Darknet Markets Are Back – But With the Blockchain Bloated Who’s Buying?
Darknet markets, prized for their range of wares not commonly found on the clearnet, are back online. For the past three weeks, the most popular DNMs, including Dream and Aero, have been offline due to sustained DDoS attacks. Now, following a lengthy hiatus, the majority of markets are back online. There’s just one problem: with bitcoin transactions sometimes taking hours or even days to confirm, several markets are still largely unusable.
You Can Browse But You Can’t Buy
On the Dream marketplace, which only accepts bitcoin, customers have been left to window shop, gazing enviously at the goods on offer but unable to buy until their bitcoin transactions clear. The number of unconfirmed transactions in the mempool passed 150,000 on Saturday and is now touching 160,000.
Users on r/darknetmarkets complained of transactions sent to Dream, the largest DNM, that were unconfirmed after five hours. The Dream forum is filled with similar tales of woe, including dozens of complaints filed in the last 24 hours. Customers of the darknet, who are often in a hurry to get their goods, think nothing of paying high confirmation fees – even when those fees are approaching $10, as has been the case with bitcoin recently. Even with higher fees selected, however, transactions have still been slow.
Having survived since 2013, Dream is a veteran among darknet markets, whose tenure is often limited to mere months. Despite its size and reputation, the site has been slow to evolve however, and still only accepts payment in bitcoin. As a consequence, it’s vulnerable to the same woes that afflict all bitcoin users during times of blockchain congestion.
Privacy Coins Prosper
It wasn’t transaction issues that spurred many DNMs into accepting alternative digital currencies, but rather privacy. Law enforcement are becoming increasingly adept at assigning bitcoin addresses to real world identities, as a number of deep web vendors have discovered in the past year. Nevertheless, when the bitcoin network is under strain, altcoins provide additional benefits, facilitating quick and low-cost transactions.
Dream has yet to accept alternatives to bitcoin, but Point Marketplace (formerly Tochka) and Aero do, the former taking ethereum and the latter accepting monero. Then there is Libertas, which is a monero-only marketplace. Monero has risen in value over the past week, though how much of that can be attributed to darknet adoption is debatable.
DDoS and Deep Web Shenanigans
Deepdotweb, which monitors the uptime of DNMs, has displayed red bars across the board for weeks, signaling that the marketplaces have been under sustained DDoS attacks.
Thanks to the ease with which onion sites can be knocked offline in such a manner, attacks on darknet markets is commonplace, often motivated by rival sites or by ransomers seeking to extort bitcoin. Deep web markets have endured an unusually torrid time of late however.
Following the high profile collapse of Alphabay and Trade Route, due to law enforcement and an exit scam respectively, fear, uncertainty, and doubt has wracked the DNM forums and subreddits. As market after market has been toppled, vendors and customers have fled elsewhere. For some buyers, this has meant visiting dedicated vendor shops, which have been largely immune from the spate of DDoSing. Others have used the opportunity to seek out P2P alternatives that have no central point of failure.
The biggest winner to emerge from the DNMs’ extended downtime and bitcoin’s backlog is Openbazaar. As news.Bitcoin.com recently reported:
The cryptocurrency-based decentralized marketplace, Openbazaar, launched its 2.0 platform with a slew of new features. Now a couple of months later, the marketplace seems to be seeing some significant growth as vendors from Darknet markets are starting to flock to the protocol’s benefits.
The development team have also announced that they’ll be adding bitcoin cash and zcash support, surmounting the biggest criticisms leveled at bitcoin from a darknet perspective: high fees, low confirmation times, and low anonymity.
Do you think P2P marketplaces are the solution to the DNMs’ problems? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Coincodex, Point Marketplace, and Deepdotweb.
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