Disclaimer! This is a guest article and the views expressed in this post are solely those of the author.
I’ve heard people say that you can find anything on the web – provided that you know how and where to look for it. I remember spending countless hours looking for a free PDF copy of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and not being able to. (To this day I haven’t had a chance to read it on a computer). Naturally, I always thought that the above-mentioned people were just showing off. Today I know better. The internet is so vast that I imagine there isn’t a topic that hasn’t been covered yet from various angles; and yes, you can truly find literally anything on the internet! The question is just how? when even Google won’t give you what you’re looking for?
Different layers of the internet
Before venturing on a quest for something elusive on the web, it is important to understand the nature of internet and search engines.
First of all, it is not easy to comprehend just how vast the internet really is! This infographic beautifully illustrates the scope of the World Wide Web in 2016 and the speed of its growth, which will only continue throughout 2017. The numbers are truly amazing! This is just the surface internet, the portion of internet indexed by search engines.
There is also another portion of the internet that isn’t so readily available to the average user. This portion is called the hidden web, the invisible web, or the deep web, and is exponentially larger than the surface internet. More precisely, it is estimated that the surface internet accounts for only 4% of the internet; the remaining 96% is the hidden web.
People often confuse deep web for dark web, which is the third portion of the internet. The dark web is the place on the internet where many illegal activities take place. It is, however, a subset of the deep web.
It consists of marketplaces selling drugs, guns, pornography, stolen ID’s, financial information, and more. Believe it or not, these marketplaces are the tamest part of the Darknet. Going further down the rabbit hole, users can find pedophile communities, animal and human abuse communities, hitmen, snuff videos, cannibals’ communities, and hacking communities.
Differences between the three layers of web
Search engines employ ‘spiders’ or crawlers – bots that go through webpages and collect information from them. And here is the main difference between the surface web and the hidden web: the surface web consists of static webpages which are easily searched for hyperlinks or other information such as webpage titles and keywords, whereas sites on the deep web are dynamic webpages, usually online databases, libraries, password-protected websites, account pages, webpages behind paywalls, etc.
Crawlers don’t have the requisite credentials to access these, so they remain un-indexed by search engines. That’s why you can access the hidden web only if you know how to or if you have appropriate credentials. In other words, you need a direct link to locate them as well as the credentials to gain access.
The dark web, on the other hand, is further hidden in the deep web. Websites on the dark web are part of overlay networks, such as the TOR network, and require specialized, encrypted web browsers to access the web pages, as well as direct URLs to access the desired pages.
Browsing the deep web
To access the deep web, you don’t necessarily have to use specialized browsers, although for both you have to have a direct link to the site you’re wanting to access.
For this, all you need is a TOR Web browser
As you can imagine, the deep web is packed with amazing content, such as scientific research and resources, books, magazines, videos, music, printables, government documents, public records, and so much more. Since spiders can’t index these pages, we are all missing out on this amazing content and information!
Or, are we?
Luckily, there is a way to access the invisible web. People researching this subject have compiled a list of deep web sites you can use as a starting point in browsing this area of the web. The following are just some interesting deep web sites on the TOR network:
- For example, if you have some valuable info about something that you wish to share with professional journalists-investigators, you might want to use the New Yorker Strongbox. It is designed as Tor Network hidden service for potential whistleblowers to reach journalists securely. This way, if you have some incriminating intelligence on something or someone, you can share your story with people who can actually do something about it without the fear of having problems with the authorities. (You will find their .onion link on the above page.)
- Those in oppressed countries where Social Media are forbidden, they can still use Facebook to connect with their friends on Tor Network, for there is also secure version of Facebook where your anonymity is not an issue. You can find it at https://www.facebookcorewwwi.onion.
- What do people frequenting deep web listen to? Well, check out for yourself – http://76qugh5bey5gum7l.onion. This is a select collection of online radio stations that you can listen to in Tor while browsing the deep web. You can even request that your favorite tracks be played by the DJs.
- SIN, or Strategic Intelligence Network (http://4iahqcjrtmxwofr6.onion/library.php), offers a comprehensive repository of tutorials in PDFs and image files. Some of the tutorials include demanding workouts, recovery planning, and basic survival information with the purpose to get ready and stay ready in the face of potential catastrophe. So, wherever in the world you may be when the catastrophe strikes, you’ll be prepared and equipped with the necessary know-how.
- The Imperial Library offers a great number of free books, although it is temporarily down at the moment of writing this article. It is open for anyone to upload books and you can even request a book. The forum (http://xfmro77i3lixucja.onion/forum) is still working, and it is expected the site to be fully operational soon.
Despite not being websites on the Tor network, it helps to provide examples of sites on the deep web that don’t require specialized browsers. Corporate intranet systems, where they manage access control, store customer files, and host employee resources. For a non-corporate employee, a good example would be the subpages in any one of your given accounts – you can’t pull up one of your email files through a search engine, now can you?
Contrary to many incorrect internet sources out there, there’s nothing sinister about deep web in and of itself. It’s a just a huge space on the internet full of interesting, useful, or private information for people to utilize – if they know how, of course.
Enjoy your browsing!