It’s been a long road in our quest to create a decentralised mass-market e-commerce platform. We’ve been working on this in one form or another for over four years. At this point, as we’re finally starting to test the first iterations of our completed software, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at how far we’ve come.
The Nxt years
What ultimately became BitBoost Marketplace (BBM) started out life on the Nxt platform, the first true ‘2.0’ blockchain. CEO Paul Mahone and Andrew Lekar began work on this back at the beginning of 2014. A trawl of the archives shows that it’s almost exactly four years since NxtFreeMarket, as it was then known, was officially launched.
NxtFreeMarket was a standalone app that the user downloaded and ran alongside the Nxt client. It included some of the same features as the current iteration of the project, enabling users to connect directly with each other to buy and sell goods. Unfortunately, while Nxt was trailblazing for its time, it still lacked the functionality to make a decentralised e-commerce app that was fit for purpose. Fortunately, something far more powerful was just around the corner.
The move to Ethereum
Ethereum made enormous waves in the crypto community when Vitalik Buterin first announced the project in 2013. It went on to become the most successful crowdsale of its time, and when the platform finally launched in 2015 it immediately became clear that it would provide a far better foundation for building an online marketplace than Nxt. The BitBoost initiative was formed and NxtFreeMarket retired, with the commitment that the tokenholders who had funded the first version of the project would be able to swap their Nxt tokens for the new ERC20-compliant tokens.
Successful token sale
At the beginning of 2017, the slowly-expanding team began work on the white paper that would form the basis of their token sale later that year. The updated concept was an ambitious peer-to-peer marketplace that would combine the benefits of decentralised technologies with the user experience and functionality of a traditional online store like Amazon or eBay. That meant user-friendly features like instant search and support for images in listings, necessitating the exploration of technologies beyond blockchain – which could not support the bandwidth or storage requirements of a full-featured marketplace – without unnecessarily compromising on decentralisation.
The public token sale for the marketplace was held in September and October of 2017. Roughly 5 million BitBoost Tokens (BBT) were sold for bitcoin and Ether, with a value at the time of around $1.2 million. BBT would be used by sellers to pay for listing fees on the marketplace, creating ongoing demand for the token.
Driven by new and fast-evolving regulation, and the desire position the project properly for the future, the team incorporated BitBoost as a company in Zug, Switzerland – a forward-looking jurisdiction well-known for being sympathetic to crypto. New team members were hired, ultimately bringing the total number up to 28 people from 16 different countries, spread in various locations around the world.
It also became necessary to rebrand in order to avoid confusion with other crypto initiatives. The project duly became BitBoost Marketplace (BBM).
Alongside these developments, work on the core app continued, and the first version is now available for testing (invite only). BBM is available as a standalone Windows or macOS app, and will create a new wallet address when first used. This ERC20-compatible wallet can be used to withdraw payments to an external address or send funds to other accounts, as well as for managing payments on BitBoost Marketplace.
Basic functionality has been completed, and sellers can upload items for listing, with images – though this process is currently being overhauled (see below). Instant search and a clean interface makes the user experience similar to that of mainstream e-commerce platforms. However, everything possible works on a decentralised basis, and messages between users are encrypted for privacy. Critically, BitBoost do not need to host any software or store any user data.
As soon as BBT was issued, holders could trade it on decentralised exchanges such as EtherDelta. Since then, BBT has also been listed on traditional crypto exchanges. These include Mercatox (against BTC and ETH) and more recently the popular Cryptopia (against BTC, LTC, and DOGE).
Ongoing research and development
BitBoost have adopted a Lean and Agile approach to software development, which focuses on fast development cycles, creating working software and constantly learning along the way – adapting our goals and the means by which we achieve them according to market needs and technical realities.
This has led to some significant developments in the functionality we want to provide for BBM. For example, we discovered that gas costs are too high and unpredictable to store item listing data on the blockchain, and so took the decision to explore using IPFS for this instead. As new products and technologies come onto the market, we have also had the opportunity to incorporate these into BBM.
One example is the TrueUSD stablecoin, a token that is 1:1 backed by US dollars. This will offer our users the advantages of low-cost, fast and borderless transactions without the volatility otherwise inherent in cryptocurrencies. Not only is TrueUSD an ERC20 token, meaning we can integrate it relatively easily, but the team has taken a very different approach to Tether, currently the most popular stablecoin, in terms of transparency and auditing.
In the coming months, a series of new features are planned. We will release Linux and mobile versions, as well as a web interface. A decentralised arbitration system will be launched to address disputes between buyers and sellers, and popular options for delivery services will be added.
We will implement filters to enable users to prevent search results from displaying objectionable items according to their personal preferences or jurisdiction. The app is available in English, but in due course will be localised for as many languages as possible.
We’ll be releasing an updated roadmap shortly, so stay tuned. Like our community, we’re looking forward to seeing the first version of BitBoost Marketplace in action as soon as possible.