atlantis screenshot

Update: Atlantis has shut down permanently as of September 20, 2013.

There’s a new anonymous online drug marketplace, and it’s making quick strides. Due to a rapid and aggressive marketing campaign, Atlantis getting lots of exposure–not only to potential buyers, but to many established Silk Road vendors who see it as an attractive new outlet for their goods.

atlantisPerhaps what’s most surprising is how social and public the branding has been. Atlantis, which opened in March, has a Facebook page, Twitter handle, and its own Reddit thread. All Things Vice even published an interview with two of its founders.

Want more evidence that digital black markets are serious business? Forbes magazine wrote a review comparing the buying experience on Silk Road, Atlantis, and a third website called Black Market Reloaded. Yes, the writers at Forbes actually bought illegal drugs on each website–all in the name of journalism, of course. The HuffPostDaily MailBusiness Insider, and other mainstream news outlets have also covered Atlantis.

A turf war is on. Silk Road has enjoyed a near monopoly on the digital drug business since its inception in 2011, but its tenure is over. The new competition is great for consumers–various black markets will vie for market share by offering more features and a better user experience. In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, the CEO explains that compared to Silk Road, Atlantis takes lower commissions, has less downtime, has a more “modern” interface, has a feedback system for rating buyers as well as sellers, and supports built-in message encryption. What’s next, smartphone apps? Delivery tracking?

Welcome to the future. It sounds like a scene straight out of a Hollywood sci-fi film: anonymous entities are competing to deliver all kinds of illegal drugs to your doorstep, in exchange for crypto-currencies that are as good as cash in spite of a complete lack of governmental backing. And all of it is transacted on an encrypted, hidden sub-network of cyberspace called the Dark Web. You sure this isn’t Blade Runner?

The boldest part of the Atlantis PR campaign is this marketing video. It’s so outrageous you’ll swear it’s fake, but it’s not. With competitors as audacious as these, Dread Pirate Roberts (the moniker of Silk Road’s founder) had better step up his game.

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