The Darknet is a subset of the Deep Web which is deliberately hidden, and requires a special browser — Tor — in order to be accessed, explained below. For instance, both cannot be accessed using a regular search engine such as Google; however, Deep web refers to any webpage not identifiable by a search engine, whereas Dark web refers to websites which can be accessed only using a specific browser called Tor. The mainstream is the portion of the Internet that is a subset of the deep web, as it is not also indexed by search engines, but the dark web takes this one step further, requiring special web browsers or other software in order to access the content. The surface web refers to the publicly published content of the Internet, which does not require a paywall or registration to access, and is indexed by search engines.
Most Internet users view online content using the surface web, the part of the Internet that is indexed by popular search engines and is easy to browse with a typical web browser. Finding websites on the surface web is possible because search engines are capable of indexing the web through visible links (a process called crawling, due to search engines traversing the web as a spider). Only a small fraction of internet is reachable via standard web browsers — commonly known as clearnet. Dark Web content lives in the Darknet, which is the part of the Internet that is accessible only by certain browsers or with certain configurations.
The darknet is a decentralized network of Internet sites that attempts to keep users as anonymous as possible, routing all their communications through a number of servers and encrypting them at each step. The dark web is also designed to ensure anonymity by keeping communications secret with encryption and routing the contents through multiple servers. By using a Tor browser, Internet users can access the Dark Web to safely communicate and share data, with no risk of it being tracked to their true identities. Apparently, many more people are using the Tor network for private access to regular parts of the Internet, not the Dark Web.
Some simply choose to avoid sharing anything on the web, and use Tor to access regular websites outside of the dark web, or check news sites and forums inside of the dark web. In general, most regular Internet users never have any need to access Dark Web content, though using Tor is completely legitimate. Many users now use the browsers anonymous features to browse the Internet as well as deeper parts of the network in private. Deep Web sites also use anonymization browser software (or software like I2P, The Invisible Internet Project) to stay anonymous, meaning that you cannot know who runs them, or where they are hosted.
The Darknet is accessible only through specialized, anonymizing browsers, such as Tor or the Invisible Internet Project (I2P). While it takes specialized resources to get into the dark web, it is only a matter of taking steps and setting up specific systems, which provides an entry point for those looking to get into the dark web and hide information like their IP addresses.
Accessing and using darknet protocols like TOR is not illegal; it is simply being adopted as a platform of choice by many of the bad actors that engage in illicit activities. In short, using an anonymizing Tor browser (or similar anonymizing web browser) is essential for dark web access, as well as helping you become more anonymous online.
The dark web is the hidden portion of the internet that is inaccessible for people using popular browsers like Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. Most people are unaware that the deep web contains mainly benign sites, like your password-protected email accounts, some parts of paid subscription services like Netflix, and sites which are accessible only via online forms. Some major sites are only accessible via the Deep Web due to the way they tailor every page for users.
The deep web may contain a substantial portion of legitimate, mainstream websites (such as pages from Netflix or Amazon), simply because significant portions of the legitimate are customized for users, and not every URL is designed for indexing. While definitions vary, the deep web generally refers to any content on the web you cannot find using a search engine — including many pieces of legitimate content that are generated on the fly when you visit a web site and make a request, which requires the site to construct a page using their databases and tools, or requires authentication to gain access. There is also a notable dark web search archive called Onionland – it is not to be confused with the clear-web search engines, since this is a maintained list of dark web sites, rather than an index built by a web crawler in the dark web, since this is impossible.
There is also stuff that would not surprise you to find on the public web, like links to full-text versions of difficult-to-find books, collections of political news stories from major websites, and a guide to steam tunnels beneath Virginia Techs campus. Of course, the extreme secrecy online allows criminal activity to thrive, and deep webs can be used to purchase things such as illicit drugs or stolen credit cards, or to access illegal, illegal content, such as child pornography. The deep web is comprised of anything and everything that lives behind a paywall, an authentication form, login, or a password – which is why you likely visit the deep web a lot in your regular internet life.
If you can stomach the performance and login issues of using a dedicated browser called Tor, as well as the insecurity of the deep web, combined with the occasional jolt, then satisfying your curiosity and visiting the dark web is fine.