Anonymous Market

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Kevin Kelly:

"The blogs Threat Level/Gawker recently reported the appearance of an entirely new genre of technology: an anonymous marketplace, or anonymarket.

Out there on the internet is a place where you can buy and sell anything anonymously using untraceable money. What is mostly being bought and sold in this stealth market right now are recreational drugs -- pot and acid, etc. There has always been black markets in every city of the world, but as underground and out of sight as they might be, you still needed to show up in person to trade. And there has long been outlaw areas of the internet where black markets thrive and you don't need to reveal yourself, but paying without any trace has been a problem.

This new online stealthy anonymart, called Silk Road, solves these problems with two existing technologies. Silk Road uses established anonymizing Tor network to trade anonymously, and it employs the new Bitcoin peer-to-peer encrypted payment system to provide untraceable payments, which can in theory be converted to dollars or other national currencies.


As the cypherpunks say, encryption is economics. Anything can be hacked if you apply enough money. As long as the amount of money in these stealth markets remains modest, they will be secure. But once they rise to some threshold, they will trigger investments into cracking them. Perhaps bit traffic is analyzed network wide, or honey pot sellers rated high by shills set up to pounce on the unsuspecting -- whatever.

Stealthy anonymarts will respond to these attempts of control with new overcoming innovations. Supporters will devise more robust psuedo-anonymous reputation technology to ferret out honeypots. The anonymarts will not go away. But neither will they become widespread. They will retain a risk of some calculation. Like virus makers, and scam artists, and ebay snipes, and poker bots, these organizations are here to stay and are now part of the ecology.


Anonymarkets are yet another species of net life in a networked world. Hard to eradicate, they will thrive in the cracks of the global economy. You can buy anything you want at Alice's Stealthy Anonymart. Including Alice. Step right up.

But anonymarts won't overthrow capitalism, cause the downfall of the global economy, or bring cheap drugs into every school yard. It is a big ecosystem out there and it is rare for a single new species to alter the dynamics of the ecology. At best it will nudge it. Anonymarts will push at the edges of what is possible and might spark new versions of ebay and craigslist that trade in everyday legal stuff. That's still big news worth paying attention to." (