Silk Road is an online market. It is operated as a Tor hidden service, such that online users are able to browse it anonymously and securely without potential traffic monitoring. All its products can be bought anonymously for bitcoins
As of March 2013, the site had 10,000 products for sale by vendors, 70% were drugs that are considered contraband in most jurisdictions. 340 varieties of drugs were being sold, including heroin, LSD, and cannabis. There were also legal goods and services for sale, such as apparel, art, books, cigarettes, erotica, jewelry, and writing services. A sister site, called "The Armory", sold weapons (primarily guns) during 2012 but was shut down due to a lack of demand.
The website launched in February 2011; development had begun six months prior. It is held to be part of the Deep Web. Silk Road was operated by "Dread Pirate Roberts" (named after the fictional character from The Princess Bride), who was known for espousing libertarian ideals and criticizing regulation.
Initially, buyers could register for free, but there were a limited number of new seller accounts available; new sellers had to purchase an account via an auction. Later, a fixed fee for each new seller account was chosen to mitigate the possibility of malicious individuals distributing tainted goods.
On October 2, 2013, the FBI shut down Silk Road. They arrested Ross William Ulbricht on charges of alleged murder-for-hire and narcotics trafficking violation and identified him as the founder and chief operator "Dread Pirate Roberts." On 6 November 2013 Forbes and Vice reported that Silk Road 2.0 was online and being run by former administrators of Silk Road and that a different user was now using the name, Dread Pirate Roberts.
The criminal complaint published when Ulbricht was arrested included information the FBI gained from a system image of the Silk Road server collected on 23 July 2013. It noted that, "From February 6, 2011 to July 23, 2013 there were approximately 1,229,465 transactions completed on the site. The total revenue generated from these sales was 9,519,664 Bitcoins, and the total commissions collected by Silk Road from the sales amounted to 614,305 Bitcoins. These figures are equivalent to roughly $1.2 billion in revenue and $79.8 million in commissions, at current Bitcoin exchange rates...", according to the September 2013 complaint, and involved 146,946 buyers and 3,877 vendors. According to information users provided upon registering, 30 percent were from the United States, 27 percent chose to be "undeclared," and beyond that, in descending order of prevalence: the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Canada, Sweden, France, Russia, Italy, and the Netherlands.