Things change frequently on the Dark Web. One day a market may be at the top of the heap, and the next it may end up victim of the DDoS attack or its admins may find themselves behind bars. There are many who tried, many that failed; some that are still in the game and those who regret even the initial thought they’d had – at least that’s what’s generally assumed of Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road market, who is now serving two lifetime sentences.
A research performed at the end of 2015 made the basis for a list of the most popular darknet markets. The sum of Google searches during the period of 90 days was taken as relevant in making of the list.
According to Google, the most searched darknet markets were:
• Agora, with impressive 458,367 searches;
• Abraxas 407,892;
• AlphaBay 242,418 and
• Nucleus Market with 235,842 searches.
Now, knowing that Agora and Abraxas have been down for quite a while now, things have probably changed in the meantime; but, the general assumption is that AlphaBay and Nucleus Market have clashed in an epic battle for the top market.
AlphaBay has always had a strong marketing campaign even before Abraxas supposedly exit scammed and the sudden decision of Agora admins to shut down the market due to some newly discovered safety issues. Just before the end of the year and around the time of the research, it claimed over 200,000 users. With 3.5% commission, AlphaBay is one of the markets with the average commission rate, and the users obviously don’t find it a deciding factor. It offers Finalize Early option and also Multisig. Vendor bond is fixed and is $100.
On the other hand, Nucleus Market is probably the biggest surprise for everybody. It doesn’t have a strong marketing campaign as AlphaBay, but Nucleus Market is managing to stay shoulder to shoulder with the leading markets on the dark web. However, if you consider the fact that Nucleus Market has more than 21,000 drug listings and almost 30,000 listings in total, the success of the Nucleus Market may be somewhat less surprising.
As for its characteristic features, Nucleus Market is one of the few that accept Litecoin and Dash along with Bitcoin, cryptocurrency that has become standard for all darknet trading. Founded on 24th November, 2014, it’s been online 95.56% of the time. Nucleus Market relays mostly on the well-established rating system and it also offers Finalize Early option available only for verified and reliable vendors.
Along with AlphaBay and Nucleus Market, other markets are fighting for their piece of the pie; one that seems the most significant is definitely Dream Market. It is the longest existing market on the web – it exists since November, 2013 and is somehow managing to be spared from both the competitors’ DDoS attacks and the authorities. And even though Dream Market wasn’t as big and significant before the fall of Agora and Abraxas markets, they’ve managed to attract a steady flow of customers after their fall; not as much as AlphaBay or Nucleus Market, but enough to belong to the group of top markets today, according to deep.dot.web portal.
Another darknet market worth mentioning is Valhalla, otherwise known as Silkkitie. It used to be a strictly Finnish market; but has revamped and rebranded quite recently at the first opportunity to open up to the world and expand its business globally. The market is not strictly drug oriented, although drugs account for the best part of the marketplace; there are also a few other categories, such as: Bodybuilding, Cannabis Growing, Mushroom Growing, Production/Distribution, Paraphernalia, Self-defense, Digital Items, Services, Classifieds, etc.
Apart from these top rated marketplaces, there is a significant number of those far from the above mentioned in every respect – number of vendors/customers, number of listings, overall rating, security, etc. Silk Road 3.0 is one of them; and even though it looks modern and appealing to the eye, many people have finally shaken off that Silk Road brand, especially after all previous versions have fallen for this or that reason.
Many markets have performed exit scams and now both sellers and buyers choose more carefully markets they give their trust to. It’s like any other business really – one can be sure that investing in a marketing strategy, features and of course not-exit-scamming on its customers will make the business flourish.
One thing is for sure though, whatever the Top 10 Most Popular chart looks like today, it may look completely different tomorrow.