The Internet is a complex being–more complex than the ordinary computer user may perceive. Just like an ocean becomes darker the further down you travel, so does the Internet if you dig deep enough. In order to understand what the Dark Web is, you must first understand the layers that come before the Dark Web: the Surface Web and the Deep Web.
The Internet provides access to billions of websites that are growing in number each day and are available to anyone with an Internet connection. These websites are indexed by search engines like Google and can easily be found– meaning they are ‘searchable’– through standard Internet browsers like Chrome and Firefox. These websites supply infinite hours of entertainment and a plethora of knowledge, and because they are searchable, they are classified as the Surface Web.
Beneath the Surface Web is the Deep Web, which consists of all the websites that cannot be found by just a simple search engine. So for instance, locating an individual traffic ticket within a county website database would constitute as the Deep Web. Other examples of Deep Web content would include academic information and medical records.
Within the Deep Web is a smaller volume of websites that are intentionally hidden and inaccessible via conventional web browsers, known as the Dark Web. The websites on the Dark Web are kept away from search engines in order to protect the privacy of the website’s owners and users, and can only be accessed while running certain software such as Tor. The Dark Web is also almost completely anonymous so its contributors and their visitors tend to be those that want to remain under the radar of law enforcement and government agencies.
The Dark Web has garnered a negative reputation for providing a means to purchase illegal items such as drugs and weapons, and a place to share or engage in illicit acts. The most infamous website of the Dark Web, Silk Road, was shut down by the FBI in October 2013 and its founder, Ross Ulbricht, as well as the site’s operator, Blake Benthall, were arrested. Ulbricht was later sentenced to life in prison.
However, recent media stories defend the Dark Web from being the notorious underside of the Internet and claim it’s safer now than ever before. It’s recently been stated by several technology reporting websites that the Dark Web is not what people think it is–but there’s only one way to find out, and we’ll leave the decision to travel to the far depths of the Internet up to you.