It has all the hallmarks of a drugs turf war. The don is under threat, wounded by a series of attacks, with key players swapping sides and prices undercut by a hungry young rival. He lashes back: the newcomer “gets no respect from me” and the dealers watch carefully for shifts in power.
This, however, is not a battle fought with weapons on street corners. The fight is for ownership of one of the darkest corners of the internet, where high-grade drugs at street-level prices are available at the click of the button.
After more than two years of undisputed leadership, Silk Road – the one-stop shop for drugs, porn and dodgy documents described as an “amoral eBay” – is facing a challenge from a rival hungry for a slice of its multimillion-pound revenues. Established in 2011 by a shadowy founder known as Dread Pirate Roberts, Silk Road has been a business success story. It has provided anonymity to its users and sellers on a sub-layer of the internet unreachable by normal search engines such as Google.
Now a new start-up, Atlantis, has copied many of its features but changed the rules with an unexpectedly public promotional campaign and financial incentives to dealers to switch to its marketplace. Full story...