Built on Origin: A Decentralized Shopify Alternative

Nick Poulden
Nov 20 · 4 min read

In the past several years, Shopify has become the platform of choice for e-commerce merchants looking to sell goods direct to consumers. It allows sellers to manage their products and orders and provides a range of storefront UI options and a thriving app store. Shopify is also the go-to software for many crypto projects operating e-commerce stores. The Ethereum Foundation, Brave, GitCoin, and EthHub all use Shopify to sell swag and other merchandise.

However, Shopify does have several shortcomings. First, Shopify takes a cut of almost every single transaction via Shopify Payments; this is on top of monthly subscription fees. Secondly, there are multiple categories of products that are banned on Shopify. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an open-source, decentralized alternative that did not charge transaction fees and was not censored? What if this alternative also supported cross-border payments, could be fully customized and was free to run?

Today, we are proud to announce the Origin e-commerce store, a decentralized, open source alternative to Shopify, hosted entirely on IPFS with an ENS domain.

Example E-Commerce store: Origin Swag

From the buyer’s perspective, the experience is the same; they can search for products, add selections to shopping carts, checkout, and finally pay with ETH, ERC-20 tokens, OR a credit card.

Try the Origin Swag Store now by visiting https://originswag.eth.link or typing originswag.eth/ into the URL bar on your ENS-enabled browser.

How does it work?

The technology powering the store is very different than Shopify’s. The Origin e-commerce store has only 2 dependencies: an IPFS Gateway and an Ethereum node. The entire front-end application logic, product database, and supporting media (such as product images) are hosted on IPFS. Customers go through the typical purchase flow, then pay via their Web3 provider at the checkout.

There are several technical innovations with this product release. Customer and order details are encrypted with PGP before being uploaded to IPFS. The resulting IPFS hash is then sent together with payment to the Origin Marketplace smart contract. A backend process run by the seller watches the smart contract for new order events, which includes the IPFS hash containing the order details. The IPFS blob is then downloaded and decrypted. Using this data the seller can then send notification emails and fulfill orders.

What about credit cards?

The Origin e-commerce store notably supports off-chain payments such as credit cards via a payment provider component that may also be run independently. Sellers are not locked into a particular payment provider (eg Shopify Payments) giving them the freedom to choose the provider with the best service or lowest fees.

The backend service that connects to the payment processor will submit a blockchain transaction on behalf of the customer with their encrypted order details.

Here is a typical transaction flow that is virtually indistinguishable from a Shopify flow.

Step 1. The buyer browses for a product
Step 2. The buyer goes to their Shopping Cart to check out
Step 3. The buyer enters in shipping and billing information
Step 4. The buyer pays with crypto or credit card

Why is this better than Shopify?

It’s free
Shopify charges $79/month for their standard plan, plus 2.9% on credit card payments. Origin’s e-commerce store is free to run, and transaction fees are limited to crypto gas costs (typically a few cents per transaction).

Sell what you want
Shopify prohibits certain products from sale, and who is to say they won’t prohibit more in the future? There are plenty of stories of Shopify customers who were kicked off the platform without any warning or recourse. With Origin Store, there are no restrictions on what you can sell, now or ever.

Open Source
All Origin Store code is free and open-source under the permissive MIT license, meaning you can fork our code and make changes or take advantage of community contributions. As the community expands and the network grows, the software will continue to evolve and become more powerful.

Open Data
Origin data can be published openly to the blockchain and IPFS by anyone. This means that third parties can write tools and applications on top of this data while having a guarantee that the underlying API will not change or suddenly become unavailable.

Try it today

Origin e-commerce is still in the early stages of development, but it’s already fully functional and can support your e-commerce store with a quick and easy setup process. If you’d like to be notified as the product continues to develop, please sign up below. If you already have an e-commerce store and are interested in migrating, or just want to talk about the tech, please tweet or email me.

Learn more about Origin:

Nick Poulden

Written by

Senior Engineer at Origin Protocol

Origin Protocol

Origin is building the sharing economy of tomorrow. Buyers and sellers will be able to transact without rent-seeking middlemen. We believe in lowering transaction fees, promoting free and transparent commerce, and giving early participants in the community a stake in the network.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade