As a regular user of the internet, you’re familiar with the biggest sites on the web: Facebook, Wikipedia, Instagram all come to mind. They’re sites that most people go to and use regularly, and are easy to find on the internet.
However, you may have also heard of the terms “Deep Web” and “Dark Web”. While they definitely sound ominous and seem like the stuff of rumours, they are very real – and have a very interesting history and purpose behind them, if one cares to examine more closely.
Deep and dark
First of all, it’s important to differentiate the “Deep Web” from the “Dark Web”. In essence, they both refer to web pages that can’t be publicly accessed or searched by simply typing it into a search engine.
The “Deep Web” does include the “Dark Web,” but it commonly refers to the backend of the sites we run that we rarely visit (such as user databases, web forum lists, staging versions of websites under construction), content that’s locked behind a paywall (such as some academic journals, exclusive content, locked pages), or other networks like the private work intranet you may be using right now. They’re all perfectly normal, if somewhat boring, web pages that you can’t find, simply because there’s really no reason for you to look for them.
On the other hand, the “Dark Web” is something much different. For example, you need to be using a special kind of encryption to access Dark Web sites (the most common one to use is Tor, but there are other options.) While this may sound difficult to navigate, it’s intentionally designed that way in order to be more difficult to monitor. The Dark Web is a haven for people who want to keep their activities secret, but who still need to use the internet in order to communicate with each other.
So why bother using the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is useful if for some reason, you need to keep your communications and dealings online secret. However this isn’t the normal case for the majority of the internet users in the world. The most legitimate uses of the Dark Web are often by people in countries that have strict totalitarian guidelines on using the web to communicate with the outside world.
Additionally, with the recent reports surfacing about government spying on user’s internet data, some have advocated to moving communications entirely on the Dark Web to keep their privacy intact. While this is a rather extreme action to take, it’s not entirely unjustified. This isn’t a recommendation to immediately switch to using Tor, but merely to give examples of a legitimate way to use the Dark Web.
While there are advantages to using the Dark and Deep Web, it’s important to stress that these sites are also havens for cyber-criminals and other illegal activities that can land you in jail or under investigation if caught. Tread carefully if you wish to use these platforms. Even if they were developed to be secure places where you can use the internet away from prying eyes, it’s not a guarantee that they will stay that way. Even merely exploring them should be taken with the utmost care and caution.
Dark things are often found in dark places, after all.
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