It seems like only yesterday when most people where browsing the internet, blissfully unaware of what is happening underneath its surface. Then the media realized there is an interesting story to be told there and thus series like House of Cards was created, followed by an “in-depth” story on the Deep Web and Silk Road’s downfall.
What this did is create an unnecessary confusion over the terms “Deep Web” and “Darknet”(or Dark Net) and the things these terms represent. The mistake here was the use of said terms interchangeably, probably caused by the lack of research done on their history.
The term “Deep Web” was actually coined by Mike Bergman and the company Bright Planet as a name for unindexed part of the web. To understand this better one would first need to understand the way in which search engines look for content. For a search engine like Google or Yahoo any content not connected to something via a link is practically non-existent. This includes dynamically created pages like, a Gmail account or information you need to use the site’s search box (which search engines cannot do) to find. This being said, it is clear that about 96% of the web can in fact be considered “Deep Web”.
The misconception was created when people wrongfully started using the term “Deep Web” to describe what is known as “Darknet”. The difference here lies in the fact that while Deep Web is unindexed due to technical inabilities of a search engine, the content on the darknet is purposefully hidden from the surface net. While there are numerous ways to hide content on web, the one most commonly used by users is through the use of Tor or The Onion Router.
This is specialized software used to access sites with hidden content which can be recognized by having an “.onion” suffix in the URL. It was first created by the US Navy as a way to encrypt data and increase anonymity, but since all the data was sent from the US Navy and to US Navy the project was abandoned and shared with the public due to obvious lack of practicality. The way Tor works is by having a network of computers become “nodes” through which users are rerouted when making a search query. This makes their IP change every time it jumps from node to node making it increasingly difficult to track. While this system is very strong it still has its vulnerabilities and should not be takes as completely untraceable. The main thing to note about browsing the darknet with Tor is that it differs from conventional Internet browsing. Since it is unindexed, you cannot type the name of the web page in the browser and hope to get a list of pages that match your query. Instead, you need to have the link to the page given to you by somebody who already visited the site in order to be able to enter it. There is no comprehensive index of websites residing on the deep web. Some have built small lists of deep web links.
This system however opens the possibility for a whole new world, or rather “underworld” on the internet. By creating special randomized URL’s that can only be read by Tor, a completely different community has appeared fueled by anonymity. Any black-market good from stolen credit card information to firearms and drugs can be found on the darknet. Another thing that became synonymous with it was “hacking” or rather “cracking” for those who have term preferences. The anonymity that the darknet has to offer makes it a haven for those looking to offer their “technical knowledge” as a service, but also those praying on less tech-savvy people, looking to relieve them of their credit card and personal information.
The most common places where one could find illegal goods being marketed are the darknet markets. After the downfall of the biggest and most notorious online black market, the Silk Road, many new contestants began to battle for the top place. In the upcoming period hundreds of marketplaces where created and brought down continuously, mainly due to newly found mistrust in the safety of Tor and darknet in general. One other thing that this created was the rise of false marketplaces and opportunities for scammers. The most notorious story one will hear on the darknet is the one revolving around the Evolution marketplace’s exit scam. The owners of said site created a stable community and were one of the prime contenders to replace Silk Road before closing the site and disappearing with $12 million of their customer’s Bitcoins. After this incident the darknet market community was severely shaken, but despite that it still remains functional on sites like AlphaBay, Agora, and Nucleus.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are some sites on the darknet that contain child pornography and other disturbing content. This is the one major downfall with the darknet because while it gives a place for free thinkers, political activists, drug users and anyone else that cherishes their privacy, a place to be open and free it does also give the same liberties to the sick and twisted scum of the earth pedophile’s.
With all the illegal actions taking place and questionable content being posted on the darknet, it is easy to forget the good sides of such a place. For example it offers a possibility for uncensored freedom of speech for countries where governments are stricter regarding their media. It also offers a safe place for people to exchange information and stories with the media and between each other, anonymously.
To summarize, the difference between Deep Web and Darknet, while not too big still exists and lies within their scope. The Deep web is the entire wealth of information unindexed by search engines for one reason or another. The Darknet however, is actually a small fragment of the Deep Web, artificially hidden from the search engines and usually connected to illegal actions.
While both Deep Web and Darknet terms are relatively new and still evolving, it is important to use them properly now more than ever to raise technical awareness of the public and avoid misinformation as much as possible.