The landscape of darknet markets has changed quite a bit over the course of this year, with users now paying extra close attention to signs of market health and indications of plans for longevity. Of course, there is no single method for finding the perfect darknet market, or for finding one that will suit your needs for the long haul, but there are clues for which users can look.
In this article, we compare and contrast eight of the biggest English-language darknet markets that are considered to be at least somewhat trustworthy by the larger community and its experts, which include the inhabitants and architects of the Dread forum, as well as Darknet Live, tor taxi and dark fail. We compare the markets using 11 different metrics to help you get a better idea of which market may be best for you, so you can potentially save yourself hassles during your ordering experience.
First is a reference chart for a quick-and-dirty comparison of our eight markets, listing the year they opened, their total number of vendors, total listings supported, relative size of community, ease of access (some markets are DDOSed more frequently than others, or respond better to attacks than others), whether they support Direct Pay (per-order payments), and whether they support Bitcoin multisignature payments.
|Market Name||Opened||Vendors||Total Listings||Community||Access||Direct Pay?||Multi-Sig?|
We then provide a brief summary of the eight darknet markets chosen for comparison below. They all contain some similarities which may not have been the case even a year earlier. For one, they all now support Monero (XMR). They also feature some kind of dispute resolution system, offer Finalize Early (FE) for qualifying vendors, and are featured on a reputable link provision service (such as darknetlive, dark fail, tor taxi, or Dread). They have all been operating with some consistency for at least one year and are presented in alphabetical order.
Abacus is currently having reach-ability issues due to a large-scale DDOS that has rendered most of its mirrors non-functioning. Nevertheless, the market continues to operate, and when the user can connect, they will find it offers a huge selection of listings. It is one of the few markets where multisignature purchases have been enabled by a decent number of vendors (available for 266 listings, currently). Abacus also supports different levels of FE (100%, 75%, 50%, and 25%), which means you don’t necessarily have to release the full amount of funds to the vendor before receiving your item.
Much as it was during its original incarnation, AlphaBay is the king of darknet markets. In many ways it is much better than it was the first time around, but in a few ways it is worse. For one, loading the market page can be a rather time-consuming process, and messing up the market’s relatively fragile captcha can add minutes to the login experience. One of the cool things that separates AlphaBay among the competition is its harm reduction program, in which popular listings are independently tested and analyzed by select program participants. This can do wonders for identifying the quality of listings.
Despite quitting Dread about six months ago due to differences with forum staff and administration, Archetyp operates rather steadily and has its own forum. The DDOS filtering system employed by the market is simple yet effective, and as a result it sees a lot of uptime. A drugs-only and XMR-only market, Archetyp is on the smaller side, despite having been open for over two years, and features vendors mainly in the EU and North America (no Aussie or South American vendors). Archetyp is stripped down, to the point, and devoid of clutter, providing buyers with a straightforward shopping experience.
ASAP has been in operation for a little over two years and in this time it has developed an avid base of loyal users who swear by its trustworthiness. Its success has not gone unpunished, however, and made it the target of ongoing DDOS and other attacks. To combat this, the market recently launched its own rotational mirror service. ASAP is rivaled in size only by AlphaBay and features a huge selection of listings in all the most popular categories. This also includes the biggest selection of digital goods of any market, many of which can be purchased instantly. It supports both BTC and XMR as payment options.
Founded in mid-2021, Bohemia got a tremendous upgrade just very recently which renders it a highly-competitive market. It is now the only darknet market that supports both BTC multisig and Direct Pay options for XMR. Logging into the market can be a bit tough as doing so requires no less than three captchas, but DDOS attacks had previously left the market largely inaccessible. Bohemia sports a huge array of listings; close to 1/3 of these are in their Cannabis section, which is slated to move to its own market in the future (to be known as Cannabia). It also has a somewhat active community on Dread.
Opening for business in early 2021, Incognito is a medium-sized, drugs-only market that has seen enormous growth in 2022, with its total number of listings increasing six-fold since the beginning of the year. While it doesn’t support per order payments, it does offer the option to lock in a price upon checkout, so you only need to deposit the exact amount to cover the order. This is the next best thing to having a multisig or Direct Pay option. The market itself can be a little clunky, suffers DDOS attacks, and navigation can be a pain, but it gets the job done and is generally considered to be trustworthy.
Coming up on its second birthday, Royal Market is now one of the more established markets that is not often talked about and tends to fly under the radar of the darknet market community. This is partially due to the fact that it does not maintain a presence on Dread, nor is it linked on dark fail or tor taxi. Nevertheless, it maintains an active base of users and supports a varied selection of product listings. With a vendor bond of $1000 for new vendors, Royal keeps out the riff-raff, leading to less scams. It also has a nice selection of market tutorials for those who seek to maximize their shopping experience.
Another newer market that is currently suffering from a punishing wave of DDOS attacks, Tor2Door has grown leaps and bounds in 2022 and enjoys the support of a loyal and active community. It is one of the few markets to offer multisig support for BTC transactions, although this option has not been widely adopted by its vendors. Tor2Door has a stellar reputation for being trustworthy and handling disputes in a fair and consistent manner.
By far, the market with the biggest selection of vendors (as well as trusted, well-known vendors) is AlphaBay, which is home to a whopping 12,696 sellers of various products (both physical & digital). Even though many were slow to trust it upon its return in August 2021, AlphaBay has proven to be an excellent place for vendors to conduct their business, and thousands have flocked to it in 2022.
The runner-up for vendor selection is ASAP, which does not list a vendor count on its site, but its total number of vendors possibly rivals AlphaBay in size. Of all the markets in this comparison, ASAP actually has the most amount of product listings (at 50,650 as of the writing of this article), but many of these are duplicates found in digital item-related sections.
Cannabis & related products
These are listings that fall into categories (and subcategories) identified by the words “Cannabis,” “Hash,” “Marijuana,” etc. ASAP wins out in this category, with around 14,400 different listings for cannabis-related products. These are divided up into 10 subcategories, which include Buds & Flowers (7042 listings), Concentrates (2640), Edibles (1170), Hash (1910), Other (131), Prerolls (107), Seeds (31), Shake (234), Synthetic (50), and Topicals & others (12).
Runners-up in this category include Bohemia with 12,560 listings and AlphaBay with 12,040 listings.
These are listings that fall into a category most frequently titled “Stimulants,” which usually contains amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, and a few other CNS-stimulating drugs. Two markets are pretty much tied for total listings in this category: ASAP and AlphaBay, with close to 8000 listings each. ASAP has more subcategories for such listings, but unlike AlphaBay, they also support BTC, which makes it the market of choice for those who want to pay for their orders in Bitcoin.
Interestingly, Incognito has the biggest share of Stimulants products relative to its overall number of listings, with almost 4000 offerings, equaling around 28% of its total listings.
These are listings usually categorized as Ecstasy or MDMA, which may also include similar analogs, such as MDA and less-common phenylethylamines. ASAP wins again in this category, featuring 3330 listings across 5 subcategories (MDA, MDMA, Methylone & BK, Other, and Pills). Since some products on ASAP are likely to be cross-listed, it is also worth considering Bohemia for this category, which comes in at #2 with 3210 listings. Bohemia also offers Direct Pay for orders while ASAP uses the traditional account wallet system.
Finally, checking in on Royal Market might also be a good idea when perusing MDMA-related products as they have 2440 listings spread across 5 subcategories (with the exact same names as ASAP).
These are drugs usually found in a category titled “Psychedelics,” which often includes LSD, mushrooms, mescaline (ayahuasca), 2-CB, LSA, and DMT. For products in this category, we recommend checking out ASAP and AlphaBay as they have similar amounts of these listings, at around 3400 each. We kind of prefer ASAP’s neat division of these products into 7 subcategories, including 2-CB (710 listings), DMA / DOX (14), DMT (277), LSA (2), LSD (1925), Mescaline (49), and Shrooms (714). This selection pretty much can’t be beat, especially if you are a BTC user.
For those who prefer to pay using multisig, Bohemia is a great option, with close to 3000 psychedelics listings (although most vendors do not support multisig). Additionally, Abacus comes in a strong second for multisig markets with 2500 in this category, and Tor2Door coming in 3rd.
These include listings from categories specifically featuring prescription drugs that have been approved for use by the FDA or similar agencies in other countries. The leading markets for prescription drugs are AlphaBay with 2100 listings and Bohemia with 1840 listings. We actually prefer Bohemia for this category as their prescriptions are conveniently divided into 6 subcategories (Sleeping Pills, Sexual Medication, Sedatives, Painkillers, Muscle Relaxers, and Others). Unlike AlphaBay, Bohemia also supports Direct Pay, which is easier than having to first make a deposit into an account wallet.
ASAP is the obvious runner-up in this category, with slightly over 1500 listings, and Abacus makes a strong showing with 1100 prescriptions listings.
These include listings from categories frequently labeled “Digital Items,” but also includes software, malware, and occasionally hacking tools (databases, credit card details and guides have been omitted). With over 4600 separate listings, Royal Market sports the biggest selection of digital items, hosting a wide array of gift cards, e-books, fraud software, legit software, game keys, guides, tutorials, and others. They also have over 4500 listings for fraud-related items and services related to carding and social engineering. Royal Market also offers Direct Pay for these items, simplifying the checkout process.
The runner-up in this category is ASAP market, followed by Bohemia and Abacus.
These are categories that are unique to each market, potentially containing listings that can’t be found on other markets. Not all markets covered in this comparison have such categories.
- Abacus: “Psychedelics – Other RCs” – Abacus has a special category dedicated to psychedelic recreational chemicals, which are substances that are psychoactive but fall in a grey area legally as they haven’t been scheduled in much of the world. Currently 100 listings in all, here you will find obscure chemicals that are analogs of well-known substances, such as MDMA, amphetamine, Ritalin, and mephedrone. They are usually at a discounted price relative to their more-famous counterpart.
- AlphaBay: “Automotive-related items” – as the name suggests, these are items that relate to autos in specific; namely stolen vehicle parts and vehicle identification numbers (as well as the frames which contain them). It’s a tiny category in terms of listings which is highly-specific and seems only relevant to US-based customers, but it will be interesting to see if listings ever get placed in the currently-empty “Stolen Vehicles” subcategory.
- ASAP: “Weight Loss” – Although a few other markets have similar categories, ASAP has the most listings for this particular area of drug — currently 60 in total. Weight loss medications currently listed there include Phentermine, Clenbuterol, Salbutamol, Thermolipid, Slimex, and Adipex, among others.
- Bohemia: “Digital Items – Gaming” – That’s right: Bohemia sports its own Gaming section within the main Digital Items category, which has a surprising number of items. Unfortunately, very few of them are actually related to games as there seems to be a lack of quality control among digital listings on the market. Still worth checking out though if you are ever interested in purchasing a game with crypto at a discount.
- Royal Market: “Drug Recipes” – Though items potentially falling into this category can sometimes be found in the Guides section of various markets, Royal Market hosts their own section for them. The scant number of listings in this category are all modestly priced, making them affordable for those who want to attempt to be their own chemist or have simply wondered how certain drugs are manufactured.
Direct Pay markets
Of the eight markets reviewed in this comparison, only two support the option of Direct Pay, which are payments made per order rather than to a market account wallet. This saves the buyer the hassle of having to pre-fund a wallet with an amount that might not match the cost of the item they wish to purchase. The two markets that support Direct Pay are Bohemia and Royal Market. Bohemia is the bigger of the two. Both markets support BTC and XMR as payment options. Once paid, funds are still held by market escrow, unless it is a multisig order, which is an option only supported by Bohemia.
A third option is Incognito, which allows the buyer to lock in a purchase at a given price for 30 minutes. This means that the buyer knows the exact amount of coin that needs to be deposited to their account wallet.
Multisig Pay markets
There are three markets of the above eight that support multisignature BTC payments, which means that funds for an order are sent by the buyer to a BTC address controlled by 3 signatories: the buyer, the vendor, and the market. 2 of the 3 signatories must sign off on a transaction This assures that the buyer has a chance of getting their funds returned if something goes south with their order. Additionally, it means funds can still be returned to buyer or vendor if for some reason the market should go offline.
The three markets that support this option are Abacus, Bohemia, and Tor2Door. Of the three, Tor2Door seems to have the highest concentration of vendors willing to make use of this option. Its use is highly recommended for more expensive purchases ($500+).
A healthy community is a sign of a trustworthy market. Many markets feature their own forum, though some have hardly any use at all. It is better to go by the size and activity of a market’s community on the Dread darknet forum to establish the strength of its community. In this regard, AlphaBay and ASAP have the largest communities, with several posts being made to the market’s respective subdreads on a daily basis. Additionally, Tor2Door has a thriving Dread community, followed by Bohemia and Abacus. Its always a great idea to check a market’s subdread before deciding to make it your market of choice.
In summation, there is no one way to say for sure which is the “best” darknet market, as some users value some features and qualities more than others. In general, the eight markets named above are considered to be at least somewhat trustworthy by the darknet market community and its experts. Based on what is most important to you, however, you may find one or more to be particularly more valuable than the others.
We recommend always exercising caution when making a deposit on any market, and always assume the worst could happen. This includes making an accidental deposit on a phishing site, placing an order with a scam vendor, or the market exiting or being closed down without prior warning. These problems can be avoided by always using verifiable market links, sticking with reputable vendors, and never making a deposit bigger than you can afford to lose.