Many believe a new day is dawning with the launch of the decentralized market OpenBazaar. However, it still doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to those dealing with black market goods. In fact darknet markets (DNM) are stronger than ever and have continued the legacy of the original Silk Road with much success. Here’s a look at some of the vendor platforms currently ruling the roost when it comes to the online shadow economy.
The Leaders of the Deep Web
The current leader of the infamous darknet markets is the Alphabay platform created by a “carder” named alpha02. Carders are people who buy and sell online credit card data stolen from retail store breaches and phishing sites. Launched on December 22, 2014, the market saw exponential growth of 14,000 users within its first 90 days. In October 2015, it was recognized as the largest DNM according to statistics from Gwern.net and the Deep Dot Web (DDW) publications. Following the demise of the DNM Evolution, the platform again saw significant growth. The marketplace founder alpha02 recalls how it happened in an interview stating, “within the three days following the closure; we had 18,000 new registrations, 7,000 new forum posts, and around $300,000 in trading volume.”
Despite its 98% approval rating, the site is far from perfect. Negative reviews of the marketplace can be found all over the web and social forums. People have complained about not receiving ordered product, and dispute resolution seems to be an awful experience. Many new vendors are vetted as scammers, and it seems hard to find a reliable connection without being worrisome about your transactions. Alphabay has full instructions on how to use the platform via its subreddit, and DDW portal has a decent tutorial as well for beginners.
There is not much information on the creator of this marketplace, but the DNM Dream Market has been around since November of 2013 with an uptime of over 90%. According to the Deep Dot Web, the market is the second largest DNM currently with a customer approval rating of 98% as well. The platform is known to use a traditional escrow system for transactions and has seen consistent growth since its inception. Dream is one of the few markets that does not allow the buying and selling of guns and weapons. Reviews of the marketplace say that Dream’s operations are monitored by the founding team, and the creators are fans of privacy. Directions on how to buy from the marketplace can also be found online, and users have to sign up and register through Dream’s forum. One user’s review of the site says:
This is a great site for me. I always do my research and check out vendors feedback etc. before buying and as of yet have never been ripped off. Much better than silk road when my BTCs could take over a day to transfer whilst I fretted! Less than 20 mins and my BTCs were ready to use with these guys! Impressed!
The Valhalla marketplace was at one time a Finnish only market but has since turned into an international darknet vendor platform. Valhalla has also been around for quite some time originating in 2013. The site offers both traditional and multisignature escrow systems for its transactions. The website is also referred to by its Finnish name Silkkitie and rebranded to Valhalla when the market went global. To join Valhalla, registrations are permitted by invite only in order to protect the market from law enforcement agents and scammers. There is a majority of illicit drugs found in its categories, but users can also find products that are not illegal.
In an interview with an administrator called “Kapteeni” a Valhalla moderator revealed to the DDW website why the marketplace was founded. Kapteeni explained that strict Finnish customs are very efficient when it comes to finding smuggled goods. With Finnish law enforcement on the heels of people exchanging illegal products, the group decided to establish a market for those residing in the country.
“At this point it was clear that we needed our own market,” Valhalla admin explained. “Since the founding of Silkkitie, the methods of vendors have developed a lot, and ordering from abroad has become slightly safer since there are vendors who use every method possible to prevent their shipments from getting caught.”
Being a well-known market for three years running the site has a pretty decent reputation and has a 97% approval rating according to DDW.
Silk Road 3
The Silk Road (SR) 3 doesn’t have the greatest approval rating on DDW where subscribers give it a score of 67%. There have been many successors of the Silk Road brand such as SR2 and SR Reloaded. All of these using the SR brand have fallen to the wayside by either being an exit scam or by law enforcement. SR3 initially had a rough time getting started by being offline quite a bit, suffering from DDoS attacks, and rumors of the platform being run by the DNM Crypto Market.
It seems the two marketplaces are tethered together, and this is confirmed by many sources. According to this blog, SR3 plans on beefing up security and privacy hoping to be the safest marketplace on the deep web. Evidence that supports this security upgrade is due to the security implementations recently added to the Crypto Market. Additionally, the DDW publication says they don’t support any of the markets that rebrand with this name and believe the Silk Road legacy is “dead.” However, DDW coincidentally got two of the same press releases recently stating that both SR3 and the Crypto Market would be donating to the Last Door Recovery Society. The Vancouver-based nonprofit is an organization that specializes in drug and alcohol treatment. The press release states:
On the 8th of June, $5 from every sale will be donated to the Last Door Recovery Society(even if the sale does not amount to $5). Crypto Market/ Silk Road 3 encourage harm reduction and responsible use of mind-altering substances.
Where There’s a Will, Darknet Markets Find a Way
Decentralized marketplaces and black markets online are not going anywhere anytime soon. Although centralized DNM’s on the deep web will still continue to be used as long as they offer a superior level of anonymity. OpenBazaar hasn’t made privacy a huge focus in its initial stages but that will soon change according to the roadmap the team recently revealed. The creator of OpenBazaar has also said in the past that it’s not looking to be a successor of the original Silk Road, but there are some who have started selling cannabis using the platform. It seems black market-based sites will continue until a decentralized marketplace emerges enabling superior privacy and doesn’t mind illicit activity taking place on the portal. Until then there will always be a notable distinction between these two types of markets.
What do you think about these darknet markets in comparison to OpenBazaar? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources & References: Deep Dot Web, and Gwern.net
Images courtesy of Pixabay, Deep Dot Web, and Wiki Commons