Today, The Onion Web interviewed the Admin of Kilos, A search engine that allows users to find specific products with some specifications such as price, country. Kilos search engine uses a custom API that scrapes the listings of markets.
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I am signing this message to verify that I am admin of Kilos and did an interview for The Onion Web on 26 November 2020
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Are you inspired by the Grams search engine as your search engine is named Kilos?
Yes, very much! I was sad to see Grams go but I took a lot of inspiration from them. Their presence on the darknet made things better in some way, and I hope I can do the same.
How long did you had to work on this project before launching it one year ago?
I worked on it for about a month or two before I ever started building the front end interface for it. I have an academic background in statistics and I initially wrote scrapers so I could do data analysis on what I pulled, but then realized that the project had potential use for other people and went from there. At the start I never thought it would be as popular as it is now.
When you started from scratch, what were the difficulties you faced, Was it easy to get markets implement your api?
Starting from scratch I didn't knew much about running hidden service, so it was a lot of research I did before I felt secure in making such a service public. The biggest difficulty though, as you say with the API, is that markets do not want to work with random users who message them asking to modify their code base. As of right now, a couple markets have implemented APIs for me, but for most of them I write scrapers that work with the HTML content directly. It is a little bit more work, but writing the scrapers this way has actually been faster in my experience. Things move slowly on the darknet.
On the 10th of this November you marked one year on the darknet, How do you feel about it? Did you expected it to get popular?
I knew people would use it but I did not expect it to get this popular! The response has been really phenomenal. People are much kinder than I think most clearnet users would expect, and business has been good. I still am not a rich man, but that is fine, because the cost of living nearby is very low. The income supports me and I feel I am helping to fight for personal freedoms.
How do you defend Kilos against DDOS attacks?
It has not been such a problem for me to defend. I have a decent server and so far, that has been enough. There have been a few large DDOS attacks against Kilos, but I will not pay ransom of any amount, and I think the DDOS people know that I am not rich man anyway. For markets it is different because attackers know they have much money.
Do you promote Kilos on markets?
On markets, no. Mostly it has spread through word of mouth, but recently I have been advertising with Dread to bring in business to the coin swap and mixer services, as that is where I make most of my money. I have tried working with markets on joint projects before, like built in coin swapping tool for users, but like I said before they are slow to respond and implement changes. Speaking of, if any vendor's reading this, I recommend Dread advertising system! It is easy to use and has brought me a lot of traffic.
What are some of the upcoming features you're planning to add?
I have been working on several fairly large changes. Right now progress is somewhat slow because I am the sole developer and worker on the site, but my current project is a recommendation engine. An early version of this is available right now, but in the future I will be making it so that every Kilos users receives personalized recommendations! I hope that this will stimulate business all across the darknet.
The other big feature I am working on is the self-quizzing tool. Asking new users to read through a bunch of white papers has not been an effective method of educating them, from what I have seen. I plan to build a progression of quizzes and study material so that anyone who can download Tor Browser can quickly educate themselves in all areas of darknet things. Knowledge is power, and delivery of knowledge has always been the bottleneck for the darknet.
Is there any chance you'll be creating an anti-scam search engine for onions?
I have thought about doing this, but I am hesitant. Endorsing or attacking any vendor is a dangerous game. Endorsing someone who exit scams will damage my reputation, and attacking someone who turns out to be innocent could hurt an honest person business. I have also considered making a user-driven review engine, but this runs into the same problematic territory. What I have found more reasonable is just making all possible information visible in one place. In the past with Kilos, I displayed vendor mentions on social media (e.g. Dread, The Hub, etc) in one place. I am still working on reimplementing this on Kilos new update, but I have received good feedback about it, since searching all vendor mentions on all different forums is too time consuming for average user.
Do you have any plans to offer advertisements to smaller markets and vendor stores?
For now, I do not. I have banner ads up for Aurora Market right now, because I have looked at their project and see that it has promise. But I have been embarrassed in the past by involving my project name with scam markets, most notably Icarus Market. After their quick start and exit, I am now a bit more careful with who I advertise. In the past, I had a built in advertising tool for vendors on Kilos, but I scrapped it because nobody used it.
Is there anything you would like to say to the readers?
Always be careful, and do your reading before interacting! There is no rush, so take the time to educate yourself. The digital space is very special, because the evidence lasts forever, but you have total control over what evidence you leave behind. Your freedom is the most important thing you have so do not play games with it.