There’s been a lot of confusion in the media about two similar terms – Dark Web and Deep Web. What journalists usually refer to as the Deep Web is basically the opposite of it, the Dark Web and vice versa. Dark Web usually has a negative connotation due to a number of Darknet Markets that occupy a significant part of the Internet.
But, before we dive into semantic of the terms in question, namely Deep Web, Dark Web, and Darknet Markets, allow us to bring in yet another one – Surface Web (believe it or not, we’re introducing this new term to try and unscramble all the others).
Surface Web represents everything that can be indexed and accessed by standard search engines, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. Because the data are so readily accessible, this layer is considered to be the surface of a huge ocean of information, ocean we like to call – the Internet.
On the other hand, beneath that surface, there is a vast ocean of non-indexed data – hence the term Deep Web. So, a very simplified view is that Deep Web represents everything that cannot be indexed by search engines.
Namely, in order to index pages and websites, search engines only use links. Everything beyond that is considered Deep Web. However, certain parts of websites can be accessed only by using search boxes which is the case with universities’ and government’s websites and these are also in the Deep Web realm!
The term was coined by Mike Bergman, a computer scientist, back in 2000 and has been used ever since.
Finally, the most notorious of the terms, Dark Web. According to Brightplanet, Dark Web is considered just a small part of Deep Web. It’s been deliberately hidden and can be accessed only by using special web browsers, such as Tor browser. It is the place where all the nasty takes place, booooo!
As mentioned so many times, a way to access Dark Web is through Tor Network, which has its own, specialized browser simply called Tor Browser. Tor renders its users, both website owners and visitors, with high degree of anonymity; their IP addresses are hidden and encrypted inside a multilayer router network and it is almost impossible to track anyone down by using the conventional methods.
However, not all Darknet Markets are located on Tor Network; for example, Silk Road Reloaded uses I2P, an alternative to Tor network. I2P stands for the Invisible Internet Project, and the cryptocurrencies that support I2P at the moment are, surprisingly not bitcoin, but Anoncoin and Monero.
Despite its notorious reputation, Dark Web offers a number of good things to its users. Lots of bloggers and journalists, for example, use it for communication with whistleblowers and trusted sources who often come from the countries with very limited freedom of speech.
Emerging of the Dark Web has opened possibilities for new, internet-based businesses. And as it often happens, people will always find a way to misuse something good; the Dark Web is not an exception to the rule. It’s full of illegal markets, where you can buy drugs, weapons, child pornography, counterfeit IDs and all sorts of illegal services like hacking, and even order a murder.
Goods and services on the Darknet Markets can be purchased with bitcoins, which is the first and the most widely used cryptocurrency. The same way you can’t be traced while browsing the Dark Web, you also cannot be traced while making transactions using bitcoins. The only trouble with bitcoin is its instable exchange rate – one day it can be worth more than $1,000, and the other its value can dramatically drop to $200. Currently, one bitcoin is valued nearly $400.
History of Darknet Markets
The first and the most celebrated market was definitely Silk Road. It was founded by a 31-year-old libertarian, Ross Ulbricht. Launched in January 2011, its development had begun six months earlier. The idea behind the Silk Road project was allegedly to clean up the streets from crime by transferring drug dealers from dark alleys to Darknet Markets, thus creating a safer environment for vendors and users. This obviously sounded like a great and well-intended idea in Ulbricht’s mind and perhaps he really believed he was doing something for the good of the world; however, the judge who ultimately sentenced him to 2 life sentences didn’t seem to share his enthusiasm.
Ulbricht was arrested in October 2013 by the FBI who caught him red-handed while he was logged in on Silk Road admin page. It is estimated that the total revenue generated from the sales on the Silk Road was around 9,519,664 bitcoins (roughly $3.6 billion at the current bitcoin exchange rate). Ross Ulbricht, the pioneer of the Darknet Markets, is considered the most responsible for making Deep Web and Dark Web subjects of the mainstream media.
After the fall of Silk Road, many new Darknet Markets tried to find their place under the sun; Silk Road 2.0 among others. It looked more or less the same as its older brother and even employed the original staff members of the previous Silk Road. However, Silk Road 2.0, together with 26 other Darknet Markets, was seized by the Law Enforcements in the Operation Onymous in 2014.
As expected and despite this massive arrest operation, new Darknet Markets continue to emerge. Some of today’s best known Darknet Markets are definitely AlphaBay and Dream Market (Darknet Markets Agora and Abraxas being out of the game). Agora was one of the most respected Darknet Markets, but they retreated allegedly due to some security glitches in the Tor Network. AlphaBay has recently announced that they have the largest community on the Dark Web, while Dream Market being founded in 2013 is considered the oldest existing market on the Dark Web. Many Darknet Markets have performed exit scams taking for themselves the bitcoins trapped in escrows, while others continue to work diligently on securing the community’s trust.
All of them still use escrow and review systems developed by Ross Ulbricht; and while some Darknet Markets are successful in that, many have failed – they have been either seized by the FBI or taken down by competition.