The mysterious and unknown side of life is always attractive to people. People are curious naturally. When the case is a new technology or the internet, there are few unknowns as information is shared all the time online and shared openly without restriction. Every leak about the latest iPhone long before it is launched, new cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, the Metaverse, and anything else quickly find their way on the internet. The internet today is much faster than the news, even, and is the number one source of information for billions of people for just about anything. However, there are exceptions like the ominous dark web, and of course, a lot of people are curious about the dark web.
There are many legitimate reasons why the dark web is so enticing, but also several real reasons why people are afraid of it. The question of whether you need the dark web in your life is relative, and difficult to answer without a bit of explanation first, as it is not a simple subject that can be explained in a few words or digested quickly.
What is the Dark Web?
The term dark web is often misunderstood, confused, and miscategorized. First of all, the dark web is not commercial nor is it marketed to the general public. In essence, if you think about the internet as a large iceberg, the dark web is the last part of the iceberg that is miles below the water. On the surface, the part of the iceberg you see is known as the surface web, which hosts everything regular internet users interacts with daily e.g. social media, email, messaging, shopping, common search engines, and entertainment.
Once we dip below the surface, we see that there is much more to the iceberg than the eye can see. The surface web, which most people will think is all there is, shockingly makes up only about 5% of the entire World Wide Web network. All of this surface data can be indexed by search engines.
Now for the rest, as we dive deeper into the blackness towards the edge of the iceberg down below. The deep web and dark webs comprise the remaining 95% of the internet. These areas are not indexed by standard search engines like Google. The deep web itself takes up the majority of that figure. As far as the dark web is concerned, to this day it has been impossible to estimate the size of the dark web. What is known is that the dark web hosts material that the deep web does not. Where the deep web is more of a repository (a huge warehouse) for the inner workings of all that is on the surface web e.g. databases, the dark web is a completely separate realm that hosts very specific data accessible via purpose-built search engines.
What distinguishes the dark web is that it cannot be accessed without a special browser called the Tor browser that works on the Onion network. The Tor browser itself has foundations in military and research purposes before it became public. For this reason, the dark web is invisible to even authorities, it is completely anonymous, and unfortunately, the majority of the dark web is filled with illicit and criminal activity. However, that is not to say that legitimate entities do not operate on the dark web, because they do. It is just the reputation that the dark web has because of so much criminal activity leveraging the dark web as the best digital hiding place there is.
What Would You Need the Dark Web for?
This sinister, ominous part of the internet called the dark web does not only contain criminal and illegal content like black markets which sell drugs, weapons, rent hitmen, and other very illegal things. The dark web is also cleverly leveraged by many for legitimate purposes such as journalism, research, and anonymous communications that would normally be censored.
The dark web allows companies to store sensitive documents, universities to store sensitive information (intellectual property or research), journalists (e.g. government critics) to escape scrutiny and censorship, and also allows security-minded people to communicate safely with each other. Authorities like law enforcement will also operate and communicate via the dark web. Even confidential doctor-patient transactions take place on the dark web.
The dark web is like a pair of scissors, a knife, or a hammer, all of which can be used for both harmful and practical purposes. Ultimately, it is up to the user what they do with the Tor browser and the dark web because that metaphorically is like stepping into the unregulated old jungle at the user’s own risk. It is not illegal to use the dark web, granted if it is for legitimate purposes.
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