For most Internet users, the online world begins and ends with Google.com. However, Google isn’t able to find everything on the Web, that is because there is a deep and invisible web that is not accessible by Google. This is why you need special search engines to find the information that are not easily available. Read on to learn about the Invisible Web and the best deep web search engines.
What Is the Invisible Web?
To learn about the Invisible Web and how deep web search engines can help, we first need to discuss the three different layers of the Web.
- The “Surface Web” is where most Internet users will stay. It’s the Web that Google searches. Search engines crawl and index all of the sites that live within the Surface Web. This is what the layperson understands as the Internet.
- The “Deep Web,” or Shallow Web, is a laundry list of databases, servers and programs that will not appear in an online search result or Web directly. For the most part, experts consider the Shallow Web to be considerably larger than the Surface Web.
- The “Dark Web” is something you generally hear about in the news or in movies. This is best regarded as the home to more illicit activities, such as drugs and weapon sales. That’s not the entirety of the Dark Web, but it does require a very specialized browser like Tor to gain access.
So what is the Invisible Web? For the most part, it exists within the realm of the Deep Web where general-purpose web crawlers do not reach. For example, most public records are stored in databases and not on individual static web pages. This makes it “invisible” to Google, but we can get this information from deep web search engines.
The Best Deep Web Search Engines
Here are our picks for the best deep web search engines, which we’ll describe in detail below.
- Wayback Machine
- Directory of Open Access Journals
- The Hidden Wiki
Pipl claims they are the world’s largest people search engine. It enables anyone using its services to search through court records, member directories, searchable databases, etc. It gives you more information than a person’s Facebook or LinkedIn pages. Pipl focuses on its ability to help “fight fraud” and “speed investigations.”
DuckDuckGo focuses heavily on privacy and not tracking users, all while allowing you to search the Surface Web. However, DuckDuckGo also has a hidden side that allows you to search the Deep Web. When you pair DDG with the .onion version, you are then able to perform a much larger search of the web that includes the Deep Web. Do note that this will require the Tor browser.
3. Wayback Machine
What makes the Wayback Machine really special is that, unlike search engines like Google and Bing that only look at what is available on a website today, the Wayback Machine provides a look at content that is no longer available. Offering more than 100 terabytes of data or 593 billion web pages, you can look at the history of any public site.
Similar to DuckDuckGo, notEvil requires the Tor browser for access, but you’re more likely to get results with its more than 32 million websites available. Enter the url http://hss3uro2hsxfogfq.onion into the address bar, and you can start searching the deep web. The algorithm is said to be updated regularly, and the user interface is very straightforward, so if you are looking for an entry point into the Deep Web, this is a good place to start.
One of the oldest, publicly-known deep/dark websites, Torch is available using any Tor browser (Tor Search = Torch). Promising a three-second response time is pretty good for a website that’s been around the block. As is the case with most of the sites on this list, Torch makes it a point to let you know that it will not track or censor you and absolutely respects your privacy. The biggest downside of Torch? The ads.
6. Directory of Open Access Journals
How many times have you come across an academic journal you wanted to reach only to find you need a subscription? The Director of Open Access Journals is here to help. It has more than 11,800 journals available across 80 languages from 126 different countries. Subjects include agriculture, education, history, medicine, law, military science, science technology and more.
If there has ever been a time when you wanted to look at a backlog of the world’s historical newspapers, Elephind is for you. With more than 3.8 million newspapers available across 4,300 different titles, there are a total of more than 200 million archives at your disposal. When it comes to the right type of research, students, genealogists and more will find this to be the perfect site.
One of the few, rare deep web search engines that also has a presence on the surface web, Ahmia.fi enables you to search on its website, but you’ll need to transition over to the Tor browser to see any search results. What makes Ahmia so great is that you can get a preview of what you may potentially find before you enter the Invisible Web, and it takes only a minute or two before you get the hang of how to search and navigate results. It’s a great introduction to the Deep Web for beginners.
Sites like WorldCat help bring the Deep Web that revolves around indexing databases to the forefront. Going from library to library to find an item is massively time-consuming, so trust that WorldCat can do the work for you. Books, DVDs, CDs, articles and more are all available as search engine topics. If you want to create a list of items for the future, you can sign up for your own account.
Spokeo is all about the people-centric nature of the deep web. Claiming to have access to more than 12 billion public records, Spokeo is a great place to start for reverse phone number checks. If you want to move on to something a little more invisible, you can search for email addresses, criminal records, social media profiles, current and previous addresses and more. Spokeo does most of the people work for you – all with a ten-digit phone number.
11. The Hidden Wiki
When you are looking for a catchall of active .onion sites, your first stop should be The Hidden Wiki. You will need Tor to view the .onion address, but it’s a great place to discover some of the best introduction points to the Invisible Web. But anyone unfamiliar with the Dark Web should be extra careful.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is the Invisible Web something I should learn to use?
To be honest, that’s a question only you can answer. What do you want to use the Invisible Web for? If it’s to find library books or look through old newspapers, it definitely has its benefits. However, using sites like Spokeo should only be done with the best of intentions.
2. Is the Invisible Web safe?
If you start to wade into Dark Web waters, it’s not as much about safety as it is about legalities. If you stay in Deep Web territory, there is plenty you can do where online safety isn’t a significant concern. Understanding how to use Tor is one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the Deep Web and what you can really do.
3. Can I get in trouble for using the Deep Web?
If you are using sites like Spokeo to look up coworkers or neighbors, then yes, it’s probably not an activity you want to engage in. If you are using it to look at library inventory, old newspapers or to find scholary journals, then it’s completely fine.
At the end of the day, searching on the Deep Web should be done cautiously. Some of the deep web search engines here are perfectly okay to explore, but once you get into the Tor world, your online guard should be up. It’s very easy to click on something and go down a rabbit hole of the Internet you probably don’t want to visit. If you’re worried about the searches you’ve done on Google, learn how to delete your Google search history.