The Internet is like an ocean, and what we as regular users see or access is just the surface. But just like the ocean, underneath the surface is a world invisible from the top. Our daily Internet-related activities like shopping online, using e-mail or Facebook, searching things on Google comprises what can be termed as the “Visible Web” or “Surface Web.” This portion of the web is usually calculated using the estimates provided by search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo based on the “number of pages indexed.” According to an estimate, “the indexed web contains at least 4.56 billion pages (as of May 30, 2016).” While this number may appear huge, remember that the life below the ocean’s surface is enormous and so is the Deep Web.
The “Deep Web” is the world that exists underneath the “Surface” Internet, invisible to the majority to us. In fact, this portion of the web isn’t accessible via conventional search engines. The Deep Web is known by many other names such as “Deepnet,” the “Invisible Web” or the “Hidden Web.”
The term “Deep Web” was coined by Mike Bergman in a white paper titled “The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value” in 2001. The white paper mentions the origin of the term “Invisible Web.” In 1994, Dr. Jill Ellsworth first coined the phrase "Invisible Web" to refer to information content that was "invisible" to conventional search engines.
Some of the findings mentioned by Mike Bergman included, “Public information on the deep Web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web. The deep Web contains 7,500 terabytes of information compared to nineteen terabytes of information in the surface Web. The deep Web contains nearly 550 billion individual documents compared to the one billion of the surface Web.” These finding were based on data collected during 2010. One can easily imagine how much these figures would have dramatically increased to the present day. The Deep Web includes academic information, medical records, government resources, subscription information, scientific reports, and legal documents, among other information.
The terms Deep Web and Dark Web are often used interchangeably especially post-Silk Road trial, but that equivalency isn’t quite accurate. The Dark Web is like a subset of the Deep Web, or perhaps the deepest layer of the web ocean and includes encrypted sites, as well as marketplaces for illicit activities and products including weapons, drugs and illegal trafficking. The Dark Web reflects the "darker" side of the society, and is accessible via special software’s or browsers lsuch TOR (The Onion Router) or I2P (Invisible Internet Project), which have “masked” IP addresses, making them untraceable.
The 2015 trial of Ross Ulbricht, a.k.a. Dread Pirate Roberts, is a case study illustrating the workings of the Deep Web. Ross Ulbricht created and operated the Silk Road website on the Dark Web, which was used by “more than 100,000 users to buy and sell illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services anonymously” worth more than $200 million. According to the FBI press release, “Ulbricht created Silk Road in January 2011, and owned and operated the underground website until it was shut down by law enforcement authorities in October 2013. Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet, serving as a sprawling black-market bazaar where unlawful goods and services, including illegal drugs of virtually all varieties, were bought and sold regularly by the site’s users.”
The Bottom Line
While technology is a boon, examples like the Silk Road remind us of the darker side of technology. In nutshell, it cannot be concluded that the Deep Web is all Dark; the Dark Web is a small although ugly part of the Deep Web.