You don’t have to be an Internet junkie to have heard dark, fantastical stories about deep web websites or deep web search engines where criminals and hackers collude to steal identities, change stock prices, or shut down a site of their choosing. The Deep Web, however, is not only much larger than these stories imply, it’s also much more benign in nature than many have been led to believe.
In fact, one of the reasons behind these misconceptions is the fact that there is a “Dark” corner of Deep Webspace based on anonymity. However, both are only accessible with a specifically designed web browser, meaning that you won’t stumble upon a secret drug ring by just typing an inquiry into your search engine.
What Is the Deep Web?
Very simply, the Deep Net is a part of the Internet that has not been indexed by search engines. When using any typical search engine, you type in an inquiry and milliseconds later, receive the results of your search. Although it may seem like your search was fruitful, the information that appears in your search results is actually only a fraction what exists on the surface Internet, that’s why we call this the Surface Web.
Most people will only ever interact with the Surface Web, but for those who are professionally curious or technologically inclined, there is much more out there in terms of data and websites to explore on the Hidden Web. In fact, some have estimated that about 90% of the actual content on the Internet exists somewhere in Deep Webspace.
Although the Hidden Web is a diverse and colorful world, it is not innately nefarious in nature. For example, many academic databases for libraries or universities are stored on the Deep Web. Or, if you’ve ever used a website’s built-in search function, the results you received likely came from the Hidden Web.
What Is the Dark Web?
The nefarious reputation of the ‘Darknet’ or ‘Dark Web’ has undoubtedly overshadowed the usefulness and benign nature of the Deep Web, and it’s really no surprise. In reality, however, what we have come to know as the Dark Web, is actually a minuscule corner of cyberspace.
Take into consideration, for example, the fact that World Wide Web has ballooned to include over a billion different websites. Currently, estimates of Tor hidden sites sit between 7000 and 30,000. When you do the math, that means that dark net sites account for less than one-third of a percent all webspace.
That does not mean that the Dark Web—or even the Deep Web for that matter—are for the faint of heart. For better or for worse, this part of the Internet is a reflection of all the good, bad and downright weird. However, we mustn’t let the reputation created by a few bad eggs cause us to look past the very real potential that both Deep and Dark Web spaces offer to people.
For example, political dissidents are turning more and more to the Hidden Web as protection from political persecution in their native countries. By creating a space that is free of state control, the Deep Web embodies the original spirit of the Internet, which is to facilitate the free exchange of ideas.
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