The eCommerce industry emerged in the 1990s. eCommerce adoption didn't just happen overnight. Resistance to emerging technologies is nothing new, and it took time for widespread acceptance of eCommerce. Is blockchain technology where eCommerce heads next, and what factors will affect its adoption by the general populous?
Entering the Blockchain Era
Bitcoin was the first Peer-to Peer (P2P) electronic cash system to get adoption traction. Unfortunately, being built on a public ledger means every transaction is visible, along with the balances on every public key (Wallet Address). This is a limiting factor in Bitcoin’s practical application in eCommerce, and possibly explains why the Bitcoin code related to on-chain eCommerce protocols was never implemented.
Privacy is the key issue with Bitcoin as an eCommerce vehicle. A person can’t use Bitcoin for eCommerce without both the buyer and seller being able to see the other party’s wallet balance and all other transactions. The addition of data encryption protocols is necessary to help increase data privacy.
Monero introduced technological improvements to overcome many of the privacy concerns identified in Bitcoin. With Ring Signatures and One-Time “Stealth” Addresses, wallet balances or transaction histories are hidden. This is very much in line with our expectations for regular fiat banking transactions.
Like Bitcoin, the notable detracting point of Monero is the lack of a built-in blockchain-level eCommerce protocol.
To evolve eCommerce onto the blockchain requires Satoshi’s unrealized idea of a protocol-level eCommerce platform merged with Monero’s privacy technologies. Satoshi’s 4 eCommerce functions in the deleted Bitcoin code would need to be realized:
This would allow merchants to list their products independently on a decentralized marketplace, where they sell directly via P2P protocols to shoppers.
An Impossible Task?
Creating a blockchain with the combined capabilities of an independent, decentralized eCommerce platform, whilst maintaining the privacy expectations of the average real-world shopper sounds like a difficult task, but has been accomplished by the Safex project. The Safex devs forked Monero code and built their own 2-coin cryptocurrency on the CryptoNote protocol, keeping both Ring Signatures and Stealth Address technologies for privacy.
In December 2020, Safex launched a marketplace on the Safex blockchain, incorporating all of Satoshi’s unrealized eCommerce functions.
Satoshi’s eCommerce Aspirations Realized in the Safex Marketplace
The Safex core protocol includes the following eCommerce-related functions:
Merchant Account Creation/Edit
Feedback Review (by Purchasers only)
Price Peg Creation/Update
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Safex.Market Wallet was released in March 2021. During the last 15 months, product listings have exceeded $4 million, with hundreds of purchases.
Some big names in the eCommerce world are testing the system during the pilot phase of the software. But the Safex.Market Wallet won't be restricted to just established eCommerce merchants. A future version of Wallet will allow anyone, anywhere, to sell their wares.
Shopper privacy is assured with an encrypted (RSA4096) messaging system built into the Safex.Wallet, which automatically creates a P2P channel between the shopper and the merchant using PGP keys.