Measuring dark web marketplaces via Bitcoin transactions: From birth to independence

Naoki Hiramoto, Yoichi Tsuchiya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This study measures the evolution of the anonymous marketplaces Silk Road, Silk Road 2.0, Agora, Evolution, Nucleus, Abraxas, and AlphaBay, which were the seven leading and most active dark web marketplaces. We identify that all the seven marketplaces use the same software to manage Bitcoin by investigating transactions in these marketplaces. However, the software was no longer used since May 2016 because of its vulnerability to protect anonymity. It indicates that dark web marketplaces advanced to the next stage with anonymity-enhancing tools around in March 2016. Using simple heuristics to identify and trace Bitcoin addresses associated with these marketplaces, purchases on these marketplaces are identified and evaluated. Our method provides evidence on market size, development, and fluctuation over time to fill a gap in previous studies. Dark web marketplaces continue to thrive because users migrate to new marketplaces after the existing ones are shut down. The total sales volume on Silk Road was 192.7 million US dollars between June 2012 and October 2013. The corresponding figures for Silk Road 2.0, Agora, Evolution, Nucleus, and Abraxas were 112.9, 220.7, 69.7, 88.3, and 35.6 million US dollars, respectively. The figures for AlphaBay was 166.0 million US dollars between December 2014 and February 2016.

Original languageEnglish
Article number301086
JournalForensic Science International: Digital Investigation
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec


  • Crypto currency
  • Crypto market
  • Cybercriminal
  • Drug economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Medical Laboratory Technology
  • Law


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