. A reasonable analogy might be the human body; even if one part of the body stops functioning, the network as a whole still works, and other parts will take over missing functions.

In any case, while it may have some shortcomings, OpenBazaar is an interesting alternative to some of the centralized online stores you may be used to, with better privacy features to boot.

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