The Silk Road ends in court.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Silk Road Deja Vu?

Kirsten Salyer writes about consumer culture for Bloomberg View and is the site's engagement editor. She has also written for Condé Nast Traveler, Texas Monthly and Houston Community Newspapers. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and international studies from Northwestern University.
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Here we go again.

A new Silk Road opened this month, though it may be just another dead end. Previous versions of Silk Road -- there were two -- were shuttered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which said the online marketplaces were facilitating drug transactions and other illegal business. Silk Road Reloaded may be the latest copycat providing a marketplace for contraband.

The new network is flaunting its anonymity. While previous Silk Roads used the Tor network, Silk Road Reloaded relies on the lesser-known I2P network. Instead of Bitcoin, the default currency of many online marketplaces, it says it will accept a range of alternatives, including Dogecoin and Anoncoin (which will then be converted into Bitcoin). According to Motherboard, administrators get a cut of the profits from sales as well as a 1 percent fee to convert altcoins into Bitcoins on the site.

Employing the name "Silk Road" is a curious way to promote anonymity. As users test out the new site, will the feds be far behind?

The original Silk Road was shut down in 2013. The trial of Ross Ulbricht, who is accused of being "Dread Pirate Roberts," the alleged creator of the network, begins today. Ulbricht could face life imprisonment on drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy charges.

Last fall, Operation Onymous, an international partnership including the FBI, Europol and the Department of Homeland Security, seized hundreds of Internet domains and closed more than a dozen online marketplaces, including Silk Road 2.0.

Some commenters on Reddit are skeptical about the new Silk Road network. User Primesghost wrote:

It means that for the next couple of months my "Hacktivist" friend is going to again be telling me how he's sticking it to "The Man" by ordering his weed online with this super secure connection that is unbeatable.

Then there will be another round of arrests and I'll go back to pointing out that if my stoner buddy that lives with his Mom and works the late shift at Taco Bell can figure it out, so can "The Man".

If getting weed is the big draw, maybe Mr. Taco Bell should move to California and sign up for "Seamless for Weed" delivery service.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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Francis Wilkinson at