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What's the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?

by Salvador Lorenz 5 years ago in cybersecurity
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There's years worth of confusion on what's the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web. Before it gets worse, let's explore the worlds of the anonymous Internet.

Especially for non-techies, the Internet in of itself can be one of the most complex and irritating topics to understand. Grasping the concepts of a proxy server, cloud databases, or HTML coding can all be pretty difficult, and with such a wide range of areas to explore on the World Wide Web, the likelihood of ever understanding its true potential is next to impossible.

But, there seems to be a great deal of confusion on what's the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web, despite it being a relatively simple concept in theory.

Think of the entire Internet as an ocean. What you see everyday, like this very page perhaps, is discoverable on the Surface Web, otherwise known as the Visible Web. Here, the "ceiling" of the ocean, we can search to find any number of indexed websites, specifically Google, Yahoo, MSN, Facebook, and so on.

Below this surface resides another world, one with bounds far more gargantuan than the last. Grab a shovel, put your thinking caps on, and prepare yourself as we excavate these secret worlds beneath the Internet.

What's the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web: Beneath the Surface

First of note should be the scale of the surface Internet alone, which contains at least four billion different indexed websites. The surface index allows for these sites to be included on search parameters and are accessible via search engines, like Google or Bing. These engines use "crawlers," like submarines, which prowl through nodes upon nodes of links to literally traverse the Internet in search of specific keywords and websites. Buried within every one of these indexed websites are hidden forms of content, invisible to normal traffic.

Here, and far deeper, lies the invisible or hidden web — most commonly referred to as the Deep Web. It's the data behind firewalls, beneath all of the websites you peer into each and every day — think of the area directly below the ocean's topmost layer. There resides such a multitude of subsequent content here that the surface pales in comparison. Think of the Deep Web as a kind of limbo space that's 400 to 500 times larger than its above world — housing innumerable amounts of content to choose from.

What's the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web: Fathoms Below

Residing here are a myriad of different kinds of possibilities, such as user databases, business intranets, web archives, online banking, password-protected websites, and more. These sites are inaccessible to surface search engines, since they aren't indexed, and the only way to reach them is by using specific search engines, like Deep Technologies, Ahmia.fi, and DeepPeep.

The sites all over the Deep Web contain a myriad of different forms of content, ranging from private and unlinked, to scripted and non-HTML, and even software and contextual web data. A pretty common use of the Deep Web would be for services that are protected by a paywall, like video on demand, magazines, and newspapers. Dive a little deeper into this metaphorical ocean, wherein the deep loses its illumination, and one will soon find the Dark Web.

What's the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web: Dimming Descent

As a subset of the Deep Web, hidden like all other content in the far depths of the Internet, is the Dark Web. Similar to the Deep Web, sites on the Dark Web are not indexed, but they are accessible. These forms of content all live in what are called darknets, or overlay networks utilizing friend-to-friend, peer-to-peer networks, such as Onion Browser (TOR), Freenet, and I2P, all of which hide your IP address and likewise gives you access to the Dark Web.

The Onion Browser is the most popular form of software, mainly because it works similar to a web network, using proprietary protocols and special access so as to keep your transgressions anonymous. Now you might be wondering: why would I want so much of my Deep Web activities kept privatized? What are people even doing down here in the deep black Internet-scape? Why are there so many protocols and smoke screens to dig around? Allow me to explain how the Dark Web really works.

What's the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web: Creepy Creatures

One of the most prominent uses of the Onion Browser software and the Dark Web is to access anonymous marketplaces that practice in the sale of illicit goods, like narcotics and weapons. Silk Road, the anonymous marketplace that started in 2011 and ended in 2013, is the most well-known example for the online consumerism of contraband. Similar to Amazon (maybe a darker version of it?), Silk Road offered weapons and drugs in exchange for Bitcoins — an online digital monopoly that many believe is the new criminal currency. With Silk Road long depleted, more illicit marketplaces have taken its helm, like Agora and Alpha Bay, and their businesses are booming unlike ever before.

Unfortunately, that’s not all the Dark Web has to offer. While the anonymous marketplace may be its largest enterprise, speculated as making up to $500,000 a day, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Second to the online sale of drugs, fraud and hacking have thrived in this area of the net, but they're still not even where the bulk of traffic resides. Sites ranging from mutilation videos, like live tortures or killings, and the hiring of hitmen, to even more menacing degrees of immorality, such as "how to cook a pregnant woman" and recipes for human meat, all exist within the Dark Web. Online chat services are also a huge hit, where any number of sinister questions and answers are relayed in anonymous forums, like an evil Facebook wall. You seriously do not want to find yourself lost in this neck of the woods.

What's the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web: Bottom Line

Like our very ocean itself, harboring 70 percent of the world's land, the Deep Web is the Internet's subterranean levels — housing the nondescript pieces of websites we all know quite well, while also concealing the more ominous Dark Web in its bowels. In essence, this means that the Dark Web is really no different than the Deep Web, only that the former is a single portion of the latter's massive interior. Though it may sound extremely interesting, since the Dark Web offers some of the craziest shit to buy, I highly recommend you stay far away from these areas of the Internet. They may peak your curiosity in a large way, but nothing good can come about from exploring this far down in the void of online data.

In that case, be safe when exploring through the World Wide Web. With our online privacies now so blatantly ignored, on top of the widespread use of hacking in our modern age, it's important to keep your Internet exploration safely guarded and to intently watch what you click. I can't stress this enough, but you truly never know who's watching. While the Deep Web, and subsequently the Dark Web as well, seems intriguing with its anonymity and strangeness, it will only put a target on your back. Here's a few horrifying stories from the Dark Web that will hopefully deter you from ever attempting the dive.


About the author

Salvador Lorenz

Thinking in nodes of progress, futurism, science, culture, and existence. I experience life in a number of ways, pertaining to mathematical concepts mixed with rich flavors of art.

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