The Deep Web, The Dark Web and The Surface Web
The Deep Web or the hidden web is part of the World Wide Web whose contents are not indexed by standard search engines like Google or Bing. The Deep Web’s contents are invisible in the Surface Web (the visible web). The Deep Web is sometimes interchanged with the term Dark Web. The Dark Web is a portion of the Deep Web which can only be accessed via secured browsers like the Tor browser which connects to the Tor network. Standard browsers like Firefox or Google Chrome cannot be used to access the information within the Dark Web.
In a nutshell, the Deep Web is a subset of the World Wide Web that search engines can’t index, which means you can’t search and find them unless if you know their URL (web address) and access them directly. The Dark web sometimes referred to as the Darknet is a subset of the Deep Web that is not only non-indexed but needs special software and some security configuration to access it. Even if you know the web address of a site within the Dark Web you won’t be able to access it directly using standard browsers.
A Deep Web website address usually looks like this http://am4wehz3yz0fexz5u.onion/ with a .onion top level domain, making it hard for search engines to index, most of them don’t use external links on their site to avoid web crawlers from finding them.
The Dark Web is often associated with criminal activities of various fashions, including buying and selling of drugs and guns, child pornography, hacker-for–hire etc. but there are many legitimate uses of the Dark Web as well; like banking, keeping government data, corporations and universities.
The Deep Web is vast, thousands of times larger than the visible web; what’s called the surface web. It’s like looking under the hood of the internet. Over a time the deep web has been inhabited by people of all types who wanted to use it for privacy like Journalists, Criminals, and Protesters. There is a community of people out there who want to live in a world where the government cannot record their emails, cannot listen to their telephone calls, cannot see who they are spending time with, and they are trying to build tools, protocols and services that can facilitate that kind of anonymous and private exchange of information.
The Dark Web is accessible with a software service called the Tor network, originally developed by the US military and now open source and publicly funded, and while law enforcement in the media have painted a picture that Tor and the Darknet are tools for criminals, it’s important to understand that they are largely used for good by government agencies, journalist and protesters around the world.
In the summer of 2011, an ad for the Silk Road appeared on the Darknet. The Silk Road was an underground exchange for any type of good, but mostly it was used for drugs. There have always been drug markets online but none with a scale, sophistication and ease of use as the Silk Road; it may not remain underground for long. They use a virtual currency called Bitcoin. Bitcoin offers anonymous transactions which can be almost impossible to trace. The Silk Road success was largely due to an innovative combination of Tor and Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a technology that uses cryptographic code to create digital currency. The sender transmits their bitcoin code to a ledger called the Block Chain to arrive at the recipient. Bitcoin is not perfectly anonymous but if it’s used carefully it can facilitate online purchases without revealing identity. Bitcoin was an ideal currency of the Silk Road because it allows anonymity and it’s outside the control of banks and governments. The Silk Road is sometimes called the Amazon or eBay of heroin, cocaine or drug trafficking.
In October 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down the Silk Road website and arrested Ross William Ulbricht code name “Dread Pirate Roberts” under charges of being the site’s founder and administrator.
“You can take down the man but not the idea”
A month later, in November 2013, Silk Road 2.0 came back online, run by former administrators of Silk Road. It too was shut down and the alleged operator was arrested on 6 November 2014.
Ousman Faal [Digital Vigilante] is a Tech Entrepreneur & Digital Skills Trainer who teaches both in the classroom and online. He has experience in various technologies and likes sharing it with others. Ousman has published 144 articles on this blog. He is the CEO of Faalen Technologies and Skills.gm.