It was a different time for Darknet marketplaces back in 2013. The whole idea of a centralized marketplace for something like drugs was not as accepted as it is today, at least not until Silk Road stepped up to the plate.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.
Silk Road and Dread Pirate Roberts
Silk Road was the first “real” drug marketplace on Darknet and one of the pioneers of the idea that drugs could be sold and bought over the internet anonymously. It was established by a man called Ross Ulbricht, known to many as “Dread Pirate Roberts” and his associates. Aside from the fact that this was the first Darknet Marketplace of this size, what separated it from other contenders at that time was Dread Pirate Roberts’ philosophy of standing up against the system and proving that drug consumption and trafficking can be done peacefully and safely. One of the main reasons for Silk Road’s existence at that time was to allow people who wanted to purchase illegal drugs, to do so without fearing for their safety.
This went on until October 2nd, 2013 when an FBI Seizure Notice replaced the usual Silkroad login screen. Shortly after that, different speculations started circling the Darknet about what was the full story behind this. Most prominent theories were that either Dread Pirate Roberts was arrested, or he ran off with everyone’s money. There were some who still clung to hope that this was just a prank pulled by the site’s admins, but this was soon dispelled by the confirmation of the news that Ross Ulbricht has been arrested on the charges pertaining to running Silk Road.
What followed after could be very well described as a fall of a nation. Mass panic among the Darknet community ensued and many people were justifiably worried about their personal data and whether it was safe. Luckily, most of the buyers from Silkroad were not persecuted but were left with a difficult situation nonetheless. What was to be done now? Without Silk Road where will they purchase the goods that were so readily available to them just a few days ago?
People, who will in time be called “Silk Road refugees,” now had to find a new marketplace that will replace the hole that the site left. This was a period of many scams, one of the most well-known ones being the Sheep Marketplace scam. On the flip side, after the owner of Sheep Marketplace disappeared with estimated 40 million dollars in Bitcoin, a post appeared on the front page of Sheep Marketplace with several .onion links directing to other “trustworthy” marketplaces. The result of this was that not only Sheep Marketplace was shut down due to exit scam, but TorMarket and Black Market Reloaded also had to turn into invite-only marketplaces because their servers could not handle the sudden influx of people from Silk Road and Sheep Marketplace.
Silk Road 2.0
After the fall of Silkroad, some of the admins and prominent vendors refused to “give up” and decided to revive the site as it once was. The alias “Dread Pirate Roberts” was picked up by one of the well-known vendors from the site StExo. He then met with several mods and admins from the site to discuss its revival and even posted a notice on Silkroad forums telling Dread Pirate Roberts to contact him as soon as possible. Many speculated that this was an attempt to make the authorities believe they have a wrong person, or at least that “Dread Pirate Roberts” was not a single person, to begin with.
After establishing himself as a successor to Dread Pirate Roberts, StExo rallied a group of now-former Silkroad admins and decided that their first course of action was to create a new place of gathering for Silkroad refugees. The people assisting StExo were accurately described as “a colorful bunch,” but they all shared the idea that Silk Road was not dead for good.
Among the group was Scout, a former moderator of Silkroad forum, who was well known and well liked by the community, but had a history of “betraying his captain.” He has been discovered by Dread Pirate Roberts to be conspiring with an undercover federal agent to create a vendor account in an attempt to infiltrate Silk Road. He was laid off because of this and later reinstated just to be fired again, followed by another reinstatement under a different moniker.
Another part of the crew was a person known under the name Same Same But Different (SSBD), who was allegedly Dread Pirate Roberts’ most loyal confidant.
The last person to assist in the creation of Silk Road 2.0 was the former forum administrator Libertas. He was known as “Gestapo,” but nonetheless his seal of approval was what finally got people to rally to Silkroad 2.0’s forum.
Sometime after the creation of Silk Road 2.0 forum, StExo posted under his moniker that while he approves of the site’s forum, will never trust a marketplace opened under the name of someone else’s idea. This was, of course, arouse created to distance StExo from the entire operation.
In November 2013 the new Silk Road 2.0 marketplace opened for business, which was a direct taunt to the authorities. By now any possibility of Silk Road’s staff being on authorities’ radar has been dismissed, and the admins of Silkroad continued using their old monikers.
The problem was that Silkroad 2.0 was a huge taunt to the competence of agencies fighting the War on Drugs and those same agencies held Ross Ulbricht and all data stored on his personal laptop. Unfortunately, that data included personal information on SSBD, Libertas, and Inigo, who were arrested and charged for involvement with Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0. After this, StExo disappeared, but the allure of potential profit that Silkroad offered was too great. He returned under a different name, Defcon, and fabricated a story that would explain the current state of events.
Shortly after, Silkroad 2.0 was allegedly hacked and around 4 thousand Bitcoins were stolen. A post was placed on the site’s forum that contained personal information of said hacker, which later turned out to be fabricated. The accepted explanation is that StExo realized that it is no longer safe running the site and thus decided to run away with all the Bitcoin that was in escrow at the time.
Silk Road 3.0
Following the fall of Silk Road 2.0, a large majority of Darknet has started to shun the name and associate it with scamming. The name that once signified the battle against the War on Drugs is now nothing more than a shade of its former self. Given this, it is unusual, to say the least, that a small but relatively prominent marketplace called Diabolus Marketplace, decided last year to change their name into Silk Road 3.0 following the closure of its second iteration. The site has not only changed its name but has also actively rebranded itself to resemble Silk Road. The owner of the site has also admitted in an interview that they are working with a senior member from older Silk Roads to create the Silk Road 3.0. This has caused the majority of Darknet community to question the trustworthiness of the site and many people went as far as to claim that “you have to be retarded to put money into any site that has Silk Road in its name” and that “Silk Road era is done.” Even sites like DeepDotWeb are warning their users that any further Silkroad iterations are not to be trusted and will probably end up scamming their users. While the Silkroad 3.0 is still up and running, and quite well if one looks at the amount of listings posted on it, there is no telling how it will end and who the people are running it behind the scenes.
Silk Road Reloaded
As with Silk Road 3.0, Silk Road Reloaded was another marketplace that tried to cash in on the name. It got an even worse treatment than Silkroad 3.0, mainly because its admin acted very weirdly, even rudely in some cases, and was considered to be a troll by a majority of Darknet community. An interesting thing about the site is that it was based on i2p rather than Tor, which earned it a lot of side glances from Darknet community. It also had its inbuilt crypto-currency converter, meaning it was accepting payments in a currency other than Bitcoin, which was converted automatically by the site. It has been ten months since any news was heard from the site, which probably means that the marketplace has been shut down for one reason or another.
Future of Silk Road
While Silk Road 3.0 still stands and operates normally, many people who have been visiting Darknet marketplaces for a longer period are appealing to the newer users to steer clear of Silkroad brand. The name itself has been too heavily connected to scamming and foul play, making the majority of users decides on other sites as their source of business. And with the recent increase in personal vendor marketplaces which have proven to be much safer and trustworthy, centralized markets like Silkroad 3.0 are getting less and fewer visitors every day. It is possible that it will be the last real iteration of Silk Road since the name has started to bring more bad publicity than anything else.