Dark web marketplaces process more bitcoin than BitPay

Dark web marketplaces have processed more bitcoin last year than BitPay, and BitPay is one of the industry's largest start-ups.

The news came as part of a paper released this week by Kyle Soska and Nicholas Christin from Carnegie Mellon University, on bitcoin’s success. The paper said that, even by conservative estimates, the daily sales volume of six large-scale dark markets reached up to $650,000 (£415,820) in 2014.

The bitcoin merchant processor's self-reported annual total, $158.8m (£101.59m), would produce a daily average of around $435,000 (£101,590).

"In the short four years since the development of the original Silk Road, total volumes have reached up to $650,000 daily (averaged over 30-day windows) and are generally stable around $300,000–$500,000 a day, far exceeding what had been previously reported,” it says in the report.

The researchers looked at 35 different sites over the course of more than two years.

"In fact, 35 sellers were observed selling over $1,000,000 worth of product and the top 1% most successful vendors were responsible for 51.5% of all the volume transacted,” it says in the report.

Researcher Tim Swanson says gambling sites take up the majority of transactions – 50 per cent, to be exact.

"In terms of on-chain transactions we know gambling transactions as a whole are likely the largest component of transaction volume," Swanson said.

Previous studies have relied on the total number of listings on each site, however Christin and Soska estimated sales volume using sellers' feedback scores, with each review counting as one product sold.