The DarkMarket homepage
The DarkMarket homepage which has no rebranded as OpenBazaar to avoid obvious comparison with illegal drugs selling site Silk Road.

Even anarchists have to pay attention to PR and marketing it seems.

After pressure from the community which has built up around it the anonymous network known as DarkMarket has rebranded as OpenBazaar, in an apparent attempt to appeal to a wider audience and avoid negative connections to illicit trade in drugs.

Feted from the off as 'a Silk Road the Feds couldn't touch', DarkMarket was launched as proof-of-concept peer-to-peer network where buyers connected securely to sellers directly, rather than going through a central marketplace as was the case with Silk Road.

The move to rebrand this technology as OpenBazaar is in response to a petition on Reddit which sought to change the name to FreeMarket because of the negative connotations the name DarkMarket brought with it.

"By calling this important invention the Dark Market I'm afraid Amir et al are playing into the system's hands. If the name of the exchange is changed to Free Market, imagine the implications. News anchors will have to say on TV, 'Officials are looking into banning the free market.'"

While original developers Damian Cutillo, William Swanson and Amir Taaki have all said they no longer want to work on the project, the community which has built up around it has moved quickly to try and rebrand the system as something other than a replacement for Silk Road - deciding on OpenBazaar as the new name for the service.

Bitcoin hackathon

OpenBazaar was developed during the Toronto Bitcoin hackathon in mid-April and uses the power of the bitcoin blockchain to create a network where people can securely and anonymously buy and sell items online - using bitcoin of course.

The technology was developed as a proof of concept by Taaki and he has already posted the code on open source software repository GitHub, hoping others will build on his idea.

OpenBazaar works in a very different way to Silk Road, which was a typical website hosted on a server - albeit on the deep web. The result was that law enforcement agencies were able to seize the server belonging to Silk Road's alleged operator - Ross Ulbricht - and charge him.

No central server

OpenBazaar sees users (both buyers and sellers) download a piece of software to their own computers through which they can connect securely with each other, with buyers able to view whatever merchants have to offer. The unique feature of the system sees both people's identities tied to their bitcoin address, meaning no one can impersonate you on OpenBazaar.

Transactions are carried out using a trusted third party who acts as a go between and holds the money from the buyer until the goods from the seller arrive.

As there is no central server hosting OpenBazaar and users' identities and locations are anonymous, prosecuting anyone buying and selling illegal goods through it will be very difficult.

Instinctively people will see this as a replacement for Silk Road, with the buying and selling of drugs one of the most obvious uses for the system.

Not just a Silk Road replacement

However that is not the only thing this technology could be used for. At the hackathon demonstration in Toronto earlier this month, the creators showed how it could be used to sell asthma inhalers to people travelling to the US.

Currently it is illegal to buy an asthma inhaler in the US without a prescription, and obtaining one would entail going to a doctor and getting diagnosed before being allowed purchase an inhaler.

Using OpenBazaar, these barriers would be broken down the creators believe and this opens up huge possibilities for global trade of goods which are illegal in one country but not another.

Dark Wallet

While Taaki may have given up on DarkMarket, he is currently working on another bitcoin-based creation called Dark Wallet, which is set to launch this week.

Dark Wallet is a new bitcoin application promising much more privacy protection than typical bitcoin wallets do, though many claim the new software will play into the hands of criminals looking to launder ill-gotten gains.

It was created in conjunction with Cody Wilson, the 26-year-old who gain notoriety last year when he became the first person to successfully fire a 3D-printed gun.

Wilson says it was built in response to growing talk of government regulation:

"This is a way of using bitcoin that mocks every attempt to sprinkle it with regulation. It's a way to say to the government 'You've set yourself up to regulate bitcoin. Regulate this.'"