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E-commerce trend report marketplaces adoption. Where are we going with The Block?

E-commerce trends report

E-commerce represents a relatively new sector, but it is one that already constitutes a sizeable fraction of global retail sales and that is forecast to double in size from $2 trillion to $4 trillion over the next three years. Large emerging markets, better connectivity and an increase in mobile use are driving this trend, as well as the growth of the B2B and C2C sectors. However, despite offering significant advantages over traditional retail sales, e-commerce in its current form poses problems for both merchants and consumers. The Block will address a number of these, helping to bring about truly frictionless and free trade.

E-commerce has existed for barely 20 years. Although it was possible to buy and sell items online in the early days of the web, this was typically an awkward and sometimes risky process. Rudimentary websites would advertise goods, and purchase would often involve submitting credit card details by email or web form. These would be entered manually into a regular PoS terminal by the merchant – an inefficient workaround that was prone to mistakes and security breaches. It was faster and easier than mail order, but it was only a quantitative improvement. Proper integration of payments into the browsing experience did not occur until the late 1990s, and it took several years to take hold properly.

Amazon.com: a snapshot of the industry

A watershed moment, in hindsight, was the launch of Amazon.com. The company was founded in 1994 and went online in 1995. Founder Jeff Bezon had read a report that suggested online sales could grow by 2,300% per annum, and selected a relatively limited range of products he believed would sell well on the web – starting with books.

Amazon established the viability of the e-commerce sector. Key to its success was the scales and economies at which it could operate. It required no bricks-and-mortar stores, and warehouses could effectively be of unlimited size – since Amazon itself did not initially need to hold large amounts of stock. They simply needed to be able to access the stock held by other publishers.

The company held its IPO in August 1997, almost exactly 20 years ago. Valued at $18 per share (before stock splits), its market cap was then around $400 million. Amazon not only survived but thrived on the dotcom bust. With a business model that did not plan on making profits for five years, it was able to embed itself in the market and position for rapid growth. In the following years, Amazon grew to become a giant of e-commerce and cloud computing, expanding its offering to all kinds of household goods and business services – selling everything from consumer electronics to food, and becoming the largest provider of cloud infrastructure services in the world. It is the fourth largest company by market cap (After Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft) at $423 billion, and boasts annual revenues of $136 billion for 2016 – more than any other internet company.

The growth of Amazon alone over the past 20 years indicates the impact that e-commerce has had on the world. Amazon is the largest e-commerce company, but it is only one company. The sector is vast and, despite its already stellar growth, it is still expanding fast.

E-commerce in the round

The global e-commerce market currently stands at $1.9 trillion – less than 10% of the total global retail volume of $22 trillion.[1] This is still a substantial amount, especially given that e-commerce is not a fully mature market. Around a billion internet users made at least one e-commerce purchase in 2016.[2] Moreover, e-commerce sales still account for just 8% of total retail sales in the US, and 14% in the UK. Together, these figures indicate that there is a long way to go as the majority of commerce still occurs offline. Industry forecasts suggest that strong double-digit growth can be expected through to 2020, even as the growth of the traditional retail market slows. Whilst total retail will hit $27 trillion by 2020, or around 6% growth per annum, e-commerce will have doubled to $4 trillion.

e-commerce

Yearly online retail sales by selected country and Aggregated ($B). This graphic shows the potential for e-commerce growth on developing countries.

There are the huge global markets that are still emerging. China’s e-commerce sector tops $1 trillion, and is expected to hit $2 trillion by 2019. The trend is driven by a number of factors. Penetration of internet access is extremely high in the West, but there are many countries that are still catching up – bringing a vast new tranche of potential shoppers online in the coming years. In addition, the growth of mobile has fuelled faster and more convenient search and purchases. Only 11% of people access the internet via desktop computer alone. Many shop from not just one but multiple devices – starting their purchase on one and finishing it on another. Mobile browsing has now surpassed traditional browsing, and m-commerce is another accelerating trend.

Finally, whilst B2C sales have been the norm up until now, there is evidence that B2B and C2C will start to catch up in the coming months and years. The sharing economy – an idea that has powered companies like Uber and AirBnB – is a powerful concept, and one that is driving the growth of sales on auction platforms like eBay and smaller sites on which consumers can connect directly with each other. Similarly, businesses are recognising the advantages of sourcing materials and products online, and are moving away from traditional suppliers to online stores as a result.

This is the broad context in which The Block will launch: a $2 trillion global sector, expected to grow at 20-25% per annum in the near term. And yet e-commerce in its current incarnation is far from perfect.

Payments

Whilst e-commerce platforms enable direct connection between customers and businesses in all combinations – B2C, B2B and C2C – they are inevitably centralised around the platform and company’s infrastructure. Even if the model of business is peer-to-peer, there are companies that host and control the website and the payments system. This incurs a series of problems and frictions, from censorship over listed items to high fees.

PayPal, one of the best-known online payment services, is integrated into eBay. Customers are not charged to make payments. However, merchants incur a small flat fee plus a 3.4% commission fee on any funds they receive – eating into the profit margin and requiring that they pass these charges on to customers. The fees for using many e-commerce platforms themselves are far higher. ‘Referral fees’ for products sold by third-party merchants on Amazon are typically 10-20%, depending on the category of product.[3] Customers do, of course, have to pay extra when they buy items from overseas. Transferring money from one currency into another is generally a slow and expensive business, due to the monopoly that banks and payment processors hold.

Then there is the problem of chargebacks. When a customer is not satisfied with their purchase, or does not receive it, they can complain and receive their money back. Whilst this constitutes and important protection for consumers, it can be abused, and all to often is. A customer only has to claim that they did not receive an item and, in the absence of proof of delivery, they will receive a refund. If the merchant did ship the item, they will be out of pocket. Sellers are typically at a disadvantage in these circumstances, since e-commerce platforms generally favour the buyer by default and even if the situation is resolved in the merchant’s favour, there can be a long delay before they receive their payment. The e-commerce industry suffered an estimated loss of $6.7 billion in 2016 due to chargebacks, almost $5 billion of which can be considered fraudulent.[4]

The future of e-commerce

Age structure of online buyers. This graphic shows the potential for e-commerce adoption for all ages.

Thus the potential market for The Block is vast, and the opportunities to do e-commerce in a fundamentally better and fairer way are clear. Traditional e-commerce has grown extremely quickly, establishing itself as a significant fraction of global retail in the space of just 20 years, with further expansion to come. However, there are problems with the current model, which The Block aims to address.

The use of virtual cash (ETH) as the native currency of The Block immediately offers advantages for customers and merchants. Money is transferred freely across borders and almost instantly, without incurring any additional charges – the small tx fee for the Ethereum network is all that is required. These transfers are irreversible due to the peer-to-peer nature of cryptocurrency, and so merchants are immune to chargebacks. A decentralised reputation system and escrow arrangements protect customers from fraud and ensure that there are measures in place to provide refunds if they are needed.

The Block does not rely on a centralised platform or third-party servers. It is an application that is downloaded by every user, and is run from their personal computer – allowing buyers and sellers to connect directly. Because the IT infrastructure is outsourced to the Ethereum network and replaced by smart contracts, there are no fixed costs for data centres or employees, and so no charges that have to be imposed on users to pay for these.

This approach can be thought of as e-commerce 2.0: low-cost, accessible and fair – free trade at its most free.

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[1]   https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Worldwide-Retail-Ecommerce-Sales-Will-Reach-1915-Trillion-This-Year/1014369

[2]   http://www.smartinsights.com/ecommerce/ecommerce-strategy/37-indispensable-ecommerce-stats-to-inform-your-2017-strategy/

[3]   https://services.amazon.co.uk/services/sell-online/pricing.html

[4]   https://www.invespcro.com/blog/e-commerce-fraud-and-chargebacks-infographic/

The history of BitBoost team.

The BitBoost team has been working together for years on their blockchain marketplace. We are not talking about a rush-for-the-ICO half-baked idea, but a practical application born of the innovative thinking of some real pioneers, who started coding on the blockchain as far back as spring 2014. They saw a need, and an opportunity. Three years later, The Block is a reality and moving towards beta testing.

The initial BitBoost team first met within the community of the blockchain platform NXT, and they built their first marketplace – NXT FreeMarket, a downloadable, functional shopping app on the NXT blockchain. This project was started by Paul Mahone, our CEO, and Andrew Lekar, who was involved in NXT blockchain from the beginning. In the following video, you can watch Paul introducing this app in Amsterdam in 2016.

However, the limitations of the NXT blockchain for a marketplace quickly became apparent and the user base was limited from the outset. Seeing these issues as roadblocks to future success, the team decided to move to the Ethereum blockchain in the summer of 2016. At this time they were joined by Samuele Maran, who was in charge of initial marketing and business operations. These three are the founders of the BitBoost project.

Shortly after, several more people joined to help to craft The Block. Maksim Sergeev started working on the user interface early this year, as the founders recognized the non-technical challenges of a decentralized marketplace to user adoption, such as the requirement to localize The Block in many different languages and to tailor and adapt it for the needs of widely varying legal jurisdictions. The team also incorporated developers to craft mobile apps, such as Riccardo Scanavacca for iOS, and Gianluigi Davassi. BitBoost believes that mobile e-commerce has a strong future, so the plan is to make The Block mobile friendly from the very beginning, allowing people from both mature and developing markets to use the app on their smart phones.

As a result, we have been developing The Block app, in its current Ethereum form, for more than one year. Specifically, we have expended more than 7 months and 222 days crafting the code. You are welcome to join us for beta testing!

As the application was going through development, the team decided to start building a business around it. BitBoost started researching markets and business models (read more about this in our white paper). The team expanded to include people from digital business and marketing, to form the backbone for a fundamentally sound company. Alessandro Tozzi, from Boston Entrepreneurship Center, and Alvaro Rodriguez, in charge of marketing and communications, were added. Yessin Schiegg, a seasoned financial and blockchain expert, joined as an advisor at the same time. Finally, we became officially registered as a company in Zug, also known as Crypto Valley, in May 2017.

Now, BitBoost is facing a last sprint towards launching at the end of 2017. A token sale to fund The Block will be announced this summer, but unlike the vast majority of these events, BitBoost is not asking for money based solely on an idea. Tokens will be sold to use on an existing platform, as soon as we go live. You will have less time to wait before you can actually use them.

The BitBoost team is confident that 2018 will be a great year. With a running app, and many ideas for more features to implement, you will see The Block expand within the e-commerce and digital platform markets, redefining services through the blockchain and decentralization. Updates will come soon. Stay tuned!

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BitBoost partners with Boston Entrepreneurship Center

BitBoost, the blockchain company developing The Block, has recently partnered with Boston Entrepreneurship Center, or BEC. This partnership will help to develop the business model for its blockchain-based decentralized marketplace, helping to build The Block into a globally utilized, e-commerce application.

BEC is a cutting edge center for entrepreneurship, designed to prepare students and business people to create and grow new start-ups and accelerate business opportunities, through a program that consist of coaching sessions and hands-on workshops. Based on the prestigious Cambridge Innovation Center at the MIT campus, BEC has been educating entrepreneurs since 2012, to create successful start-ups. BEC is an excellent place, not only for learning the skills needed to launch a start-up, but for growing the business networks of their students, coaches, advisors, and supporters.

BEC will help BitBoost in two ways: coaching and supporting BitBoost team, and also widening their network in order to get new clients, advisors, and supporters. With this partnership BitBoost team will have more resources to understand and reach new markets, refining their value proposition and finding the best product-market fit.

In fact, the BitBoost team is already working on this, exploring both crypto and emerging markets to develop their business model of The Block, as explained in their white paper. E-commerce came of age in the early years of the 21st century but remains a high-growth sector. Not least due to the opportunities offered by the proliferation of mobile devices. While internet access rates across developed markets are well above 80%, emerging markets have yet to catch up. Applying the same average access rate to emerging markets would lead to an additional 1.1 billion people who have access to e-commerce. So the industry’s growth outlook remains very positive. Knowing this, BitBoost seeks to bring more opportunity to the people who need it most.

With a proof-of-concept currently in pre-beta testing, and a fundraising plan in place, the next step for BitBoost will be looking for appropriate market niches within this growing ecosystem, early adopters who will contribute value to the platform. This will require a lean, start-up based, approach where BEC guiding will be very useful.

BitBoost is going forward with a clear purpose in mind: to redefine e-commerce, by working with the blockchain community and using Ethereum blockchain technology to create a successful and profitable e-commerce app, The Block.

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Our roadmap

Roadmap for BitBoost and The Block

With our core software already in beta, we wanted to explain to the community what we plan for the immediate future and the steps we’re taking to make The Block the world’s foremost peer-to-peer e-commerce platform.

At the time of writing, early in Q3 2017, BitBoost has already completed a large proportion of the major functionality that will allow users to buy and sell items safely and securely on The Block. When we launch our crowdsale, it won’t be for a high-level concept or on the back of a white paper alone: it will be to polish and market working software, built on Ethereum’s smart contracts and ready to be used by merchants and customers alike.

Progress so far

At the beginning of the year, we opened our beta app to testers. This initial version of the software included key functionality that showed we were serious about our ultimate vision, and that we believe proves BitBoost’s experience and ability to deliver such a complex and significant application.

Security and privacy have always been overriding priorities for us, and we implemented HTTPS for all connections, as well as anonymous image hosting, to reflect this. Our caching system was ready, and at least two remote Geth and caching nodes have been deployed. Whilst it’s possible to use an Ethereum address as a user name, aliases were also implemented, along with 2FA for further security.

The first escrow provider was made available, quickly followed in Q2 by additional tools for escrows. It became possible to find pending disputes, and for escrows to resolve disputes. And, because The Block is intended to be a fully global and open e-commerce solution, we started localising the platform. By the end of June we had added more than 20 languages, covering the majority of the world’s population. Further languages will be added down the line.

Upcoming functionality

With a working platform, our priority for Q3 and ahead of our crowdsale is to press on with adding features that will make The Block more private and more user-friendly.

Top of the list for privacy is Tor integration, which we consider a robust solution to surveillance. Whilst HTTPS removes the risk of man-in-the-middle attacks, Tor will ensure that it’s practically impossible for an attacker to know where users are based.

We’ll also be dramatically improving the user experience and the range of tools available to buyers. Our blacklisting service will go live, ensuring that customers can filter out items that are deemed illegal in their jurisdiction, or that are unacceptable for other reasons. We believe in truly open markets and free trade, but this has its downsides and we understand that most customers will not want to search everything that is for sale. In addition to the default filters and those offered by third parties, it will be possible to personalise the search experience with user-defined settings and filters. Moderators will be able to update the standard blacklists.

We’ll be implementing a simple feedback system to allow customers to rate both sellers and items, expanding the number of languages offered, and enabling imported themes to customise the user experience further. We’re also working on mobile apps for both Android and iOS, which we hope to have ready by the end of September.

By the end of the year, we intend to have completed our first full implementation of a platform that has all the functionality required to compete with existing e-commerce sites such as Amazon and eBay. In particular, there are a couple of features that are critical if we are to go up against the current online shopping giants, and to carve out a niche in this vast and rapidly-growing sector.

The first of these is auctions. It’s a great start simply to enable straightforward buying and selling – the equivalent of eBay’s ‘Buy It Now’, or the default approach that most e-commerce sites take. However, we’re equally aware of the benefits of the auction system and the role it plays in the free market, enabling price discovery. So we’re going to build the same for The Block, to allow prospective buyers to bid as much as they want for items, and for sellers to set the parameters within which they’re happy to deal. Of course, regular buying and selling will always be possible for merchants and customers.

The final big piece of the puzzle is fiat integration. As powerful as Ethereum is and despite the significant benefits of offering an unrestricted peer-to-peer model, we know that for most users, entry into the complex and often overwhelming world of cryptocurrency is simply too much of a barrier. We won’t be doing our job if we fall down on something as fundamental as currency. We’re targeting the mainstream, not a niche crypto community. So we’ll be partnering with services that allow people to convert funds to ETH on-the-fly, essentially making The Block accessible to anyone who has an internet connection and a credit card.

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What is The Block? Main technical features.

The Block is a fully decentralised e-commerce marketplace, designed for privacy and low fees. It takes the form of a standalone app based on Ethereum’s smart contracts and uses the ETH currency for all payments except merchant listings. As a global application with minimal technical requirements for users, this is free trade at its most free.

BitBoost’s aim is to facilitate truly free trade on a global scale. Building on the work of almost three years, The Block is their solution: a totally peer-to-peer e-commerce experience, without unnecessary costs, geographical limitations or arbitrary restrictions.

The BLock us a fully peer-to-peer solution

As a downloadable app that connects to the Ethereum blockchain, The Block relies on no centralised website or other service by design (the developers’ Ethereum node can be used for convenience, but is not necessary). This entirely decentralised approach means that there is no controlling party limiting trade, restricting payments or collecting users data.

Unlike traditional e-commerce companies, there are no massive server farms supporting the platform; this functionality has been outsourced to the blockchain. Consequently, these savings can be passed on to users and there is no case for imposing fees, advertising, collecting/selling personal information, and so on, to pay business costs. It also means that The Block will never go offline, since there is no single point of failure.

Payments

The Block takes the form of a downloadable app based on the Ethereum blockchain platform. For a seamless payment experience, it features an integrated Ether wallet. Almost all payments are made in ETH, which is a well-known and very popular currency. ETH rivals bitcoin for its trading volumes and liquidity, and confirmation times are significantly faster than bitcoin’s 10-minute blocks. All items will be purchased by consumers for ETH, and escrow fees will also be arranged in ETH. The only exception to ETH payments is for merchant listing fees. To create a viable revenue model for investors, these will be payable in the BitBoost Token (BBT), which will be sold at crowdsale. A flat fee of around $1 in BBT will be charged per item.

The Block’s internal wallet will be created from a user-generated password. Private keys will be stored encrypted, and on the user’s machine – no keys are held by the BitBoost team or third parties. To fund the wallet, users can send funds from an external wallet (or an exchange), or they can use the built-in ShapeShift integration to convert other cryptocurrencies on-the-fly. This still requires some familiarity with cryptocurrency, although recent developments have made it safer and more convenient to buy bitcoins from an exchange than ever before. Nevertheless, BitBoost expects to integrate direct fiat-to-crypto solutions in the future, when these become available and their reliability and safety have been fully established.

No blockchain download is necessary to operate The Block, though users can connect via a local Ethereum node if they prefer for additional privacy. This also allows them to conduct offline transactions, which will be processed when they come online again.

‘Registration’ and use

The BitBoost team created The Block out of an awareness of the shortcomings of the existing e-commerce model. This is dominated by large corporations such as Amazon and eBay. These have significant costs, including personnel, offices and server hosting. As a result, they not only impose relatively high charges on their users, in the form of commission fees for sales (which have to be passed onto customers). They also collect information for the purposes of advertising, which has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Online advertising is now highly intrusive, and the harvesting of personal data is endemic, extensive and often takes place without the user’s explicit consent.

The Block does not require any personal information for users to access its services. No email addresses are collected as a condition of registration/use. Merchants and customers create their own aliases when they begin using the platform. This can be anything – a name, an Ethereum address, even a random string of characters. BitBoost does not send messages to anyone as a matter of policy, and the absence of user information collected means there are few channels by which to do so anyway. Whilst merchants will need to upload images for their products, these can be hosted on free, private web services such as imgur.com. This functionality is built into The Block for convenience.

Communication

Security is a paramount concern for BitBoost, since any leakage of information could compromise the privacy of The Block. HTTPS will be exclusively used for all external services – for example, the ShapeShift integration that enables customers to pay in any supported currency. This avoids the possibility of a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack, whereby a hacker places himself in between the source and destination of the information being sent, intercepting it before passing it on to its intended recipient (perhaps unchanged, perhaps tampered with). Tor integration is planned for a later iteration of The Block for additional security.

All communication is encrypted using a session key that is generated when an item is purchased. That is, a new key is generated for each interaction and the old one discarded; keys are not reused. This one-time key approach is more secure than using a single key, since in the unlikely circumstances that a key falls into the wrong hands it will be useless in accessing future interactions.

User experience

The brief but remarkable history of cryptocurrency has shown that it is not enough to have a decentralised platform that offers fundamental advantages over the existing centralised equivalents. Users will not switch unless it is easy for them to do so, generally proving satisfied with familiar solutions until they are forced to change or the benefits far outweigh the time and effort of trying something new.

BitBoost believe that the cost and privacy benefits inherent in The Block offer not just incremental improvements but a qualitatively better e-commerce solution. However, this has to be matched with a comparable UX if customers and merchants are to make the effort to switch. E-commerce platforms such as Amazon and eBay offer extremely polished user experiences that make the browsing process as low-impact as possible. BitBoost have taken considerable pains to create a similarly attractive and frictionless UX. This includes instant search, so that the products recorded for sale on the Ethereum blockchain can be queried and returned in real time, updated as the user types what they are looking for. The UI is as clean and intuitive as the major e-commerce sites.

The Block is designed to be a truly global solution to e-commerce that can be used regardless of location. Financially it achieves this with the ‘universal currency’ of ETH. However, since there is no universal language, BitBoost have localised website content in more than 20 major global languages, with more on the way. User experience extends further than these factors, however. As a decentralised e-commerce platform, there is no censorship – indeed, it is not possible for BitBoost to restrict or edit what items are posted for sale. The history of bitcoin shows that one of the use cases for cryptocurrencies is purchases of drugs and other illegal items on the net’s dark markets. BitBoost do not condone the use of The Block for these purposes, and they recognise in any case that items that are legal in one jurisdiction might be illegal in another.

The solution to this is to include optional filters that hide items within the given search parameters that fall outside of the required criteria. BitBoost will provide a standard filter that will be enabled by default, to hide items that are illegal in most jurisdictions (for example, most recreational drugs). Third-party filters will be created and can restrict the display of items on different grounds, including legal, moral and religious. It is up to the user to activate these filters according to their preferences.

Another problem that arises from the lack of censorship – in this case, financial intervention – is what happens when there are problems in the sales/delivery process. Whilst The Block’s peer-to-peer design has enormous benefits, it is fundamentally different to the typical model and raises questions regarding dispute resolution. The Block will use a built-in reputation system and escrow to address this problem.

To begin with, The Block will protect buyers and sellers with a system that scores users on reliability and trustworthiness based on feedback after completed transactions. This is similar to the system that eBay and many other e-commerce platforms use; merchants who offer consistently high-quality products, good communication and prompt and reliable delivery will naturally receive better feedback, and their enhanced reputation will lead to future business. This crowd-sourced reputation system will provide a first line of defence against substandard merchants and outright scammers.

Secondly, The Block features a new form of smart contract-based arbitration in the event of a dispute. Sellers can select an escrow partner. Like everyone else, escrows are rated based on feedback, so the best, fairest and most reliable escrows will become clear over time. Payment is lodged with an escrow at the time of purchase, but these funds are locked by smart contract and arbiters are only paid if their services are required. Otherwise, in the event of a smooth purchase and delivery, funds are returned to the buyer.

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Making a decentralized marketplace happens: Meet the BitBoost team.

Putting together a secure, decentralised e-commerce application is no small feat. BitBoost’s talented and multidisciplinary team encompasses all of the different skills required to create, launch and promote the project successfully.

The team behind The Block have diverse backgrounds and experience in software development, IT, blockchain technology, business, marketing and more. The project originally began in the Nxt ecosystem back in 2014, when Andrew and Paul first implemented their vision of truly free online trade with the intention of creating an e-commerce experience like any other – similar to eBay or Amazon – but without the censorship or the high transaction fees and commission rates that are endemic in the sector. The result was the NxtFreeMarket initiative: a downloadable app that used the Nxt blockchain to list, update and sell products of all kinds.

Andrew Lekar, founder and lead developer, back-end

Andrew holds a master’s degree in Computer Science from South Ural State University, and is now based in Chelyabinsk, Russia. He is a specialist in C/C++, Java, JavaScript, Erlang, databases, encryption, and security, and is an expert blockchain developer with extensive experience of Ethereum. Andrew is responsible for building all of the smart contracts that underpin The Block. In addition, he has created an open-source mixing contract for Ethereum based on ring signatures.

Paul Mahone, founder and lead developer, front-end

Based in Switzerland, Paul is a programmer and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience in e-commerce. Since graduating from Harvard, Paul has accumulated extensive expertise as a high technology entrepreneur. He was a co-founder and director of Molecular Robotics, the first nanotechnology company to be listed on NASDAQ, and runs his own IT consultancy, whose clients include Harvard Law School.

Whilst NxtFreeMarket was – like Nxt itself – groundbreaking, for various reasons the platform was not truly suited to this kind of application. The Nxt-based implementation was forced to use arbitrary messages to store information on the blockchain, which proved an inefficient way to list and update products. When Ethereum launched in 2015, they explored the benefits of a smart contracts-based approach and immediately recognised that it would make possible everything that a peer-to-peer e-commerce application required.

As the possibilities that Ethereum held out became clearer, the core team began to expand. This is when the idea of The Block was born: a fully peer-to-peer marketplace, with integrated ether payments and a decentralised reputation system to protect buyers and sellers. Privacy would be built into the implementation, along with filters that allowed users the control they needed to trade within the laws of their own jurisdictions.

Samuele Maran, founder and project manager

Based in Padua, Italy, Samuele is an experienced project manager and financial expert. His background is in IT for large residential property projects, and as well as having a strong track record in co-ordinating complex projects and heterogeneous teams, he has broad experience in managing bank, customer and community relations. As such, Samuele was also the ideal fit for BitBoost’s community manager and to take charge of customer relations. Samuele is a graduate of the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, holds a master’s degree in Business Administration, and is a certified accountant.

As the core team who founded the project began to develop the first working beta version of The Block, they were joined by a small group of experts with all the necessary skills to complete and promote it – pushing it out of the realm of the crypto community alone and into the mass market.

Gianluigi Davassi, CTO

Gianluigi is based in Berlin, Germany. He is an algorithmic trader and smart contract developer who specialises in the Java8 stack and possesses a profound knowledge of blockchain technology and Tangle. Gianluigi holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from the University of Pisa.

Alvaro Rodriguez, director of marketing

Alvaro is a seasoned digital expert, with experience in marketing, business development and strategy in both start-ups and established companies. He has a PhD in History and an MBA in Digital Business. Alvaro brings many years of experience of digital communication to the team.

Critical for such an application is the user interface, which must be intuitive and accessible if it is to compete against traditional e-commerce solutions. Finally, then, The Block’s distinctive UX is provided by BitBoost’s application developer, Max.

Maksim Sergeev, application developer

Max is a MEAN stack expert based in Moscow. He is highly proficient in the technologies

that lie behind The Block, including Angular 2 TypeScript, Node.js, and Electron. Max has already successfully completed a large number of challenging projects and is continuously expanding his already impressive skillset.

This combination of a strong team, over two years of development effort and a wealth of experience in dealing with various blockchain technologies and e-commerce means that The Block is well positioned to become the leading peer-to-peer marketplace in the world. To find out more or test the free beta version, visit www.BitBoost.net.

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New technical releases for The Block

At BitBoost we have been working for over a year to develop The Block, taking e-commerce to the blockchain in order to unleash the power of free trade. Our purpose is to redefine e-commerce, by using Ethereum blockchain technology and working with the community to create a successful and profitable e-commerce app, The Block. As we approach our launch date, we are working hard on the beta release (you can sign up at this link). Every month we are releasing new features and June is full of them!

June 2017 technical releases and updates.

In June, the application was heavily redesigned to suit today’s e-shop trends, improving UX. The code was extensively cleaned up and an automatic updater was added. We released features in several areas:

E-shop Engine

The E-shop Engine was added: this module contains many features suitable for a modern e-shop.

  • last viewed items: stores and returns last 5 viewed items
  • recommendations: on detail item view, recommendations of items that are possibly interesting to the buyer appear. The selection logic is based on category and tags of items previously viewed.
  • notifications on bookmarked items: when a bookmarked item is about to expire it shows a notification (work in progress).

Libraries updated

All libraries were updated to the current versions, including an update of the Angular engine from Angular 2 to Angular 4. Major updates:

  • angular 2 -> 4.2.4
  • ng2-translate -> ngx-translate
  • rxjs -> 5.5.0

Cleanup & refactoring

Clean up of code comments, unnecessary logging, and test code (work in progress);

Updated UI of the entire app: buttons, preloaders, etc.

New Item Wizard

We added help for item creation process, improved form error handling; added wizard for item creation.

Items list

Pagination lazyload (loads more goods on scroll) added, more fields on the item view added (listing time period), expired items are blocked from this view, new sorting component and logic.

TheBlock

Updater

An in-app updater allows users to update to the newest release version from inside the app (work in progress) using GitHub as release repository and Nuts server for watching updates.

Updater

 

Mac Release

Item detail

Improvements to default item view: all important fields are presented to the user on page load, no longer hidden in an expandable field.

Item Detail

Viewed items and suggested components

Visual implementation of e-shop engine logic: on every item detail page the user can see smart-sorted items based on previously viewed items, tags, categories, and images. On dashboard page the user can see recently viewed items.

Viewed

Other changes:

There are also many minor changes included this month:

  • webpack DLL configured for faster builds
  • added “Clear Settings & Cache” button
  • prompt component
  • 2FA enabled
  • dropdown menu component
  • fixed error on viewall list which did not let the user switch view until the user performed some UI action

If you are not a developer, maybe you need to check out our app, The Block, for yourself. Don’t hesitate, sign up for beta testing, and gives us your feedback. It will be really appreciated!

(We love user feedback and ideas. Also, if you think the people you know would find this useful, please share it with them!)

We already have our White Paper

At BitBoost we have been working very hard to release our vision for the future of e-commerce through a top tier app: The Block, a blockchain-based marketplace, now in pre-beta testing. We have been also working to create a seasoned and professional team, and developing a business plan to create a profitable company with a clear business model. Now, we are preparing for the launch stages, with a token generation event coming this autumn. Maybe you are already following us, or maybe you are just learning about us. Either way, you may learn more about us by reading our white paper. You can find it right here, in the embeded presentation, or download your own personal copy using this white paper download link. You can also contact us for further inquiries at [email protected]

 

Meet our new partner PassLfix

At BitBoost we are working hard to redefine e-commerce through The Block, our blockchain-based marketplace (if you haven’t registered yet for beta testing, please do so on our website) We also believe that this goal requires the collaboration with other blockchain startups, who are willing to reinvent the value chain for digital business. Because of that, we are now actively developing several partnerships with other companies, and we are happy to announce our first one with PassLFix, a smart delivery service. In this interview, we ask PassLFix CEO Frederic Vedrunes to explain the purpose, features and roadmap for his company, together with his expectations for our partnership.

Most new blockchain startups were born with a clear purpose. What is yours?

To create solutions for smart deliveries, using emerging technologies like the blockchain and the Internet of Things.

How did you come to the idea for this service?

I live far from my family in a remote country. Sending or receiving parcels is either unreliable or very expensive, if I want for instance a fast shipping time. The idea came in June 2016. One of my colleagues has forgotten his belongings in a remote hotel after a journey and he couldn’t find a solution to receive them in a short time, although other travellers could bring them for him. This is how the idea of a delivery smart contract was born. I made a proposal to the DAO but because of the attack I decided to create a new DAO (Pass DAO) with no blocked ethers in a smart contract and with the purpose of serving delivery businesses in a decentralized way. In September 2016, I participated in the International Blockchain Conference in Shanghai to present the concept and met Vitalik Buterin. His response was: ‘Yes, I think you can use smart contracts for decentralized delivery services, but you need to track the parcels during transit.’ The concept seemed clear but I thought that it needed a prototype to make sure. I worked on this prototype with partners I met in EDCON in Paris and we now see many potential applications – not only in the P2P delivery sector. But, of course, we have to adapt these solutions to customers’ or partners’ requirements. This is the work PassLfix will carry out.

How many people are in your team? What background do you have?

At the current time, the company PassLfix is very young and light but we intend to hire and we have technical partners in Germany, Finland and France. The project is ambitious and needs highly-skilled specialists.

What stage are you currently in – do you have a working service?

We are in the development phase.

Please, can you explain to us your business plan? Do you charge a fee for your service?

PassLfix will develop solutions for its customers or for Pass DAO. After launch, the idea is that Pass DAO will serve delivery businesses and take a part of fee they receive from users.

Do you have any roadmap for your service? Are you working on new features?

At the current time, we are working on the API for the setting of delivery contracts and on the mobile phone application for mapping and messaging features.

What advantages does your service deliver to users that makes you different from other shipping companies?

  1. Cash on delivery: The sender does not need to make a prepayment and the recipient can easily buy a specific local product from a remote region.
  2. Deposit insurance: The system foresees that the courier and not the user should take out insurance in case of a delayed train or flight, for instance. This is a big difference with centralized postal services, which cannot give a guarantee to users and are not incentivized to deliver on time.
  3. Real-time tracking and monitoring of parcels: Tracking objects during transit and/or from a postbox or depot improves the quality of the provided delivery service and is a way to avoid or solve many disputes.

Who are your competitors at this moment?

This ‘technology’ is new. Maybe http://www.chronicled.com/.

At this moment you are based on Moscow – are you planning to expand to other cities soon?

At the current time, I live in Moscow but the project is global. The company PassLfix is registering in Zug (Switzerland).  

What can people expect from PassLfix in the near future?

People will see evolution with services like The Block, which uses the PassLfix solution.

Can you please explain us what benefits you expect from the partnership with BitBoost?

PassLfix creates solutions for P2P delivery services, which are already growing globally but that could expand still more rapidly if we provide them with a built-in trust system. This is what we’re doing with delivery smart contracts, blockchain proofs and tamper evidence. We want to integrate the parcel-monitoring platform in The Block platform created by BitBoost. We hope that many users will want to buy items with secure and tracked deliveries and therefore delivery businesses will offer this service. The Block platform can interface with the system of these services for an agreed price, for instance, and PassLfix can provide them with the phone application to interact with the blockchain and send the GPS and sensors data stream. The partnership between us should be very useful for both parties. The integration with an Ethereum-based platform will be easier and for users who want to buy or sell items in ETH, there will not be any exchange rate issue for the shipping. BitBoost will also provide a reputation system for users. PassLfix has a reputation system, but only for couriers or transporters. The partnership will be very valuable.

(If you think the people you know would find this useful, please share it with them – We’d really appreciate it!)

For more information about PassLfix, visit their webpage: http://pacifics.org/