Like weather, the dark web is defined by clear cycles that denote the natural stages of darknet markets and how they respond to law enforcement, DDoS attacks and several other so-called “enemies”.
Being fuelled by illicit operations, dark web markets have continuously failed to provide the much-needed user protection to shield buyers and vendors from losses resulting from law enforcement seizures and exit scams.
Nonetheless, the widespread uncertainty has not prevented the dark web ecosystem from wielding unmatched dynamism, which is evidenced by emergence of new markets and migration of users to adjust to the already-mentioned enemies of the darknet.
The Pattern of Darknet User Migrations
The general findings of a study titled Collective Dynamics of Dark Web Marketplaces showed that users affiliated with closed darknet markets tend to migrate to other coexisting platforms.
The phenomenon has been provided a yardstick for darknet resilience that surpasses the inherent instability of the entire ecosystem. According to the study, user migrations happen to be swift, efficient and common to all dark web market shutdowns.
Looking back, the famous AlphaBay shutdown is reported to have resulted in an influx of AlphaBay “refugees” into Hansa Market that was later infiltrated by law enforcement agents.
Interestingly, Empire Market, which was established in January 2018 is reported to have benefitted from the AlphaBay shutdown – it amassed 1.3 million users within a very short time.
What Are the Possible Migratory Destinations for Empire Users?
With millions of Empire Market customers and vendors still reeling from the $30 million exit scam, all sights are set on the most probable candidates for the expected user migration.
According to VICE News, one anonymous dark web analyst called @5auth, or Caleb, has weighed in on the matter and predicted that Empire Market’s users are likely to simply switch to White House Market and Darkmarket.
According to the researcher, such a decision will be heavily tied to user perception concerning law enforcement interference. The analyst went on to say that both markets have the capacity to absorb the massive influx of former Empire Market buyers and vendors.
Indeed, darknet users seem to be throwing their sights on other marketplaces such as White House Market – as evidenced by user posts on this thread in the Reddit online discussion forum.
One user called duhlishus has claimed that they have already switched to White House Market which, according to his statement, has made the process of darknet shopping more efficient, and less risky.
Screenshot of a Reddit post showing an Empire Market user's decision to switch to White House Market (Source: Reddit).
The user reported that the market has made it a requirement that users send their crypto only after making orders, and that an automatic refund mechanism has been installed to take care of cases where customers send in excess funds.
In addition, screenshots provided by the Israeli cyber threat intelligence monitoring company KELA to BleepingComputer has shown messages across forums such as Dread and TheHub – which indicate a high likelihood that former Empire Market users will start moving their operations to White House, Versus, and Icarus Markets.
The user choice of Versus Market may be motivated by the platform’s security-driven approach that features one of the most competitive user interfaces across the dark web – it has always provided a great alternative to other top sites.
Further, the general chatter across the darknet forums showed the adjustment of a number of marketplace policies to absorb Empire Market’s “refugees”. A great example is the decision by Icarus Market to waive vendor fees as a measure to entice former Empire sellers (See below).
Screenshot of darknet forum discussions showing Icarus Market's possible readiness for Empire "refugees" (Source: BleepingComputer).
Otherwise, while the researchers noted the mention of Monopoly and Torrez Markets in the darknet forums they analyzed, it is believed that both choices would be secondary as the three markets mentioned above will take first precedence.