Origin & decentralized marketplaces0.07

Origin is an attempt to eliminate the intermediaries that are increasingly dominating the service economy, such as Uber, AirBnB and Fiverr. It aims to do this by building a protocol upon which other developers and business can create their own decentralized marketplaces. This would allow even small operators to build functioning marketplaces, through which users can buy and sell goods or services.

While Origin has partners building their own marketplaces on top of the protocol, the team have themselves pushed out a Beta marketplace to showcase their technology. The site can be best described as functional, but clearly still lacks the features and polish of more established centralized competitors.

To demonstrate how the site works, I decided to use the site to try and sell a watch of mine. The process is simple. First, I create the listing in a similar manner to eBay, uploading photos and a short description.

I was wondering while going through the process what the point of the OGN token was – and here I discover it, being able to boost the visibility of my listing if I pay a fee in OGN. The whitepaper also claims that OGN will be used for the governance of the platform, and can also be used to incentivize certain behavior on the platform; although it is not made clear what these might be.

Regardless, I decline to pay a fee to boost and following a review of my listing, click to submit my watch for sale at the rather excessive price of 8.5 ETH, c. $1,700 at current prices. The watch would likely sell in such a condition for c. $1,000-1,200. 

Unfortunately, it is only possible to list an item using ETH as the cost basis, meaning that if ETH was to drop substantially I would still have to fulfill the order at the lower cost. Because of the lack of activity on the site, the advert could be waiting weeks if not months for fulfillment. Therefore, I am forced to list higher than I would like. A busier site would help reduce this risk, but I would have thought the sensible option would be to provide a USD quote, with the amount of ETH for payment then varying according to the price of ETH at the time of a sale.

Following the confirmation of my transaction on MetaMask, my listing is created and is visible on the site.

While the process to list was simple, two warnings when you first enter the site give reason to pause.

Firstly, the site warns to “use caution with counterparties you don’t know. Please verify your own identity”. This is fairly redundant. I can use a false identity with no drawbacks. Similarly, if I knew the counterparty I wouldn’t be using a decentralized system.

Secondly, when you list an item it is noted that “you will receive payment once the buyer confirms the order has been fulfilled”. Hmm. This is one of the drawbacks of decentralized systems. What is to stop the buyer acting maliciously and denying the order has been fulfilled? Particularly in the more subjective areas of service delivery, where the scope of work and expectations are often vague. The team, according to their warning, are the arbitrator for all disputes.

Without wishing to be critical, it is hard to be overly effusive about the Origin Beta as it stands. However, the main objective for Origin is to produce a marketplace protocol which other companies will be able to use and build on top of. As such, it is unfair to judge the project by the Beta network, but rather it should be reassessed according to their 2019 target for third-parties to launch DApps based on Origin.

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