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Traveling the Silk Road

Traveling the Silk Road

  1. ThirdEyeFloond
    Traveling the Silk Road:
    A measurement analysis of a large anonymous online
    marketplace

    Nicolas Christin
    Carnegie Mellon INI/CyLab
    Working paper
    First version: May 4, 2012.
    This version: August 1, 2012.
    Id: paper.tex 1286 2012-07-30 21:29:14Z nicolasc


    Abstract
    We perform a comprehensive measurement analysis of Silk Road, an anonymous, international online
    marketplace that operates as a Tor hidden service and uses Bitcoin as its exchange currency. We
    gather and analyze data over eight months between the end of 2011 and 2012, including daily crawls
    of the marketplace for nearly six months in 2012. We obtain a detailed picture of the type of goods
    being sold on Silk Road, and of the revenues made both by sellers and Silk Road operators. Through
    examining over 24,400 separate items sold on the site, we show that Silk Road is overwhelmingly used
    as a market for controlled substances and narcotics. A relatively small “core” of about 60 sellers has
    been present throughout our measurement interval, while the majority of sellers leaves (or goes “underground”)
    within a couple of weeks of their first appearance. We evaluate the total revenue made by all
    sellers to approximately USD 1.9 million per month; this corresponds to about USD 143,000 per month
    in commissions perceived by the Silk Road operators. We further show that the marketplace has been
    operating steadily, with daily sales and number of sellers overall increasing over the past fewmonths. We
    discuss economic and policy implications of our analysis and results, including ethical considerations for
    future research in this area.