ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.
The outrunner of the dark web was certainly The Hive, an online community forum used for discussions about marihuana.
One of the first dark web markets was The Farmers Market. Launched in 2006, it moved to Tor in 2010. Two years later, several operators were arrested and the market closed. They were busted quite easily since they had been using PayPal and Western Union! Nevertheless, in the dark web annals The Farmers Market stands as the forerunner of Silk Road and the multitude of other markets.
Silk Road was founded by Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, in February 2011. They were the first to use Tor, bitcoin escrow and customer feedback system. It was something entirely new and it became standard for all then and the future dark web markets.
They became globally popular after Gawker published an article about the site. They also became No.1 wanted criminals in the eyes of the Senator Chuck Schumer, who pressured the Department of Justice to catch the people behind this dark web market.
After more than two years of investigation, Silk Road was seized by the FBI and Ross Ulbricht arrested in October 2013. Earlier this year, he was sentenced to lifetime in prison.
Merely a month after the fall of the famous dark web market, Silk Road 2.0 was founded, apparently by the remaining staff of the previous giant. It was the exact replica but with some safety issues handled much better, or so they claimed. SR 2.0 market promoted the very same idea of its predecessor – they were selling quality goods in nonviolent environment and they were never into child pornography, guns, prostitution, stolen credit cards etc.
In February 2014, $2.7 million worth of bitcoins was stolen from the site’s escrow; but, luckily admins gave up their commissions in order to refund the stolen money. How about that?!
The Silk Road 2.0 was seized in the Operation Onymous, along with other dark web markets – all in one day. Blake Benthall, also known as Defcon, was arrested as admin of the site.
Many markets saw the Onymous operation as an opportunity to climb higher on the dark web ladder. Agora was definitely one that succeeded. It was a pretty strong market even before the operation; but for some reason it was omitted. In April 2015, they saw their peak, becoming the leading market on the dark web.
In August 2015, they took down their own site, temporarily as they said, due to some security issues with Tor.
After the fall of Silk Road, some markets saw their chance in fraud. One of the biggest exit scams was performed by the admins of Evolution market. Founded in January 2014 it appeared to value similar creeds as Silk Road – it didn’t allow child pornography, prostitution, murder/assassination, Ponzi schemes; but unlike SR, they were dealing with stolen credit cards.
In March 2015 Evolution counted a decent number of loyal and happy customers, when they decided to “retire” from the business with $12 million worth of bitcoin in escrows! Some users allegedly warned about the exit scam a week before it actually happened speaking of their troubles to withdraw bitcoins from the escrow.
Another SR wannabe appeared on the I2P network – Silk Road Reloaded. It does remind somewhat of the philosophy and security of the original Silk Road. Namely, the I2P network is much safer than Tor. A novelty on Silk Road Reloaded market is the possibility to use multiple cryptocurrencies – Anoncoin, Darkcoin, Dogecoin and Litecoin; the list is constantly expanding and it will be possible to exchange any currency for bitcoins. As someone noticed, now not only that the site admins are earning from sales commissions, but from currency exchanges as well. Silk Road Reloaded can only be approached by I2P software or any other software that has access to eepsites.
And, such is the legacy of Silk Road, once a giant Dark Web marketplace. Many have tried to recreate, replicate the success (if you can call it that) of the original SR brand and many new markets that appear today are just pale copies of the original. Perhaps, it’s time to finally let this dinosaur rest in peace.