In this review, we take a look at ten of the world’s biggest and most popular darknet markets, providing a summary of each market, some basic facts about them, and compare them to each other to help you decide which one is right for your particular needs.
With the first quarter of 2023 already coming to a close, some major events in the world of darknet markets have already occurred this year. For one, AlphaBay, which had recently regained its title of world’s biggest darknet market, is now presumed to have exit scammed, with its lead developer and admin, DeSnake, nowhere to be found. Also, Dread, the darknet forum where many have gone to get their market-related information since 2018, finally returned (sort of) after months of downtime.
The darknet market landscape currently appears to be undergoing some dramatic shifts compounded by a relentless DDOS attack on the Tor network. Needless to say, things aren’t any easier than they traditionally have been when searching for a good darknet market, but we can provide some guidance along the way, helping you find the market that is best suited for your needs.
Despite the apparent demise of AlphaBay earlier this year, there is a considerable number of at least somewhat popular darknet markets currently in operation. The below list is 10 of such markets that have proven themselves to be at least somewhat competent and trustworthy during the course of their operation. Of course, these markets could close down for one reason or another at any given time, but they all share a few things in common — one being they have all managed to draw a consistent user base. Another thing is they all support Monero (XMR) as a deposit or payment option, even if not every individual vendor accepts it. They also all support PGP encryption, and most offer PGP-based 2-FA.
As you can see, ASAP currently dominates in total listings and every category of listings, by a longshot. The only markets that come close to rivaling it are Bohemia and Royal Market, although Kingdom Market and Tor2Door have experienced rapid growth in the last year and may overtake them at some point. We noticed that a large number of listings does not necessarily infer a big vendor selection or community, however. Some markets have thousands of listings for useless guides, duplicate listings, or listings for digital products of low quality. All markets were online and functioning at the time we wrote this review, although some were slower to load than others and/or suffered timeouts while loading.
Below we provide a brief summary of each of the ten darknet markets.
Tor2Door is a well-established darknet market that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year thanks to the closure of some of its major competitors. It is primarily a drugs-focused market but also has listings for a number of other categories as well. While it is a fairly simple market without many extraordinary features, it does support BTC multisig payments, although not a whole lot of vendors make use of it. In mid-2022, Tor2Door also implemented a Direct Pay option, so users do not have to prefund their account before making a purchase. This has served to boost the market’s popularity in a time when exit scams have been a rampant occurrence.
Abacus has been a solid market choice for a little over two years. During this time, it has seen ebbs in popularity but has generally been consistent and provided buyers and sellers with a secure platform. It is mainly a drugs market, with almost 3/4 of its listings being in related categories. Abacus is one of the few markets that supports multisig orders (only used by a few vendors) and allows for full or partial FE. The market also seems to have a high concentration of Australia-based vendors relative to other markets. It contains all the features of a modern DNM except you must first deposit funds to the site before placing an order (unless placing a multisig order).
Archetyp is a drugs-only market that picked up popularity in 2023 due to it being relatively easy to access compared to some of its larger competitors. Although it is still somewhat limited in terms of diversity of listings, it is free from the clutter caused by spam listings. Archetyp seems to be more transparent than many other markets, with its staff posting regular updates and creating a sense of community through its in-built forum. Users still rely totally on account deposits and market-held escrow, meaning the chance of exit scam is an ever-present possibility.
With almost 100,000 listings, ASAP is a behemoth of a market that is now a little over three years old. Here buyers can peruse items for hours, browsing products offered by thousands of different vendors and delivered all over the world. The site loads very quickly when switching from page to page and despite some recent accessibility problems, maintains a fairly healthy uptime percentage. ASAP is flush full of interesting features, is known for being good at answering support tickets, and allows for direct payment purchases on any item. It also lets visitors browse what’s on the market before having to log in. All these things combined have made it highly popular among the darknet market community.
Firmly establishing itself as a contender for darknet market frontrunner after the fall of AlphaBay, Bohemia is possibly the most popular market on the dark web right now, trailing only ASAP and Royal Market in terms of number of listings. It is one of the few markets to support both Direct Pay (per-order payment) and BTC Multisig, although these options are not always enabled by vendors. In addition to tens of thousands of listings for drugs (many vendors ship worldwide), it also has a sizeable number of listings for digital products as well as hacking and social media services. Bohemia prides itself on its customer support, known for processing tickets and disputes fairly quickly, and fosters a strong sense of community.
Cypher is a small darknet marketplace that distinguishes itself by being “wallet-less,” meaning every order is purchased using a Direct Pay (per order) payment. This is especially handy for buyers who do not want to leave funds in an account wallet and reduces the incentives for the market to exit scam. In its three years of operation, Cypher has developed a reputation of being trustworthy, however it is highly limited in product selection and vendor count. Being of small size does mean it is not a target for DDOS attacks and thus readily accessible, though page loading still occasionally times out.
Over the past year and a half, Incognito has made a name for itself as one of the most trustworthy and reliable drugs-only markets currently in operation. It currently hosts close 20,000 listings by over 1,000 vendors who are located all around the globe. Although Incognito uses the traditional market escrow and account wallet system, they do allow buyers to lock in prices on orders and deposit only the amount required to fund one order at a time. In addition to having a great variety of listings, they also have an excellent support system and large community on Dread where staff are quite active. Incognito also allows its users to contribute to its functionality by voting on propositions through its Governance section.
A highly independent operation that has shunned many DNM norms in favor of its own unique approach, Kerberos is a mid-sized market that features several elements not shared with many of its competitors. For example, it allows established vendors to offer discounts to those who use Finalize Early (FE) on checkout, integrates vendor profiles with darknet forum The Hub, and uses an “auto-feedback” system that assigns feedback based on whether an order was finalized or not. Although the personality of the market may seem off-putting to some, it has gained a relatively positive reputation within the 13 months of its existence thus far.
Kingdom Market has witnessed tremendous growth over the course of the last year, with currently over 50x the number of listings it had about one year ago. Though it doesn’t really offer anything too out of the ordinary compared to other markets, its admins seem dedicated to keeping it around as it has successfully fought off several DDOS attacks. One interesting thing about Kingdom is that it supports Litecoin in addition to Bitcoin and Monero. This is great for users who want to use the privacy features afforded by mweb LTC addresses. The market is slow to load at times and is a bit hard to navigate compared to others, but nevertheless it is becoming an increasingly popular choice among vendors.
Another well-trusted and competent market that does not rely on advertising or support from the usual places, Royal Market has grown by leaps and bounds since its launch in Dec 2020. It is currently the 2nd largest market in terms of listings (after ASAP) and sports more variety than just about every other market. Royal Market also features an incredibly easy-to-use interface and listings are well-divided among a large number of categories and subcategories. The market supports both traditional account wallet and direct pay options which provides a great deal of convenience for buyers.
Below we provide info about which market or markets excel above the others in different areas. As mentioned earlier, ASAP leads in every category in terms of number of listings, but other markets are factored in based on vendor selection and diversity of products.
We considered a few different factors when coming up with an overall “Community Size” metric for each market, as displayed in the above table. One of them was the relative participance of market users in the market forum (for those that have a forum) and another is the size of the market’s subdread (a special area on the Dread forum dedicated to each market; again, not all markets have one). Unsurprisingly, ASAP has the biggest Dread community, with over 9,600 subscribers. Bohemia was a distant second, with slightly over 7,000 subscribers, followed closely by Tor2Door with 6,950 subscribers.
Cannabis & Related Products
With over 17,000 listings for such products, ASAP is a powerhouse when it comes to marijuana and THC-containing items. These listings are divided into subcategories like Buds & Flowers, Concentrates, Edibles, and Hash — each of which have thousands of listings in them. Vendors for these listings are located all around the globe and ship worldwide. Direct Pay option is available for most listings, however the market has currently “exceeded maximum pending payment orders” for this option, for now. Other great market choices for cannabis-related items include Bohemia and Incognito.
Once again, ASAP has by far the biggest number of listings for substances that are classified as stimulants, with over 12,350 in all. The most popular subcategories for these products – with each containing over 1,000 listings – are Cocaine, Meth, and Speed. The market also has a huge number of listings for Adderall, which is the pharmaceutical version of amphetamine, used in treatment of ADHD and related disorders. Other markets with a large selection of stimulant listings include Bohemia, Incognito, and Royal Market, with 5,000+ offered by each one.
Ecstasy, the street name for MDMA, can readily be found on every one of the ten darknet markets in this review. Aside from ASAP (which has the most listings), Bohemia and Royal Market both have gigantic selections for the product, which comes in many different forums and brands. For example, Bohemia has divided their Ecstasy listings into MDA, MDMA, and Pills, with the first two containing pure crystal or powder variations of the drug. Royal has similar subcategories but has also included Methylone and Mephedrone in this category as well.
This category contains popular psychoactive drugs such as LSD (“acid”), psilocybin-containing mushrooms (“magic mushrooms”), Ayahuasca and other mescaline containing products, and DMT. Aside from ASAP, which has close to 5,400 such listings, Bohemia and Royal Market once again have sizable selections of these substances, with over 3,200 offered by each. As ASAP carries over 2,440 listings for LSD alone, that might be a good starting place if that’s what you’re looking for. The market also offers a sizable selection of listings for 2C-B, with over 1,180 in all.
This is a category for benzodiazepines, which are anxiety-reducing drugs usually prescribed by doctors. On darknet markets you may also find them in pharmaceutical grade powder form, as well. The most popular of these are Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam). Royal Market is the leader for total number of such listings, with over 2,750 in all. These items aren’t conveniently subcategorized on many markets, although ASAP does have a category for Xanax with 800 listings. Tor2Door is also a good choice for those who want to use a readily-available Direct Pay option.
These are for over-the-counter prescription drugs that might not necessarily have psychoactive effects. They can include drugs for weight loss, cholesterol, blood pressure, or other physical ailments. It’s no surprise that ASAP and Bohemia once again lead in this category with 2,200+ listings offered by each market, but of the two Bohemia is the one that has divided them into easily searchable subcategories. Prescriptions subcategories hosted at Bohemia include Abacus is a strong choice as well, with over 1,060 such listings.
Often referred to as “digital goods,” these are items that can be downloaded and do not require physical delivery. They usually include software, games, e-books, data, various guides, and tutorials. As it is for most other categories, ASAP is by far the leader in this category, with over 19,400 listings, but many of these listings are duplicates and low-quality items. Other markets to consider for digital items include Royal Market, with 8,000+ listings, and Tor2Door, with 6,000+ listings. On Royal Market you can find subcategories for gift cards, fraud software, game keys, as well as “fullz” and “scans.”
These are features that are unique to each market that help distinguish them from other markets. Some are more useful than others, but they just might be the extra factor that helps you make the decision on which market to use.
- Archetyp: “Deadpool” – This is a section of the market that allows users to vote on what they think the reason will be for closure of major darknet markets. Users can select Bust, Exit-Scam, or Retire as the fate for each market, including Archetyp itself. This is an interesting feature because it allows viewers to get an idea of what the community consensus is for each market (whether it is legit, insecure, or fraudulent), although it is not always accurate (for instance, slightly more voters thought AlphaBay would be busted rather than exit scam).
- ASAP: “Scam Hunter” / “Fake Review Detector” – These are two automated functions that are employed to help protect buyers and vendors from dishonest users of the market. They both use black box algorithms designed by the team at ASAP. Scam Hunter reviews activity to flag vendors who selective scam buyers and buyers who scam vendors. Fake Review Detector detects “all kind of possible fake reviews” to help keep vendor feedbacks clean and accurate.
- Bohemia: “View Recon Feedback” / “PsychonautWiki” – On the page of each listing, Bohemia has integrated buttons for both Recon and PsychonautWiki which are off-site resources that allow users to gain more information about the vendor and product they are purchasing, respectively. Recon (currently offline) is a database of vendors that tracks their feedback across each market, allowing prospective buyers to get an overall sense of their competency and legitimacy. PsychonautWiki is a wiki for psychoactive substances (drugs), providing users with a wealth of information about the substance being sold. Both of these features can better a buyer’s darknet shopping experience when utilized.
- Cypher Marketplace: “Wallet-less Market” – As the description implies, Cypher does not use account wallets which require pre-funding in order to make a purchase. Instead, each order is paid for individually at the time purchase, by sending an exact amount of funds to a specific address which are held by the market escrow system until the order is finalized by the buyer. This cuts down on the hassle and risk involved with trusting the market to safeguard your funds between orders.
- Incognito: “Tier System for Buyers” / “Leaderboard” – Incognito provides extra incentives to both buyers and vendors by granting them special perks based on their level of activity. For example, buyers who spend at least $50 on orders advance to Tier 2, where they are granted access to the market’s Jabber messaging system, and allowed to vote on governance issues after they reach Tier 3 ($2000 in purchases). The top-performing vendors are listed on Incognito’s special Leaderboard, which has categories for sales and score (sales x positive feedback). Top referrers are also listed in their own category.
- Kerberos: “Kerberos Guardian” – A custom-built protection system for the market, the Kerberos Guardian was designed to help ensure the market can’t be abused by malicious actors seeking to disrupt its security. Of course, it is hard to tell how real or sophisticated the system actually is, but the market claims it serves to maintain “the highest level of security of Kerberos and therefore for all users.”
- Kingdom Market: “Pony&Orient Express” – Limited to major cities in select countries, this is a special section of the market that hosts listings guaranteed to be delivered within three business days (from the time of order confirmation). There are currently about 30 such listings in this section, available in a few metropolitan areas in the US, UK, France, Germany, and Australia.
- Royal Market: “Livefeed” – Although a couple other markets have similar components that allow users to keep tabs on its latest events, none of them compare to Royal’s Livefeed system, which displays all sorts of user activities, including recent feedbacks, forum posts/comments, and new vendor listings and joins, among others. This serves to help users keep tabs on the overall “pulse” of the market and see which products/vendors are currently among the most popular.
- Tor2Door: “Exchange” – Tor2Door is one of the few markets to offer an onsite coin swapping service. It offers swaps between BTC and XMR, the two coins it currently supports. This is convenient for some users who may have deposited one coin but then learned the vendor they want to purchase from only accepts the other. Coins are exchanged for a flat 2% fee in the user’s market account, meaning they still have to be withdrawn from the market to an outside address if one does not intend to use them for the purposes of order placement.
While we have provided you with the research findings we obtained from these ten markets, ultimately deciding which of them is the “best market” is up to you and depends highly on your own personal needs. In addition to product selection, several other factors should weigh in on your decision on which to use; chiefly reputation, payment options, ease of use, and whether or not it has vendors that service your area. Arming yourself with knowledge of basic OpSec practices and performing your own research on these markets (in places like Dread) will also go a long way to ensuring you have a positive darknet market experience.