Atlantis May've Sunk But the Silk Road Is Still Booming

The darknet's drug marketplace apparently wasn't big enough for the both of them.

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Sep 26 2013, 3:15pm
Photo: Flickr/CC

Hey, remember Atlantis? The deep web's newest, boastful drug Mecca that was basically the Facebook of virtual black markets? Well it's closed up shop. Done for. Gone before it really even opened. And what keeps barreling into the unknown, winding its way toward what's almost starting to look like a post-prohibitive dawn? The Silk Road, of course. 

It didn't take long. Atlantis billed itself as a fresh alternative to the Silk Road, the darknet's popular and leading bazaar for mind-melting drugs and generally all-things illicit. The site went live last June to considerable buzz, if not for what it promised in terms of a range of quality products than for its almost brazen, forward-facing approach to a social media presence. Now, due to "security issues beyond our control", the Atlantis team wrote last week, their business must skid to a halt before the end of the month, at which point Atlantis' admins will donate all the crypotocurrency in its system to drug related charity

Somewhere, the Dread Pirate Roberts might be laughing. In a somewhat rare interview, Roberts, the Silk Road's elusive founder, told the Daily Beast that it's the good shit that continually sets the Silk Road apart from any would-be Atlantis-esque competition. His site, Roberts said, offers:

...some of the purest drugs on the planet with well-defined dosages and a community of support for people seeking harm-reduction advice. We have some of the most responsible, dedicated, and brave individuals that make up our community.

As it stands, there are well over 10,000 product listings and untold hundreds of user-rated vendors on the site, accessibe only via so-called onion browsing on the anonymous Tor network. In early 2012, after a half-year "crawl" of Silk Road by Nicholis Christin, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, it was estimated that Silk Road's operators were netting monthly commissions to the tune of $92,000—that's based off $1.2 million in total revenue on those sales. In the span of his monitoring the site, Christin saw the total number of Silk Road vendors and of items sold on the site double. 

That was 2012. For all we know, the Silk Road, despite showing a few cracks, has only been on the up and up ever since. That rise has drawn the eyes of DEA, who say they're keeping tabs of activity on the site. So while we simply do not know if, and for how long, the Silk Road can stave off crumbling at the hands of authorities, basic economics tells us that it's a conitnued prohibition on most currently illegal drugs that'll keep the whole thing paved, at least for now.  

“Silk Road will exist as long as prohibition is in place, and unfortunately it is safer than flat-out prohibition,” Neill Franklin, executive director of the nonprofit Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, told the Daily Beast. “It’s an in-between.”

@thebanderson