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---
title: Using Silk Road
description: Visiting, ordering, and using the anonymous drug market Silk Road
...
> This article was commissioned by [_Bitcoin Weekly_](http://bitcoinweekly.com), which ultimately decided to not run it[^hamlet]; it is based on my experiences May-June 2011, and may be out-dated. "Trust, but verify."
[^hamlet]: While BW held up its end of the deal and I understand why they might fear the legal consequences, I am a little disappointed that they chose after reflection not to publish it; I was reminded of _[Hamlet](!Wikipedia "To be, or not to be")_:
"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action."
The website [Silk Road](!Wikipedia "Silk Road (anonymous marketplace)") (SR) - a drug marketplace - needs little introduction at this point, especially after that [_Gawker_](http://gawker.com/5805928/the-underground-website-where-you-can-buy-any-drug-imaginable) article went viral, drawing fire from the likes of US federal Senators Schumer & Manchin. It is probably the single most famous commercial enterprise[^blackmarket] using Bitcoins, some speculating that demand from SR patrons single-handedly pushed the exchange rate up by $5-10 that weekend.
[^blackmarket]: I know of one competing marketplace using Bitcoin+Tor, named BlackMarket which apparently lives at <http://5onwnspjvuk7cwvk.onion/> ([non-Tor mirror](https://5onwnspjvuk7cwvk.tor2web.org/)); [informed opinion](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/inrbo/iama_seller_on_the_illegal_anonymous_marketplace/c25bb3s) seems to be that it is very low-volume and stagnant.
But one wonders: what is using it like? Does it have a decent selection? Is it safe? Ridden with scammers? Has it succumbed to an [Eternal September](!Wikipedia) ("*I* used Silk Road when it was still underground")? Shouldn't we keep quiet about it like Fight Club?[^fightclub]
[^fightclub]: Whenever classic, illegal, cypherpunk applications are implemented using Bitcoin, you are sure to find someone complaining that you must not talk about Fight Club - how will that play in Peoria? You will find quite a few, actually, as much as one would expect Bitcoin to select for hard-core libertarian types or techies who have internalized the [Streisand effect](!Wikipedia); indeed, the moderators of the [Bitcoin forum](http://forum.bitcoin.org/index.php) have - in a crime against history - deleted the early threads about Silk Road, including the thread that saw Silk Road announced. (I have copies of one threads due to my [obsessive interest in linkrot](Archiving URLs). I posted a [short thread](http://forum.bitcoin.org/index.php?topic=29737.0) linking this page, and I give it about [25%](http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2928) odds of being moderated/deleted; a few hours later, the thread had been deleted. I had drastically *underestimated* the cowardice of the moderators.)
This is a certain double-bind and unfairness in such criticism. Would such critics be congratulating me if this article turned out to help Bitcoin by discussing and documenting a demand driver and important test-case? I suspect they wouldn't. Their argument is unfalsifiable and based more on their prejudices than hard data.
To such people, my general reply is - What makes you so sure I want Bitcoin to succeed? It's interesting but that doesn't mean I have bought into the project and all its ideals. If SR coverage hurt Bitcoin, I may not care at all.
And I would argue the contrary; I believe Silk Road coverage *helps* Bitcoin. Silk Road has not been harmed by its national coverage; the number of accounts and transactions have all increased dramatically, and SR's admin has stated his satisfaction with the new status quo on the SR forums and on [_Gawker_](http://gawker.com/5879924/now-you-can-buy-guns-on-the-online-underground-marketplace), and said later that "Silk Road was never meant to be private and exclusive."^[9 January 2012, ["State of the Road Address"](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?topic=8397.0) ([non-Tor mirror](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?topic=8397.0))] (As has [a co-founder](http://bitcoinmedia.com/thank-you-schumer/) of a British Bitcoin exchange.) Not that the admin ever sought secrecy - he announced Silk Road's official opening on the Bitcoin forums! Purchases of Bitcoin noticeably spiked after the Gawker article as already mentioned, and one cannot buy that much publicity. One might say of self-censorship that "_C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute._"
And suppose Silk Road coverage did hurt Bitcoin even to the extent that it would be worth devoting one neuron to thinking about it; I would publish *anyway* because that would mean that *the Bitcoin experiment has failed and must be terminated immediately*. If Bitcoin is not safe for the drug dealers, then it is not safe for anyone; if Bitcoin can be hurt by the truth, then it is already doomed - you cannot build on quicksand, and ["that which can be destroyed by the truth should be."](!Wikipedia "P. C. Hodgell") Good game, chaps, let's all meet back here when the next Satoshi figures out how to patch the vulnerabilities.
No way to know but to go. So, let's take a 'brazen' stroll down the Silk Road.
# Preparations
Silk Road's 2 technical claims to fame is the near-exclusive use of Bitcoins for payment, and access to it being possible only through the [anonymizing Tor network](!Wikipedia "Tor (anonymity network)"), on which Silk Road and the Silk Road forum live as ["*hidden sites*"](!Wikipedia "Tor (anonymity network)#Hidden services") - both you and the server funnel your requests into a set of Tor nodes and you meet in the middle. (This isn't as slow as it might sound, and hidden sites eliminate the main security weakness of Tor: [evil exit nodes](!Wikipedia "Tor (anonymity network)#Weaknesses").)
As it happened, I already have some bitcoins. (Typically, one buys bitcoins on an exchange like [Mt.Gox](http://mtgox.com); the era of easy profitable ['mining'](https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Mining) passed long ago.) Tor was a little more tricky, but on my Debian system, it required simply following the [official install guide](https://www.torproject.org/docs/debian.html.en): `apt-get install` the Tor and Polipo programs, stick in the proper config file, and then install the Torbutton. Alternately, one could use the [Tor browser bundle](https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser) which packages up the Tor daemon, proxy, and a web browser all configured to work together; I've never used it but I have heard it is convenient. (I also usually set my Tor installation to be a [Tor server](https://www.torproject.org/docs/tor-doc-relay) as well - this gives me both [more anonymity](https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/doc/TorFAQ#DoIgetbetteranonymityifIrunarelay), speeds up my connections since the first hop/connection is unnecessary, and helps the Tor network & community by donating bandwidth.)
With Tor running and the Torbutton enabled in the browser (along with any [privacy mode](!Wikipedia)), we can easily connect to Silk Road; we simply visit <http://silkroadvb5piz3r.onion>[^address]. (Newbies to Tor might wonder why the gibberish address. The address is derived from the public key of the server, making it more difficult for an attacker to pretend to be the real Silk Road or do a [man in the middle attack](!Wikipedia).)
[^address]: Note that this is *not* a normal WWW site; there are no normal WWW sites for the Silk Road. There is <http://silkroadmarket.org/> which is apparently controlled in some fashion by SR (probably to stop domain squatting or scam sites pretending to be SR), but whatever it is, it's not important; it's not even updated regularly - the status descriptions on it are sometimes weeks or months out of date.
The bad thing about .onion URLs is that they are not human-memorable (see [Zooko's triangle](!Wikipedia)), and so it is especially easy to spread a fake link. In particular, Silk Road has been the target of many [phishing](!Wikipedia) attacks, where a random .onion hidden server is set up to look like Silk Road and either pretends to be Silk Road or just does a [man in the middle attack](!Wikipedia), proxying for the real SR server. For example, one such site has already been linked in the comments on this page; it was easy to detect as it was even slower than SR (since there are two hidden servers involved), and it blindly forwarded me to the real SR .onion with the fake user/password pair, apparently expecting that I would be logged in without problem. (Naturally, nothing stops the .onion URLs supplied on this page from themselves being part of a phishing/man-in-the-middle attack! This is a fundamental security problem: how do you bootstrap yourself into a [web of trust](!Wikipedia)? In this case, if you don't know the SR admins, about all you can do is Google the URLs I have listed, and see whether enough other people claim that they are the true URLs that you will trust the URLs. _Caveat emptor_.)
Upon connecting, you will see a bare log-in form:
![](/images/silkroad/joinpage.png)
Alternately, you might see an error page like the following; Silk Road is occasionally down for maintenance & new features or temporarily overloaded. Usually waiting a minute is enough, and longer downtimes are discussed on the Silk Road forums.
![](/images/silkroad/silkroad-down.png)
Click on the join, and you will be taken to another page for registering your account, much like any other site. Invitations are not currently required, although to register a *seller* account is neither easy nor cheap, see later sections. (I suggest picking a strong password[^hash]. Learn from the Mt.Gox fiasco.) With your new account, you can now log in and see what there is to see on the main page:
[^hash]: Specifically, one that will be very difficult to brute-force the hash. This won't protect you from some compromises of Silk Road (for example, the server being controlled by an attacker and harvesting passwords as they are entered by live users), but it will protect you from others - for example, if the database is stolen, a long password helps frustrate an attempt to derive the original password and let them log into your account and engineer endless nefarious misdeeds.
![The front page](/images/silkroad/silkroad-mainpage.png)
![At another time](/images/silkroad/2012-frontpage.png)
![And another time](/images/silkroad/2012-frontpage2.png)
Notice at the bottom, below the random selections, is a section listing all the most recent reviews from buyers; feedback from buyers, like on Amazon or eBay, is crucial to keeping the system honest:
![Seller feedback](/images/silkroad/2012-frontpage3-reviews.png)
The [stimulants](http://silkroadvb5piz3r.onion/index.php/silkroad/category/52) category contains much what you'd expect:
![](/images/silkroad/stimulants.png)
Perhaps more surprising are the *non*-drug listings. They don't get mentioned much in the usual coverage, but Silk Road has aspirations of being a marketplace for more than just drugs. For example, the [collectibles](http://silkroadvb5piz3r.onion/index.php/silkroad/category/138) category with its military surplus or replica helmets, or [German pretzels](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/inrbo/iama_seller_on_the_illegal_anonymous_marketplace/c25dwkd), or the ['services'](http://silkroadvb5piz3r.onion/index.php/silkroad/category/94) category, which has, interestingly, become a way for sellers to offer 'extras' with their wares like faster shipping (or just oddball offers, like one offering to write a German prescription for any prescribable drug in Germany):
![](/images/silkroad/collectibles.png)
![](/images/silkroad/services.png)
There's also the book section, with its predictably illicit wares:
![Guides to committing illegal activities](/images/silkroad/2012-books.png)
And the closely related section for selling forgeries:
![Forgery selection](/images/silkroad/2012-forgeries.png)
One section that perplexed me when I browsed it was the *art* section, for [blotters](!Wikipedia "Blotting paper#Drugs"):
![Blotter selection](/images/silkroad/2012-art-blotters.png)
An euphemism for the LSD section? Apparently no - they seem to be genuine little bits of Americana, without any LSD in them, when I looked at one item more closely. (The art doesn't appeal to me, and it seems like a tad risky kind of art to collect, but it takes all sorts, I suppose.)
![A vintage LSD blotter with artwork on it](/images/silkroad/2012-art-blotters.png)
Well, you've browsed through the Silk Road proper. You can also visit the official Silk Road forums at <http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion>^[[non-Tor mirror](https://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/)]. The discussions are fairly active, but most importantly, the forums are where official rule changes to SR are announced by the SR administrator.
# Anonymity
We have window-shopped long enough. It's time to take the plunge and buy something. Bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik is quoted in the _Gawker_ article as saying that "Attempting major illicit transactions with bitcoin, given existing statistical analysis techniques deployed in the field by law enforcement, is pretty damned dumb." Fortunately I do not plan 'major' transactions, and in any case, I tend to suspect that said statistical techniques are overblown.
The public nature of transactions means that [many interesting connections & graphs](http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.4524) can be generated and analyzed. But fortunately, it's straightforward to [anonymize Bitcoin transactions](https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Anonymity#Staying_Anonymous) by a method analogous to the Tor network we are relying upon already: route the money through several intermediaries in several quantities and reconstructing the path backwards becomes nontrivial.
My own method was to route 4 bitcoins through [Mt.Gox](https://mtgox.com/) (this was before the hacking, a series of events which confirmed my own resolution to keep a balance at Mt.Gox for as short a time as possible), then through MyBitcoin (which at the time was still considered trustworthy)^[Mt.Gox and MyBitcoin offer a doubly instructive lesson into why one trusts Bitcoin third-parties as little as possible, keeps one's bitcoins locally, and regularly back it up; the large Polish exchange [Bitomat](https://support.mtgox.com/entries/20357051-mt-gox-the-world-s-largest-bitcoin-exchange-to-acquire-bitomat-pl-compensate-loss-of-bitcoins) offers a third.]. This was straightforward - sign up for a throwaway account:
![](/images/silkroad/mybitcoin-login.png)
Then deposit to the one-use address:
![](/images/silkroad/mybitcoin-deposit.png)
A day or three later, I am tired enough of the game to finally route my Bitcoins into the final set of anonymizing mixes, Silk Road's own cointumbler. How do we do a deposit? We click on the link in the profile and see:
![](/images/silkroad/deposit-form.png)
No big surprise there - it's another one-time address which expired at noon, so there's no time to shilly-shally:
![](/images/silkroad/deposit.png)
Once deposits have been made or purchases entered into, one's profile page begins to look like this:
![A record of deposits and withdrawals](/images/silkroad/2012-account-balance-history.png)
# Shopping
It's a good idea to read the documentation like the SR wiki on ["Making a successful purchase"](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/wiki/index.php/Making_a_successful_purchase) and the ["Buyer's guide"](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/wiki/index.php/Buyer%27s_guide) (["Scammed"](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/wiki/index.php/Scammed) is good too) before ordering anything. After some browsing, I personally decided on an offering of the nootropic [selegiline](!Wikipedia). Safe, potentially useful, and not even especially illegal. The price was right:
![](/images/silkroad/selegiline.png)
Should I buy it?
## Evaluating sellers
Now, you will notice that for most sellers, there is no '(99)' or '(100)' after the seller's name; for example, this random seller:
![](/images/silkroad/generic-profile.png)
This is due to the simple fact that when I joined, the post-_Gawker_ rush had resulted in membership jumping from the high-hundreds/low-thousands range to north of 10,000 accounts, and while many transactions had been entered into, the reviews and closures of transactions had only started. So I was not *too* bothered by the lack of feedback on this seller profile. I also used the handy SR forums and found no bad mentions of the seller. The user number was not terribly high, the description was detailed enough that it looked like he took selling seriously, there are no bad reviews, they posted a public key, etc. So, I was willing to take a chance on him.
Both the seller and the example above had standard [PGP](!Wikipedia "Pretty Good Privacy")-compliant [*public keys*](!Wikipedia "Public-key cryptography") posted (the long string of gibberish under that odd header - quite unmistakable), which one will need to encrypt the personal information one sends the seller. (It is a given on Silk Road that sellers have public keys; you instantly fail at security if you send the seller the address unencrypted.) Public-key cryptography is an old and vital concept to understand, and there are a great many descriptions or introductions online so I will not explain it further here.
I add it to my cart (no one-click checkout, so at least SR doesn't have to worry about Amazon!):
![](/images/silkroad/selegiline-shoppingcart.png)
Notice the address field. Now, I *could* be a chump and put down my friend's address in the clear. But what if Silk Road itself is compromised? Right now, SR doesn't have anything about me, but the address is a good starting place for finding me. So, I go to the seller's profile, and like the example above, my seller has posted his public key. I want to encrypt the address against that public key. How?
## Encryption
There are a great many guides to GPG; the official [GPG handbook](http://www.gnupg.org/gph/en/manual.html) works well enough. (The [SR wiki page](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/wiki/index.php/PGP/GPG_Encryption) mostly discusses where to get PGP-like software.) To summarize what I did:
1. I copy the public key into a text file, say, `key.txt`
2. I tell GPG to memorize it: `gpg --import key.txt`
GPG will spit out some output about how it now knows the public key of `nobody@cypherpunks.com` etc.
3. I write down her address in a file, `address.txt`,
4. and I encrypt it: `gpg --recipient nobody@cypherpunks.com --encrypt address.txt --output address.gpg --armor`
Hopefully the options make sense; we need `--armor` to get an ASCII text encrypted file which we can copy-and-paste into the shopping cart's address form, rather than a smaller file of binary gibberish. An example of doing this right:
![](/images/silkroad/selegiline-shoppingcart-message.png)
Now, one might wonder how one would post one's *own* public key in case one asks questions and would like the answers from the seller to be as encrypted as one's addresses. It's easy to make one with `gpg --gen-key` and then a `gpg --armor --export USERNAME`, but where to post it? It used to be that you could simply push a button in your profile to register as a seller and then fill your own profile field with the public key like any seller, and I did just that. But recently Silk Road has closed free seller accounts, and [has announced](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?topic=360.msg2059#msg2059)^[[Non-Tor mirror](https://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?topic=360.msg2059#msg2059) using [Tor2Web](http://tor2web.org/).] that they are being auctioned off. The [justification for this](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?topic=360.msg3574#msg3574)^[[mirror](https://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?topic=360.msg3574#msg3574)] is SR claims to have received an anonymous threat to register many free seller accounts and simply mail poisoned pills out (which he [alluded to earlier](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?topic=207.msg1033#msg1033)^[[Mirror](https://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?topic=207.msg1033#msg1033)]). Hopefully buyers will soon be able to edit their profile, but until then, there is a [thread on the SR forums](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?topic=174.0)^[[Mirror](https://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?topic=174.0)] devoted to buyers posting their public keys.
## Now what?
Once you have submitted the order, the ball is in the seller's court. The order is listed in your shopping cart as 'processing':
![](/images/silkroad/selegiline-ordered.png)
Your balance also instantly decreases by the price, and if you look at your balance/transactions page, you will notice that that amount is listed as in [escrow](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/wiki/index.php/Escrow)[^escrow]. SR holds onto your Bitcoins until you finalize the transaction with a review - one of the protections for the buyers.
It's worth noting that the buyers bear the real risk on SR. A seller can easily anonymize themselves and send packages without difficulty: simply drive out of town to an obscure post office and mail it, leaving behind fuzzy surveillance recordings, if even that[^shipping]. (See the [Silk Road subforum on shipping](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?board=6.0)^[[Mirror](https://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?board=6.0)].) A buyer, on the other hand, must at some point be physically present to consume the ordered drugs or items. There's no way to cleanly separate herself from the shipment like the seller can. Shipping is so safe for the seller that many of them will, without complaint, ship worldwide or across national borders because customs so rarely stops drug shipments.^[For example, I have never had a shipment of anything I have ordered stopped or apparently even looked at hard by a Customs. In the 2 SR orders' cases, this turned out to be irrelevant as both sellers were in-country.]
[^shipping]: To quote a [SR](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/inrbo/iama_seller_on_the_illegal_anonymous_marketplace/c259lb5) [seller](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/inrbo/iama_seller_on_the_illegal_anonymous_marketplace/c2590df):
> "I don't think I'm risking much. It would be almost impossible for law enforcement to find me. They would need to find out where the package came from, and go to that mailbox, and have a police officer wait a few weeks for me to return to that mailbox. All just because they found a 100mg of a Schedule II drug in an envelope. Also, they wouldn't suspect me. My criminal record is perfectly clean. Not even a parking misdemeanor."
>
> "I doubt that I could be caught. They would need to find out the mailbox that I've been putting the packages in, and then have someone wait there and watch me, and then they would need to prove that I was the one who put it in the mailbox. So if they could back-track and find out where the package came from, then maybe they could catch me. Also, there are many different mailboxes around me, so I put the packages in different mailboxes each time. Definitely can't hurt."
[A Redditor](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/inrbo/iama_seller_on_the_illegal_anonymous_marketplace/c25a3ni) comments on the jurisdictional advantages of going through USPS (as is usually recommended in seller discussions); I do not know if he is correct, but the description sounds plausible:
> "Also, once it's in the mailbox, it's property of the US postal service, and they're VERY particular about what happens to it. No one (including other agencies) can carry weapons in a post office except for postal inspectors, nor can they investigate mail on their own; it has to go through the post office itself."
[^escrow]: I only used the standard Bitcoin escrow. (Needless to say, Paypal is *completely* out of the question.) Silk Road has another escrow scheme where the escrowed amount is tied to the current exchange rate, in order to protect the seller against exchange rate volatility; that escrow is documented in the [announcement](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?topic=819.0) ([mirror](https://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?topic=819.0)) and the "Escrow hedge" section of the [Buyer's Guide](http://silkroadvb5piz3r.onion/index.php/silkroad/buyers_guide).
I check in 1 day later: the order still processing. Items apparently aren't public once you've escrowed your dosh. 2 days later: still processing. 3 days later: canceled! My Bitcoins are unlocked, of course, but I'm not keen on ordering again right away. Need to browse more and look for deals. The cancellation message is not very informative:
![](/images/silkroad/selegiline-canceled.png)
Well sure, but *why* was it canceled? I speculate the seller decided he didn't want to send outside the EU despite his listing claiming he would - perhaps shipping cost more than he had factored into his price. (I checked back a few weeks later, and the seller says he canceled all orders and got a new public key because the Mt.Gox exploits have made him paranoid. I can't really fault him with that rationale. I wish he had mentioned it before, I would have cut him some slack.)
## Try, try again
After some more browsing, I decide to go with either the cheapest [Adderall](!Wikipedia) or the new [modafinil](!Wikipedia) posting, which mentioned being Provigil. But is it real branded Provigil or just the usual Indian generics? Also, the Adderall seller has no public key listed! I take this opportunity to message the two, asking for more information and to post a public key, respectively.
Both have replied the next day; the Adderall seller has put up his public key, and the modafinil seller clarifies it's Indian - but it doesn't matter since the item's page has disappeared, indicating someone bought it already. Naturally, I reply and then delete all messages. One must assume that Silk Road will be compromised at some point... But the Adderall it is. The listing looks pretty good, and the price per pill is far superior to that I was quoted by one of my college-age friends (less than 1/3 the price) and also better than the Adderall price quote in the [_New Yorker_](http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/04/27/090427fa_fact_talbot#), $15 for 20mg:
![](/images/silkroad/adderall.png)
1 day after ordering: still processing, and 2 days, 'in transit':
![](/images/silkroad/adderall-processing.png)
![](/images/silkroad/adderall-intransit.png)
## Evaluating and reviewing
3rd day: still in transit. 4th day: the package arrived! I go over immediately, and it's this harmless-looking little padded mailer. One would not suspect it of anything nefarious, not with those cute stamps^[I have no idea why the stamps are not [canceled](!Wikipedia "Cancellation (mail)"); Wikipedia mentions that sometimes the stamp cancellation machines fail and the stamps get a [pen cancel](!Wikipedia) instead. One seller mentions that [sometimes he receives](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/inrbo/iama_seller_on_the_illegal_anonymous_marketplace/c25aico) uncanceled stamps, and asking older relatives, they did too (and sometimes the package or envelope *was* canceled - just not on the stamps).]:
![](/images/silkroad/adderall-package.jpg)
The contents are as described, 10 blue Adderall, in a double ziplock baggy (the vacuum-sealed bags are not needed for a drug this low on the importance scale - there are no [drug dogs](!Wikipedia "Detection dog") for Adderall):
![](/images/silkroad/adderall-pills.jpg)
While I have never used Adderall before, the effects are noticeable enough that I am convinced after the first dose that they are genuine (I have [continued to experiment](Nootropics#adderall) with them to somewhat lesser effect). The very sharp-eyed will notice that these are the 'generic' Adderall pills, but as it turns out, the generic Adderall pills are manufactured by the exact same pharmacorp as the branded Adderall - the two products are probably a case of [price discrimination](!Wikipedia). Economics can be a counter-intuitive thing. I also ordered generic [armodafinil](!Wikipedia) with similar steps since the armodafinil was noticeably *cheaper* than the regular Indian generic modafinil:
![4 of the pills are left after I tested the first one overnight.](/images/silkroad/armodafinil.jpg)
They work fine (I have [begun experimenting](Nootropics#armodafinil) with them), and I leave the seller a nice review. My third order proceeds as straightforwardly as the second order, and results in an even better packaged shipment of product that seems to be genuine as far as I can tell. Heedful of the risks and probabilities, I leave another nice review; the review form (reached when you click the 'finalize' link) is as straightforward as the rest of the process:
![](/images/silkroad/armodafinil-feedback.png)
Feedback is an important part of the process. I was surprised to revisit one of my seller's page when 3 or 4 of his transactions has caused him to go from no reviews to 4 positive reviews, and see that his prices had increased a good 30 or 40%. Apparently he had been selling at a considerable discount to drum up reviews. This suggests to me, at least, that existing SR users are a bit too chary of new sellers.
Another transaction; 10x100mg Modalert ordered from an English seller, arrived in larger than one would expect packaging (which contained a pretty nifty way to hide a shipment, but I will omit those details):
![](/images/silkroad/2011-modalert-package-gb.jpg)
The Modalert was what one would expect:
![](/images/2011-modalert-front-gb.jpg) ![](/images/2011-modalert-pill-gb.jpg)
A final example: I search for modafinil:
![Search results for the query 'modafinil'](/images/silkroad/2012-modafinil-search.png)
I finally decide to order 80x150 armodafinil from a French seller (not so cheap as before):
![Cart report](/images/silkroad/2012-armodafinil-order.png)
2 weeks later, it arrived in heavily folded paper inside this envelope:
![a message from France](/images/silkroad/2012-package.jpg)
Containing the agreed-upon purchase:
![the booty](/images/silkroad/2012-80-armodafinil.jpg)
# _Finis_
There is no proof of all of the above - anything here could have been faked with Photoshop or simply reused (perhaps I have a legitimate Adderall prescription). Take it for what it is and see whether it convinces you: [argument screens off authority](http://lesswrong.com/lw/lx/argument_screens_off_authority/).
But looking back, I have been lucky: from reading the forums, it's clear that there *are* scammers on Silk Road^[Looking at the reviews posted to the front page and sentiment on the forum, I would hazard a guesstimate that scammers are 0-10% of the marketplace, and probably to the low end of that spectrum. In the January 2012 one-year anniversary message, ["State of the Road Address"](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/index.php?topic=8397.0) ([non-Tor mirror](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/index.php?topic=8397.0)), the administrator claimed that "over 99% of all transactions conducted within the escrow system are completed to the satisfaction of both both buyer and seller, or a mutually agreed upon resolution is found."], and shipments do get lost in the mail or seized or otherwise not delivered. ([I do not expect](http://predictionbook.com/predictions/2911) any legal problems; law enforcement always go after the sellers, to achieve maximum impact, and Silk Road presents both technical and jurisdictional problems for law enforcement.) This is inherent to the idea of an anonymous marketplace, but the system worked for me. SR describes it well in one of his messages:
> "Things are going really well here. There are many new buyers and sellers working well together, our servers are secure and humming along, and you may even start to feel comfortable. DO NOT get comfortable! This is not wal-mart, or even amazon.com. It is the wild west and there are as many crooks as there are honest businessmen and women. Keep your guard up and be safe, even paranoid. If you buy from someone without reputation, get to know them really well through pm, and even then be suspicious. Unfortunately it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, and there are bad apples out there."
On SR, there are lions and tigers and pigs oh my, but: [_alea iacta est!_](http://silkroadvb5piz3r.onion/index.php/forums/thread/894) Like Bitcoin, Silk Road may live another few months, or another few years, but will it? Like using Silk Road, there's no way to know but to go.
# External links
- SR wiki: ["FAQs"](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion/wiki/index.php/FAQ%27s) ([non-Tor mirror](http://dkn255hz262ypmii.tor2web.org/wiki/index.php/FAQ%27s))
- Reddit discussion: [First submission](http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/imoc0/using_silk_road/), [resubmission](http://www.reddit.com/r/Drugs/comments/imq8h/how_to_use_the_silk_road_the_cats_out_of_the_bag/)
- [Silk Road subreddit](http://www.reddit.com/r/SilkRoad/)
- Reddit: [Seller Q&A](http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/inrbo/iama_seller_on_the_illegal_anonymous_marketplace/)
- ["Traveling Down the Silk road to Buy Drugs With Bitcoins"](http://motherboard.tv/2011/6/24/traveling-down-the-silkroad-to-buy-drugs-with-bitcoins) -(another SR article, by Ryan Broderick; much shorter & incomplete)
# Appendix: BBC questions
In mid-January 2012, a reporter from BBC Radio's "[5 Live](!Wikipedia "BBC Radio 5 Live") Investigates" emailed me asking whether I'd answer questions for [their 5 February show](http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01bmpl4) they were doing on Bitcoin & Silk Road; I agreed. The following is the transcript:
> How did you find out about Silk Road?
I saw the original announcement of it on the Bitcoin forums when it was linked on Reddit. I figured it would fail, and then a few months later, I saw the Gawker article on it and apparently Silk Road was actually working!
> What attracted you to using Silk Road?
Once I heard, I just had to look into it more - it was too interesting not to. Timothy May and other cypherpunks had been speculating about black market websites using cryptocurrency since the early '90s, and here was a real live example. I looked at their offerings and saw they had some offers I might want at reasonable price, and that settled it for me.
> What is the difference between ordering your drugs from Silk Road and getting them on the street?
Modafinil is pretty hard to get on the street because everyone gets it either with a prescription or from an online pharmacy, so I have no idea. While I was still checking out Silk Road, I asked a friend in college how much Adderall would be and he told me he could get them for $9-10 a pill; it cost half that on Silk Road, so I went with them rather than him.
> How is Silk Road different to other websites where you can buy drugs?
My first-hand experience with modafinil is that I much prefer to buy on Silk Road than the pharmacies.
With them, your dollar payment can fail at any point. For example, MoneyGram once blocked a payment of mine. Very frustrating! Bitcoin is much more reliable: I can see where my bitcoins go until they enter Silk Road proper.
And then there's the split between Silk Road itself and all the sellers, which makes things safer - everyone encrypts their physical address before submitting it to Silk Road, and the seller decrypts it himself. If Silk Road is untrustworthy, they can only steal my bitcoins but not my address; if the seller is untrustworthy, they can only steal my address and not my bitcoins. Whereas with the pharmacies, they both get my money and my address.
> What have you ordered from the site and how often?
I don't order very often because I like to thoroughly experiment with things, and my tests take a while to set up and run. I think so far I've done one order of Adderall, one order of armodafinil, and two orders of modafinil; another order was canceled.
> How important is anonymity to you? Do you think the technology really protects your identity?
It's not very important because I have little interest in the drugs law enforcement is most interested in, like heroin or cocaine. Modafinil can be shipped without much danger, with Customs only seizing the package if they notice it and nothing more. Adderall isn't very dangerous either - everyone knows it's all over college campuses, so what are they going to do, arrest me? I don't even have any Adderall left!
(To make a historical analogy, it's like having some wine during Prohibition; no one thinks much of it, and the cops are busy with the gangsters.)
> How important is Bitcoin?
I'd say the Bitcoin part is probably even more important than Tor. Law enforcement is not known for its NSA-style traffic analysis because it wouldn't be usable in court, and the other benefit is that there's no domain name to be seized or filtered; but neither of these is very important. They can be gotten around or dealt with.
But being able to get money to the sellers, and the sellers being able to turn it back into usable cash on Mt.gox or another exchange, that is crucial. You cannot buy and sell drugs for free.
> What do you think the future holds for Silk Road, do you think the authorities will shut it down or do you think it will continue to grow?
I would be fairly surprised if it was shut down; there's no obvious way to do so. The real danger is internal: that the community itself might be skewed towards scammers and buyers just give up and buy somewhere else. It's the same dilemma eBay faced: you don't want to scare off the sellers by too many rules, but if you don't do something, scammers will fleece the buyers. So far, the administrators have done a pretty good job of keeping everything running and maintaining the balance.
> How important is the community side of Silk Road.
Extremely. The community is what determines whether Silk Road will decline or continue growing with the general growth of Bitcoin.
> What sort of people use the site?
It's hard to tell, but from reading the forums, it seems like it is mostly technically adept young people in Western Europe and America. Tor and Bitcoin and encryption are a challenge to use for most people, and older people have contacts they know how to use when they want various drugs.
> Is Silk Road just about scoring drugs safely or you and other users feel you are making a greater statement about society the drugs law?
I know other users disagree and take it only as a useful service or something of a FU to The Man, but many of us do see it as a principled statement. I believe that I am capable of researching and evaluating drugs, that I can accept the risks, and see how they do or do not work, and that the government should not be coercively imposing its beliefs on me.
I am also horrified by the effects of the War on Drugs, which has been a greater disaster than Prohibition (which we at least had the sense to repeal after a few years). Buying on the Silk Road and writing about it is, if you will, my bit of patriotism. It's not very heroic, and I've never claimed to be a hero or to be doing anything particularly noteworthy, but perhaps it will change someone's mind - either that drugs are not so bad or that the War is not so practicable.
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