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Macroscopic properties of buyer–seller networks in online marketplaces

Bracci, A., Boehnke, J., ElBahrawy, A. , Perra, N., Teytelboym, A. & Baronchelli, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0255-0829 (2022). Macroscopic properties of buyer–seller networks in online marketplaces. PNAS Nexus, 1(4), article number pgac201. doi: 10.1093/pnasnexus/pgac201


Online marketplaces are the main engines of legal and illegal e-commerce, yet their empirical properties are poorly understood due to the absence of large-scale data. We analyze two comprehensive datasets containing 245M transactions (16B USD) that took place on online marketplaces between 2010 and 2021, covering 28 dark web marketplaces, i.e. unregulated markets whose main currency is Bitcoin, and 144 product markets of one popular regulated e-commerce platform. We show that transactions in online marketplaces exhibit strikingly similar patterns despite significant differences in language, lifetimes, products, regulation, and technology. Specifically, we find remarkable regularities in the distributions of transaction amounts, number of transactions, interevent times, and time between first and last transactions. We show that buyer behavior is affected by the memory of past interactions and use this insight to propose a model of network formation reproducing our main empirical observations. Our findings have implications for understanding market power on online marketplaces as well as intermarketplace competition, and provide empirical foundation for theoretical economic models of online marketplaces.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of National Academy of Sciences. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: online marketplaces, complex networks, buyer–seller networks, dark web marketplaces
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Mathematics
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