The original Silk Road got seized by the powers that be. Its successor got hacked apart and robbed. Third time's a charm? Maybe. The minds behind a new proof-of-concept marketplace called "DarkMarket" say their model is impossible for the authorities to take down.
Amir Taaki and the other developers behind DarkMarket revealed their baby at the Toronto Bitcoin hackathon this month, where it took home a $20,000 (£12,000) prize. The inner-workings of DarkMarket are complex, but it utilises a technology well-known to anyone who's ever done anything illegal on the internet: peer-to-peer. Thanks to DarkMarket's proposed distributed architecture, the only way to shut it down would be for the law to go after every buyer and seller one by one by one.
Wired has a fantastic, in-depth explanation of exactly how the system would work, but essentially DarkMarket just sets up individual pages for buys and sellers to contact each other with proposed (drug) deals. Once a deal is accepted, the bitcoin transaction is overseen by an "arbiter"—another peer on the network who acts as a disinterested third party to make sure nothing goes south. Every buyer and seller gets to keep a list of arbiters they approve, and then DarkMarket picks one for each transaction based on where the buyer and seller's lists overlap.
The system is far from ready however, so don't expect to be hearing about the newest online black market anytime soon. The minds behind DarkMarket have so far been able to prove that the system could work, but for now it shows user's bare IPs instead of anonymising them through technology like Tor. So as of now, DarkMarket isn't able to hide anyone's identity, but theoretically it could.
DarkMarket's creators aren't currently working on the open-source project, but with this proof of concept out there, it's only a matter of time before someone executes on the principle with all the anonymity parts turned on. Where there's a will there's a way. And where the Silk Road proved the former, DarkMarket looks to be proving the latter. [Wired]