In the first and second part of this short Bitcoin series, we’ve tried to explain what is it all about and how it works.
Today, we are going to tell you a short neo-noir thriller. The bitcoin currency made it possible to happen in real the life due to its feature of allowing anonymous transactions.
But bitcoin isn’t the only basis on which this movie-like, mystery story developed: the main ingredient is the « dark web« . What a sweet name, isn’t it? Now let’s tell you what this name is about.
As we all live in a world of confusion, many web-users think when googling for something, « I’m searching the Internet for this » or « I’m looking for this on the web ».
These assertions are simply wrong and probably the search-engines are the first culprits for the misundertanding: if instead of displaying buttons that read « Search the web » they would have said « Search our indexes« , maybe people would have paid attention to the fact that there is a difference between « web » and « indexed web ».
And the difference between the 2 notions is given precisely by search-engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo, because search-engines are the interface between us users and the web resources we are trying to use.
Google has a very nice single-page description on how it basically works.
But the main idea (not included there) is that, besides the indexable content, there is lots and lots of information that search-engines cannot index, for various reasons.
One reason would be the private nature of some information: the information is absolutely legit and valuable but it is not intended for public use because you either have to pay to access it or you’ve got to have some clearance to view it. So being password protected, such content isn’t reachable by search-engines crawlers for indexing.
Another example would be database-information generated through forms: their information might be free and unrestricted but it is physically impossible for a search-engine crawler to fill in all possible fields with all possible values and retain/index all possible generated results.
OK, so let’s stop here as you surely got the point: in a nutshell, « there is life beyond Google » and actually it seems that « most of the « life » is beyond it ».
The deep-web is estimated to account for ca. 96% of existing information, while the indexed web (the one most of us know and use) would be humbly covering the remaining 4% (just remember to never rely on figures and numbers , especially when it comes to such elusive subjects).
So now we can complete this brief tour: a small portion of the non-indexable, invisible « deep-web » is called the « dark-web » because it is hidden on-purpose, in order to provide true anonymity to its users. Let’s quote the authoritative BrightPlanet website specialized in big-data and deep web intelligencing: « The most famous content that resides on the Dark Web is found in the TOR network. The TOR network is an anonymous network that can only be accessed with a special web browser, called the TOR browser. This is the portion of the Internet most widely known for illicit activities because of the anonymity associated with the TOR network. »
« Illicite activities« , « dark« , « anonymous » … all these words are shouting « we’ve got our main story ».
The first time I heard about Silkroad was in a police drama TV show. I can’t exactly remember which one but I do know that at the time I had no doubt it was an invention made-up by the series creators to add a deep mystery thread to the plot.
Go figure how surprised I was at a later time to incidentally read in the real news a headline about the Silkroad website being taken down by the real FBI.
Oh yes, turned out the infamous Silkroad website (some kind of Amazon.com on the dark-side of the Force, a marketplace on the dark-web for all criminal/illegal stuff) was real, it really allowed illicit transactions to take place and it was a tough job for the ‘feds’ to get to it because the « follow the money trail » classical and universal principle for success didn’t work on Silkroad.
Why? Well, because all transactions were done in bitcoins, of course.
But let’s take a walk down to Silk Road, as Forbes put it. Launched in January 2011. Servers located around the whole world, including Iceland, Malaysia, Latvia and USA. Arrests operated all around the world, including Australia, Sweden, The Netherlands, UK and US. Shut down by the US law-enforcement authorities in 2013. Re-launched shortly thereafter (in November 2013) as « Silkroad 2.0 » and re-shut down by authorities in 2014.
As a premiere, when seizing the site, US federal authorities also confiscated…. bitcoins, which is kind of strange, thinking it’s a virtual stuff after all.
Virtual but not wortheless, that’s for sure: the seized 30.000 bitcoins were sold at an auction by the US authorities which brought them an undisclosed amount of real cash, most probably having 6 zeroes after the main number, as at the day of the bidding the 30.000 bitcoins were valued at about 17 million US$. The buyer who won the bidding competition (there were 45 competitors!) had purchased the bitcoins for a company he incubated and whose main activity is to provide bitcoin exchange for financial institutions.
The name of the winning bidder isn’t secret at all: it’s Tim Draper, a 3-rd generation venture capitalist and a very technology-oriented one (he was an early investor in Skype or some say he’s the one who invented the viral marketing).
As for the one(s) who masterminded Silkroad, the truth is, no one knows for sure its identity.
Its nom-de-guerre is « Dread Pirate Roberts », a pseudonym (taken from a fantasy novel titled « The Princess Bride« ) which is actually meant to designate the highest position within Silkroad organization, similar to, for example, « The Prime Minister » within a government’s hierarchy.
Of course, law enforcement announced they’ve arrested the first Dread Pirate Roberts, allegedly impersonated by a youngster named Ross Ulbricht, as well as the alleged second one, another youngster named Blake Benthall.
However, Ulbricht denied being the Dread Pirate Roberts, which, even if probably true, will surely not spare him of being sentenced because no matter the ties one has with Silkroad, it clearly cannot be a monk or a nun.
Well folks, hopefully you now have some insights to make an idea about Bitcoin and what it produced in the world so far.
Its future is impossible to predict and not even one of the famous « gurus » who usually teach us about pretty much everything, not even one of them is having a firm opinion about what bitcoin will become.
But you can try this approach (which is probably as reliable as any other one): try flipping a bitcoin and see what it’s gonna be, heads or tails?
Thank you for reading this, folks, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!