Based on recent observations, it looks as if Empire Market, the most popular darknet market, is offline and will be so permanently. Dark.fail had this to say about it:
Empire Market went offline on Aug 22 during a DDoS attack. It remains offline. No updates from admin team. Be very cautious if Empire returns. Watch my Twitter for updates.
Darknet Live, which is considered to be one of the most reliable resources about darknet markets, also recently removed it from their list of markets. In the past few days, one of Empire’s admins posted on Dread regarding the situation, saying that the site was down and that they had been unable to contact its owner to find out any more information.
Another Dread post, by /u/Se7en, speculated that this was a decision by the admins and not a law enforcement seizure:
Here is why I think the admins closed shop…Empire Market started having good uptime again after the EndGame links were added 4 months ago. The market was online because the two admins agreed to make weekly payments to /u/SchwererGustav to keep the market online. Gustav had been holding down the market brutally for a long time and when the EndGame links were added, he took all those down too. That was probably the closest the market came to a breaking point and a deal was made. I wasn’t told the specific details of the arrangement and I never spoke directly to Gustav but I can guess he must have been getting paid at least $10k or $15k a week maybe more.
Going by this post and others related to it, it looks as if the owners shut the site down voluntarily, although nothing has been confirmed just yet. Whatever the case, things don’t look very good for Empire’s user base, and it’s likely that they’ll migrate to other markets as soon as possible.
A number of its competitors are still in business, such as White House Market, Versus Market, Square Market, and Cannazon, and they just may see a large influx of new users. A similar situation happened at the time AlphaBay shut down; users flocked to Hansa Market, which was also under the control of law enforcement, and many were ensnared in the trap. More updates will be posted as the situation develops.