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Silk Road responds to competition with improvements of its own

Atlantis Marketplace has undertaken aggressive marketing of its site over the past few months, touting superior features to those offered by Silk Road.  Its aim has been to both attract new customers and lure clients away from the incumbent giant, but so far they must be underwhelmed by the response.

No stopping the Pirate (image:
No stopping the Pirate (image:

Attracting sellers has not been an issue.  Many of Silk Road’s top-rated vendors set up shop with Atlantis, enticed by waiver of set-up fees ($500 at Silk Road) and low commission rates (Silk Road takes a sliding scale from 10% of the first $50 to 1.5% of everything over $1000, vs Atlantis 6% of the first $50 down to 1% over $1000).  Atlantis went out of their way to verify their identities, and the vendors passed on the savings to their customers by way of lower prices.

But still the customers stayed away.  One of the highest-ranked sellers on the Road, with thousands of completed orders and hundreds of satisfied customers, opened an account on Atlantis four months ago and as of today had made a mere six sales.  Other vendors also decided lack of customers made it not worth their while to maintain a presence and closed up shop.

It seems that, rather than defecting, Silk Road’s customers demanded their home website make a few improvements. Some wanted the addition of Litecoin. Others liked the idea of the much-debated automatic PGP encryption, ability for vendors to rate buyers and a more user-friendly interface.

In typical Dread Pirate Roberts style, whilst not implementing any of Atlantis’ innovations, improvements were made and announced with a flourish:

  • In a nod to the site’s international community, prices for goods can now be viewed in any of 34 currencies the customer chooses, as well as gold and silver.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 5.34.40 PM

  • Vendors can peg their goods to any of the currencies, providing more stable domestic pricing.
  • Exchange rates for pricing and hedging will be pulled from multiple markets rather than relying on MtGox rates
  • Bitcoin rates are calculated down to 4 decimal places rather than 2.
  • Vendors can now see customers’ purchasing statistics broken down by month, quarter, year and all-time.
A total newbie customer with no stats
A total newbie customer with no stats

The improvements have been welcomed, though there have been a few teething problems, all quickly addressed by the administration.  There’s been no word on any other changes.

Dread Pirate Roberts was particularly scathing about the call to accept Litecoin: If you take someone’s invention, tweak one little thing, and then go around telling everyone that you are “better”, you get zero respect from me. Litecoin is not innovative, it is not interesting, and in its current form it has no place on Silk Road.

The response from the Community to this was lukewarm, prompting a reluctant “Some good points made” from the Illustrious Leader, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing Litecoin on the Road any time soon.

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