Posts Tagged ‘Atlantis’

“Atlantis admins shut down the site and ran away with the coins. It’s the truth.” – Cicero, Moderator of Atlantis Marketplace forum

Image: bitcoinexaminer.org.

Image: bitcoinexaminer.org.

A little under six months ago – not long after they opened shop – I conducted the first in-depth interview with online drug barons Loera and Vladimir, founders of Atlantis Marketplace.  The two were excited at the prospect of not only wrenching market share from incumbent black market giant Silk Road, but also bringing new business in and legitimising the online illicit drug market space.

Last week, Atlantis announced it was shutting down due to mysterious and unspecified “security concerns”.

The announcement, repeated on the Atlantis Facebook page, official forum, Reddit and Twitter, called it “terrible news” and the owners sounded truly contrite. They gave users a week to withdraw their crypto-currency, after which it would be donated to a “drug-related charity”.  That was the last anybody ever heard from anyone representing the administration of Atlantis.

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Should Wikipedia draw a line at including links to illegal marketplaces or websites hosting objectionable content?  And does it have a duty to prevent its readers from becoming victims of phishing if they visit those links?

wikilogo

For such a short Wikipedia entry, Silk Road has been responsible for a lot of behind-the-scenes drama.

It started with a demand on 13 June 2011 (shortly after Silk Road first appeared on Wiki) that the whole entry be deleted by someone who apparently doubted you could really buy drugs online and have them delivered in the mail.  “The only references anyone has been able to provide are a Gawker blog article and a passing reference on a Guardian blog,” went the argument. “Heck, we’re still not entirely sure that it isn’t just a hoax…”

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Atlantis Marketplace has undertaken aggressive marketing of its site over the past few months, touting superior features to those offered by Silk Road.  Its aim has been to both attract new customers and lure clients away from the incumbent giant, but so far they must be underwhelmed by the response.

No stopping the Pirate (image: Forbes.com)

No stopping the Pirate (image: Forbes.com)

Attracting sellers has not been an issue.  Many of Silk Road’s top-rated vendors set up shop with Atlantis, enticed by waiver of set-up fees ($500 at Silk Road) and low commission rates (Silk Road takes a sliding scale from 10% of the first $50 to 1.5% of everything over $1000, vs Atlantis 6% of the first $50 down to 1% over $1000).  Atlantis went out of their way to verify their identities, and the vendors passed on the savings to their customers by way of lower prices.

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“We will be an adversary not to be trifled with. We have big plans for Atlantis, and we’re here to stay.”.

As online drugs marketplace Silk Road sustains blows from an ongoing attack its owner says “appears to be DoS in nature,” the forums are awash with queries, rumours and speculation about newcomer, Atlantis Marketplace.  Is it responsible for the attacks on Silk Road? Is it a better, more stable alternative? Who runs it? Is it just one great big honeypot for law enforcement agencies to gather intelligence on drug dealers?

Newcomer Atlantis Marketplace aims to cannibalise Silk Road's market share

Newcomer Atlantis Marketplace aims to cannibalise Silk Road’s market share

There is something a little bizarre about chatting to directors (yes, they have a board) of an underground black market about their company model.  But that’s what I did last night when two of the founders of Atlantis, ‘Loera’ and ‘Vladimir’ answered my questions in real time (over encrypted chat, naturally).

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With the media reporting that internet drug dealing is on the rise, it’s no great surprise that new marketplaces have started popping up wanting a piece of the action.  Most of these seem to be wannabes with no real hope of making a dent into the big boy’s market share.  But a couple seem determined to provide real competition to Silk Road, the undisputed market leader with 7,053 drug listings.

Online black market places are competing for a share of the profits

Online illicit drug marketplaces are competing for a share of the profits

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