Creating local marketplaces with OpenBazaar

OpenBazaar is a global online marketplace for anything and everything. Unlike centralized marketplaces such as Amazon, Alibaba, Craigslist, eBay, Mercado Libre, and nearly every other online marketplace you can think of, OpenBazaar is a decentralized marketplace. Being decentralized means that there is no single company or web host that controls OpenBazaar. It also means that there is no single company or web host that can be targeted to shutdown OpenBazaar. This has some interesting benefits for buyers and sellers who choose to use OpenBazaar.


One benefit – perhaps the most important – is that there is ultimate freedom regarding what people can buy and sell on OpenBazaar. While centralized marketplaces are forced by law to have policies that restrict the types of items that people can buy and sell, and will often take down listings to enforce these policies, OpenBazaar has no such policies. In fact, OpenBazaar fundamentally can’t have such policies; even if the developers of OpenBazaar tried to build such policies into their software, the policies could easily be circumvented by end-users because the code that runs OpenBazaar is open source and freely modifiable. So in theory and in practice, users can create listings to buy or sell anything they want and the only way that their listings can be taken down is if their internet goes down or the computer they use to run the OpenBazaar software is turned off. And even then, there is a possibility that the listings stay online. OpenBazaar is very resilient against censorship and downtime.

Another benefit is that OpenBazaar users have a lot of creativity regarding how they use the marketplace to promote and discover products. Listings on OpenBazaar can be given tags such as “books” or “gardening” so that they show up in searches for these types of items. If users add the “Local pickup” shipping option and also put their location as a tag on their listings, for example tagging with a zip code and the name of their city or state, then it makes it easy for people in their area to find their listings, contact them, and plan to meet up for a local sale.

This turns OpenBazaar into an unstoppable alternative to popular local-focused marketplaces such as Backpage and Craigslist.

Here is an example of what such a local marketplace listing could look like with the appropriate tags:


With this, anyone looking for the book “An Agorist Primer” by the author Samuel Edward Konkin III in the Beverly Hills, California area could easily find it and meet up with the seller to buy the book in person with cash.

Although this use of OpenBazaar is not currently officially supported, OpenBazaar developers could develop this concept further and give users the ability to search for similar listings within a certain distance from their location, such as all zip codes or cities within 10 miles. This way users would only need to enter their location and a search term to pull up all similar listings near them and connect with their local buyers or sellers.

There are some products or services that may be legal in various jurisdictions but are still suppressed by centralized marketplaces for one reason or another. With the previously mentioned benefits of OpenBazaar in mind, here are a few ideas for local marketplaces for otherwise suppressed goods and services that could thrive on OpenBazaar if users add these tags and their location tags to related listings:

#bookfair – a local marketplace for buyers and sellers of books and comics

#glassmarket – a local marketplace for buyers and sellers of functional glass art

#localcoins – a local marketplace for buyers and sellers of digital currencies

#gunshow – a local marketplace for buyers and sellers of firearms, ammo, and accessories

#redlight – a local marketplace for buyers and sellers of sexual products and services

#silkroad – a local marketplace for buyers and sellers of cannabis and entheogens

… and many, many more local marketplaces like these are possible. Give it a try and let me know what you think about this idea in the comment section below.

P.S. OpenBazaar is not the only decentralized marketplace out there. Check out the full list I maintain of other decentralized marketplaces that you can try this out with. You are also welcome to add any decentralized marketplaces to the list that you think are missing by creating an issue or sending a pull request.