LockChain - what may be the first blockchain-based marketplace for booking hotels and private accommodations - released its alpha version on Friday.
The company says the site has 600 listings and that number will jump to a hefty 100,000 by the end of February when it finishes adding listings from partnerships they inked in December.
The platform eliminates fees and commissions and allows hosts and travelers to transact directly with one another without any intermediaries.
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The engine of the decentralized system is known as the LOC Ledger, built on the Ethereum Virtual Machine, and is open source and free for anyone to use. LockChain is the first customer-facing application built on top of this blockchain platform.
Any company or individual – independent hotels, chains, bed and breakfasts, homeowners – can list their property on the site for free.
“We respect these big names in the travel industry like Booking and Airbnb. The thing that motivates us is that Booking and Airbnb are part of the dot com disruption, and now we have blockchain," says Stoyan Angelov, LockChain’s community manager and
"The main reason people use it is to cut the middleman, and we saw a big opportunity to cut the middleman in this industry and to add value for travelers and hosts."
The thing that motivates us is that Booking and Airbnb are part of the dot com disruption, and now we have blockchain.
Stoyan Angelov - LockChain
LockChain’s cryptocurrency is known as a LOC token. In addition to functioning as the site’s currency, the token also acts as a smart contract, storing the rental agreement between the property owner and traveler.
Hosts list their properties in fiat currencies, and the system shows the equivalent price in LOC based on real-time averages from CoinMarketCap API. Travelers can either pay in LOC or with a credit or debit card, in which case they incur the fee charged
by their payment processor.
The property owner receives payment in LOC tokens and can choose to keep them or convert them to fiat currency.
LockChain intends to make money by allowing property owners to purchase upgrades such as a higher position in the site’s search function, the ability to upload additional photos, or enhanced dashboards with richer data.
In addition, LockChain retained 25% of its LOC tokens to be shared by the founders, employees, community and advisors and another 25% for future business development, research and education. The remaining 50% went up for initial sale in November, raising a total of 10,500 Ether from 4,500 individual contributors.
The site currently shows listings in Bulgaria – where LockChain is based – France, Hong Kong, Italy, Macedonia, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.
As more properties are added to the site - Angelov is confident it will meet the goal of 100,000 next month - additional search functions will also be added, such as the ability to search by city or postal code.
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In addition to building out the site, Angelov says LockChain is working to educate people about blockchain and eliminate concerns that have been driven by issues with Bitcoin - the most well-known cryptocurrency - and its sharp fluctuations in value.
“There’s a lot of negative PR about Bitcoin and all the crypto world, and of course some part of this is true,” Angelov says.
“All we can do is to be strongly focused on delivering a real product with real value, to show the world this is blockchain technology, and we are using it for disrupting this industry. It’s not just speculative.”