As the Silk Road website becomes a more distant memory, the bulk of which takes the form of the ongoing trial against former operator Ross William Ulbricht, the online drug dealing industry has not slowed down. And the role of Bitcoin remains up in the air.
BBC News reports that the number of listings for illegal drugs on the “dark net” has doubled in less than a year.
Analogous to dark matter in physics, the dark net refers to parts of the internet that cannot be accessed without specialized software. The TorBrowser is a popular tool, whereby encrypted data is bounced around multiple servers before reaching its final destination. Content cannot be reached by search engines.
As one anonymous online drug dealer recently explained, reputation is very important. Like Bitcoin, the dark net maintains a strong community and unscrupulous dealers are punished when they lose all their clients.
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With this tool in hand, buyers are even more driven to the web for their purchases. One London drug user said he used to buy cannabis from a street vendor once every two to three weeks and found the experience terrifying. Now, he has it delivered to his house by first class post. Like much of e-commerce, consumers enjoy an experience that is “better quality, better range, more convenient.”
According to deepdotweb.com, which follows the industry, the environment will evolve into a decentralized p2p market (like Bitcoin). These markets are even harder to track and shut down, and may provide better solutions for transaction handling. A representative from the site also said:
“The Silk Road bust was the best advertising the dark net markets could have hoped for.”
Another consideration is the impact on Bitcoin prices, long thought to be tied to the demand level for Bitcoin, often through online drug trade. With the dark net, other forms of anonymized payment have evolved, lessening the buying pressure for Bitcoin.