Deep Web vs. Dark Web: What You Need to Know

If Aquaman has taught us anything, it's that there is more going on under the surface than we realize. To continue this nautical theme, there are many similarities between the Internet and the oceans. They both have surface, deep, and dark web layers. These layers are unexplored for the most part. We will take a look at the deep web and dark web in this guide and show you the differences between the deep web and dark web.

Also read: 12 of the Best Dark Websites Google Won't Let You Find

What Is The Surface Web?

This aspect of the Internet is straightforward to explain. The surface web is what you're looking at now, and it is the "Internet" we have all come to know. It's the slice of the Internet you can easily connect to from your browser. In other words, the surface web is publicly accessible by anyone with an Internet connection.

The DuckDuckGo search engine.

You may also hear a few other names in relation to the surface web - for example, the visible web, the indexed web, and "lightnet."

While you might think the surface web is vast, in context it's tiny. Despite there being around 4 billion indexed web pages, this represents around 5 to 10 percent of all the web pages in existence. To find out where the rest of them are, we need to dive deeper.

Explaining the Deep and Dark Web

There are two more layers of the Internet to discover. In fact, the deep web is more crucial to understand, as this contains the dark web too. Let's start here.

The Deep Web

If ten percent of the web is visible and indexed, that makes around 90 to 95 percent unindexed. This is the deep web. You may also hear it called the invisible web, as you can't access any of these pages through a search engine.

When most people talk about the deep web, the conversation often turns to nefarious or malicious uses. However, the deep web in general isn't a magnet for criminals and illicit behavior.

Instead, it's home to many innocent (and useful) pages. For example, consider your web-based email inbox, personal banking screen, checkout and payment redirections, and much more. These are all part of the deep web, and it's fair to say the Internet couldn't run if it didn't have a tight link to it.

You can also consider pages such as a website post draft to be a part of the deep web, as well as company intranets and other authenticated sites such as paywalls.

Here are the key aspects that make something part of the deep web:

  • Pages can't be indexed in search engines.
  • Not accessible to the public.
  • Many companies use it to process payments, carry out transactions, display confirmation screens, and more.
  • You'll often need authentication, such as a username or password, to access a page on the deep web.

If you think about your day-to-day browsing, it's common to find that plenty of pages you visited are part of the deep web.

Though there's yet another layer to uncover, that's also part of the deep web. Take a look.

The Dark Web

When most people use the term "deep web," they're really talking about the dark web. You'll also find this called "darknet" in contrast to lightnet and "Onionland" on account of how you access sites on the dark web.

The websites here are invisible, unindexed, and inaccessible through normal Internet browsing. Instead, you'll need to use a dedicated browser - The Onion Router (TOR).

The Tor browser logo.

This is a free and open source tool to facilitate anonymous communication. It works to conceal your identity and location using thousands of relays and nested overlay networks. As such, it's difficult to trace users of the dark web, which means it gets a lot of attention from those who want to engage in illicit behavior.

In fact, the dark web has links to a number of criminal activities, such as ransomware, drug marketplaces, terrorism, and more. Because it offers almost full anonymity, it's not a safe place to visit for financial and mental safety.

Even so, companies such as Facebook have dark websites to try and capture some of its traffic. You can also find other mainstream news outlets, such as the New York Times, on the dark web.

In Summary

Much like the sea, the Internet is vast, and we don't know what lurks in most of it. As such, you might not venture further than the surface web, although you will also use the deep web without knowing. Lots of the deep web is legal and above board, though the dark web is a near-lawless part of the deep web that contains all manner of illicit and illegal activity.

If you want to look at alternatives to the Tor network, we can give you a guiding hand. Do you visit the dark web, and if so, what's the appeal? Let us know in the comments section below!

Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox