You Can Download the Darknet Market That Disappeared Without a Trace
Evolution is back, but only as a torrent.
Image: Flickr/Tom Page
Evolution, the popular darknet drug market that disappeared overnight and took all its vendors' Bitcoin with it, is back. Not online, but as an archive that you can download.
The archive consists of single automated scrapes of the entire Evolution market at various points in time, to varying levels of completeness. Listings, vendors, and contact information—it's all there for you to peruse; a snapshot of a building's rotting foundations before it all came crashing down.
After Evolution went offline on Tuesday in a suspected exit scam that would involve the administrators taking off with everyone's Bitcoin stored on the site, users and vendors flooded competitor markets like Agora. New markets, which some users suspect are scams like Evolution likely was, have also sprung up in the wake of Evolution's shutdown.
Amid the all the commotion, darknet customers are scrambling to track down their old Evolution dealers on these other markets. A consolidated thread on the darknet markets subreddit has even sprung up for users to request information on their pusher mainstays.
Responding to this demand, an independent darknet researcher who goes by the pseudonym "Gwern" has released a torrent containing archived versions of the entire Evolution market spanning nearly its entire life—from January of 2014 to March 17, 2015, the day Evolution died. The torrent link is currently available in a Reddit post.
"Scrapes of the market are useful for people trying to cope with the fallout," Gwern wrote me in a message. "If you need to look up a vendor's contact info so you can email them, or if you didn't save the PGP key of your favorite vendor and want to verify the Agora one isn't a fake, or can't quite remember their name though you'd recognize their listings."
Staying in touch with anonymous drug dealers is as fraught as it sounds
Staying in touch with anonymous drug dealers on the darknet is exactly as fraught as it sounds. As Gwern noted, there's no way for someone to tell that a dealer on Agora with the same username as their old Evolution hookup is actually the same person. Confirming that the person they're in contact with is using the same unique encryption key as their last dealer could mean a smaller chance of being scammed again.
According to Nicolas Christin, an assistant research professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies the darknet, market mirrors like the kind Gwern released are fairly common practice after a big site gets taken down. "There have been mirror of seller pages that were released before, on Silk Road 1, notably," he wrote me in an email. "A vendor by the name of St Exo, with [Dread Pirate Roberts'] permission, posted this."
Such tools are necessary in the wake of a high-profile scam that rocks the foundations of the darknet, Gwern said. "That's always a problem when a big market goes down—the sudden diaspora can overload the older trustworthy markets, and the newer untrustworthy ones see a large inflow," he wrote. "Right now the big question is whether Agora will last."
If you're not looking to establish connections in the online underworld, however, you can always just take a peek at what an apparent darknet hustle in full swing looks like.