"Doing business in such a volatile currency is difficult. I think that buyers view it as a cost of doing business on this marketplace," he says. "For the last few months, it's been fairly stable—but if it becomes completely unstable, I think those things could cause problems [for Silk Road]."
Once accessible only to the most dedicated Internet users, sites on the so-called "deep web" are getting easier to access, and Bitcoins are becoming easier to use, which might contribute to the site's growth. But the ease of purchasing drugs anonymously could lure buyers who are afraid of making dangerous face-to-face transactions, as well as access to drugs people might not be able to easily find near their homes.
"Given its anonymity, I wouldn't say it's completely taking violence out of the equation, but it's reducing violence," Christin says. "It's really the same reason Netflix became successful. People in rural areas wanted to see independent movies that weren't at Blockbuster. By going online, you are able to find what you're looking for."
Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com.