White House Market (WHM) launched one year ago on August 24, 2019. Since then, the market has grown to support almost 200,000 user accounts and 60,000 active users, according to the stats displayed on the market’s homepage. In addition to being one of the oldest active markets listed on this site, White House is now one of the largest active markets with a predominantly English-speaking userbase.
For those interested, the market’s original announcement is available here in plaintext as well as here on the DarknetMarkets subdread.
Mr. White, the administrator of WHM, agreed to answer some questions about their experiences during the last year, market growth, and about the community in general. The questions from this site and the responses from Mr. White are listed below. All answers are in their original and unedited form.
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DNL: White House Market has nearly 200,000 accounts created (188,162). It is my understanding that market growth is not linear. You hit the 100,000 user mark only months ago. What events increase activity and/or signups on WHM the most?
Mr. White: We don’t keep detailed statistics for obvious reasons but whenever a market is going down (exit, LE intervention or other reasons) all other markets see an increase in traffic. Significant spikes were when we were listed by dark.fail and yourself and the Apollon exit.
DNL: Has growth been steady since launch?
Mr. White: Not quite, at the beginning it has been quite slow especially given our fairly high barrier of entry. But because of the events listed above and users gaining trust over time it accelerated. Our uptime which has been quite good may also have contributed to this.
DNL: Has the number of support tickets increased at the same rate as new account creation?
Mr. White: Yes, but less than expected, we can easily handle way more traffic than we have now. By support I also include disputes and listing moderation.
DNL: Can you provide any stats on cryptocurrency use on WHM?
Mr. White: We don’t save stats on that but a rough estimation would be 60% Monero 40% Bitcoin.
DNL: Was there any significant increase in sales after adding support for Bitcoin payments?
Mr. White: I am not sure, we added the Bitcoin workaround at a very early stage and back then we didn’t notice a significant difference. We haven’t really advertised the Bitcoin option and that was on purpose.
DNL: When you initially added Bitcoin support, you warned that the support might be temporary. Is this still the case or is Bitcoin support a permanent feature?
Mr. White: Yes, Bitcoin will go eventually but after we get even more traction. Unfortunately Bitcoin is still king when it comes to DNMs and I don’t think we are in the position to enforce so many changes, yet. We are enforcing it for vendors though.
DNL: What advice do you have for other markets?
Mr. White: This is a tough question as not two markets are alike (well, almost). Try to innovate and improve things, up your game when it comes to security and if you don’t know what you are doing don’t do it because it will end up badly.
DNL: Did the ongoing coronavirus lockdowns change the behavior of users on WHM?
Mr. White: We were growing during that time and we couldn’t see significant changes in traffic / orders, at least not caused by the outbreak. But some vendors quit, some had supply issues, some exit scammed (most likely because they had no other choice).
Others did better than before.
There were (still are) huge delivery delays and at least at the beginning customers were really impatient and disputed all the time, we even increased vendor’s mandatory response time from 3 days to 5 to account for those issues. But now things seem to have cooled down and customers seem to understand things are not really like before the outbreak.
DNL: OPSEC permitting, can you explain what level of involvement you had in this “community” prior to launching a market? At a minimum, I would expect a certain amount of lurking for market research purposes.
Mr. White: The idea of launching a market came to life in early 2019 and our involvement in the community also started then. It was mostly split between the actual development and “doing homework”, trying to learn how things work and what others did right but mostly what they did wrong.
DNL: Are there steps taken by other marketplaces (past or present) that you specifically avoided during the creation or operation of WHM?
Mr. White: Yes, aggressive advertising, spamming, shilling … We wanted to have a slow but steady growth which allowed us to start with a basic set-up and build from there according to user’s (and our) needs and friendly advice. We still do that, if some user suggests a feature that doesn’t lower our security standards (eg. autoencrypt) and it’s actually useful we may implement it. Lots of changes are actually done behind the scene but they are improving the general experience a lot.
DNL: And the inverse: any markets or models you tried to replicate?
Mr. White: We haven’t tried to replicate any model entirely but we did take ideas (hopefully good ones) from several markets, both live and extinct markets. To those ideas we added new ones.
DNL: How long did it take you to create and launch WHM?
Mr. White: Building the actual market from scratch and designing the initial infrastructure took about 6 months, give or take, but that was just until the initial launch. After that we made lots of changes, improvements, bug fixes, I guess development never really ends.
DNL: Has running a market surprised you in any way?
Mr. White: Surprised ? We did research before and we knew what we are getting into so no. We did “meet” some very nice folks during this time and we had a lot to learn though.
DNL: If you were to do it all over again with the knowledge you had now, is there anything you would do differently?
Mr. White: Probably the technical features would be ironed out since launch, other than that no.
DNL: Not long after launching, you had at least one market sponsoring denial of service attacks against WHM and dealt with a lot of misinformation spread by competitors. Anything else?
Mr. White: Not just against WHM but against others too, that wasn’t some “strategic business move” but plain stupidity, things didn’t turn out alright for them in the end …
DNL: From your perspective, how have things changed from last year?
DNL: Do you think things are generally better or worse than when you started?
Mr. White: I would say for the better but it’s just my opinion. We see new markets bringing new things to the table, cooperation between markets/services, so I would say it’s better.
DNL: What do you think are the greatest threats to marketplaces?
DNL: And to the community as a whole?
Mr. White: The answer is the same. It’s quite a long list, markets who put both their users and their customers at risk, vendors who do the same, users who don’t want to adapt to the new threats, stupidity, greed, just to name a few.
DNL: What will the next year for WHM look like?
Mr. White: We are planning on doing what we did so far: growing steadily and improving things. Given the nature of the business there are like 1 million things that can go wrong but we will do our best.
Both Monopoly and Darkmarket recently had their one-year anniversaries. Apologies to both for forgetting to post an announcement of any sort. Thanks to White House Market for being willing to answer questions.