What Is the Dark Web and Who Uses It?

What Is the Dark Web and Who Uses It?

In the dark web, web pages exist on networks that require special software for access. People use the dark web to remain anonymous or untraceable. You won't find dark web pages returned in your search engine results but, even if you never go there, you should know about the dark web and why some people want to visit this region of the online world.

Layers of the Web

To fully understand the dark web, it's helpful to know how it relates to other parts of the web.

  1. Surface webThis is the web you know. It's where you are now. Here you can enter a term into a common search engine like Google or Bing and receive results that point you to pages that are likely of interest to you. The surface web is the top, visible layer of the web and is sometimes called the "clearnet."
  2. Deep webThe deep web/invisible web is made up of information that cannot be indexed/searched by familiar search engines. Examples include financial information stored online, a database of scientific knowledge, or even medical or legal records stored on the internet using technology that blocks search engines from including them in search results. Though you can't find deep web sites through Google, anyone can search for them with invisible web search tools.
  3. Dark web: The dark web consists of mostly illegal information, products, and services that don't hold interest for the average user. The dark web is a small part of the deep web but is even less accessible; you need a specialized browser to go there. That browser allows you to visit pages using a specialized protocol that your normal web browser doesn't use. Finding your way into and around the dark web takes a bit more computer knowledge than using the surface web or deep web.

Dark Web Uses

While some people access the dark web for criminal purposes, others have legal reasons to do their online business anonymously.


The dark web's offer of anonymity is a huge draw for those who want their illicit activities sealed away from the public eye. These people are there to procure pornography, drugs, weapons, stolen bank account details, stolen user accounts and passwords, hacking software, counterfeit money, and even murder contracts. An entire marketplace, known as the Silk Road, was infamous for buying and selling illegal narcotics as well as a wide variety of illicit goods and information. These items could only be purchased using bitcoin, a virtual currency that functions independently of governmental monetary systems and can be transferred anonymously through dark web networks. The Silk Road was shut down in 2013. After an investigation, its founder, Ross Ulbricht, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. According to some sources, over $1 billion in goods and services were sold there before it was taken offline.

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