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The Dark Web has gained a lot of attention from mainstream media and government agencies. For the mainstream world, the term "Dark Web" has become synonymous with everything that is illegal. Rumors abound about drug trades, hits for hire, human trafficking, and illegal content on the Dark Web — and to a point, it all seems hard to believe.
As many rumors out there exist about what's on the Dark Web, there are certain sites that have become famous above ground for what they offered in the internet underworld. One of those places was silk road — and in many ways, it embodied everything that the Dark Web allegedly was.
But, what is silk road? And moreover, what happened to it? The story, in all its shocking twists and turns, is one that might just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Dark Web.
What is silk road 1.0?
Silk Road is an online marketplace that is built on the Dark Web, and in many ways, it was an eBay for all things illegal. It was founded by a man who was known only as the "Dread Pirate Roberts."
Most of the items that went for sale on the site were drugs, but other things, including DIY vasectomy kits, guns, and stolen credit card numbers also would occasionally find their way on there. According to those who went on the site, there also were legal services offered. However, those were the minority — and everyone knew that.
Silk Road used cryptocurrencies and TOR to help keep buyers and sellers anonymous. (That is what silk road is best known for, you know!) Though it was created in 2011, the site quickly exploded. By 2012, silk road became one of the most famous black markets in the world.
By 2013, federal officials with the help of international policing groups had shut down the site. Later, they identified and arrested Ross Ulbricht, the man behind the pseudonym of the "Dread Pirate Roberts."
The details on the silk road raid weren't fully disclosed to the public. FBI officials claimed that they had found data linked to the site's real address via an issue with CAPTCHA — and they were able to trace it down to Ulbricht.
Ross Ulbricht was indicted on charges of money laundering, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and conspiracy to murder six people. He was sentenced to life in jail without parole.
A judge who presided over the case quickly found herself being flooded with death threats from criminals who had been making money from silk road. To a point, that's what is silk road's legacy — organized crime as both an online black market and a global underworld community.
What is silk road 2.0?
After the original silk road site was seized, a new psuedonym-using "Dread Pirate Roberts" established a revamped Silk Road site. This was called silk road 2.0, and quickly switched over to the administration of a person called "Defcon."
Silk Road 2.0 didn't seem to last long, either. A weakness in Bitcoin ended up compromising the entire payment system, which in turn compromised the escrow account. $2.7 million dollars went missing, but the site stayed online.
Within a matter of months, Interpol arrested silk road owner Blake Benthall — also known as "Defcon." The site was seized and shut down.
What is silk road 3.0? What is silk road 3.1?
As you can guess, both silk road 3.0 and silk road 3.1 are sites that are basically clones of the darknet black market model that the original silk road started. Silk Road 3.0 has been shut down, while 3.1 currently remains online at the time of this writing.
In many ways, silk road is the hydra of the Dark Web. It's mythical. It's legendary. The government can cut it down every single time, but somehow, a new version of it will rise up — or it may even split into two markets.
So, what is silk road's legacy?
Silk Road is fascinating, empowering, and terrifying —all at once.
It's fascinating to see how cyberpunks, criminals, and gangsters all work together to skirt the law. It's empowering to see that ideas don't die, even when they are illegal. And, it's also absolutely terrifying when you realize what goods are being sold on Silk Road.
It's that strange mixture of fear and empowerment you get when you learn about the story of silk road that has made it so notorious. It's the birthplace of a million Dark Web stories, and that, to a point, will probably immortalize it in the internet culture world.
So, what is silk road?
It's a legend, a real one, straight from the Dark Web.