From 2011-2013, there was a website called The Silk Road that allowed users to buy anything including drugs (including hard drugs like heroin and cocaine), guns, organs, etc. The website operated on a browser called Tor, which allows users to stay private and anonymous when using it.
I only had a brief recollection of The Silk Road, as I had remembered hearing that the founder had been arrested and the marketplace shut down. For all of the finer details of the case though, I had never heard of any of it.
American Kingpin is an incredible investigative book written by Nick Bilton, and it exposes the entire story of The Silk Road. American Kingpin starts by introducing the main characters who were involved in creating The Silk Road, especially the founder, Ross Ulbricht (who went by the online name of Dread Pirate Roberts). While it started off as a relatively innocent project by Ulbricht as a marketplace where people could send drugs through the mail, it quickly developed into something more serious.
I find it incredible to believe that something like The Silk Road could have existed for 2 years without the government having many leads or interest in pursuing it. By the time the website was shut down, the site had been doing millions of dollars in sales per day (all conducted using Bitcoin for users to stay anonymous). Bitcoin was worth no where what it is today, but with today’s prices people could have made billions if they kept their Bitcoins.
Bilton did a great job of doing super thorough research to tell the whole story of The Silk Road, and it is clear he spent the time necessary to get his facts correct. He has also written another investigative book called “Hatching Twitter“, which tells about the inside story of Twitter. I am currently in the process of reading it, and Bilton is a phenomenal writer.
Kingpin Recommendation Rating: 3
This post has now been updated to reflect a new ratings system that I have implemented, which is scored as follows:
1: Something worth checking out if you have time
2: Something that is a hit for some people, but not a must for everyone
3: Something worth prioritizing if interested
4: Something worth making time to check out
5: An absolute home run, worth going out of your way for