Silk Road launched in February 2011 as the darknet’s first bitcoin-based marketplace. Within four months, it would be the darknet’s most notorious site whose reputation extended all the way to the U.S. Senate. The origins of the drugs marketplace can be traced back further, however, to a philosophical thread on the Bitcointalk forum. It was only later that the significance of this thread would be fully appreciated.
‘A Heroin Store’
“As a Libertarian, the thing I love most about the Bitcoin project is the chance that it could be truly disruptive,” wrote early Bitcointalk user ‘teppy.’ It was June 2010, and Bitcoin was still very much in its infancy, with its potential use cases still being figured out. “I think that drug prohibition is one of the most socially harmful things that the US has ever done, and so I would like to do a thought experiment about how a heroin store might operate, accepting Bitcoins, and ending drug prohibition in the process,” continued teppy, before outlining his idea for how such a venture would operate.
The proposal was cautiously welcomed, with some users highlighting the hazards (“US government has endless resources and nothing to stop them from doing things they’re not supposed to … I think if it’s high profile enough you would still get busted somehow, something you didn’t think of”) and others elaborating on how it might work.
Although the thread was provocatively titled “A Heroin Store,” one user suggested a marijuana store would be preferable because “the risk of getting caught is much more calculable. Your clients are much trustworthier, and your competitioners are not as dangerous.”
A Framework for Silk Road
Although they couldn’t have known,