Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web vs. Shadow Web

Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web vs. Shadow Web

Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web vs. Shadow Web

In addition to sounding sinister, these terms can confuse even the most tech-savvy consumers. What are the differences between these three mysterious sounding internet terms? Are they a threat to consumers or businesses? Here’s what to know about these ominous-sounding terms.

Deep web

The deep web is defined as anything that a search engine like Google or Bing can’t find. If you type in “technology news” into Google, millions of links will appear. These links are called “surface web” content. While there are many algorithmic reasons for why search engines produce the lists they do, the most important thing to remember is that if a search engine can find it, it has been indexed by that search engine, and it is a part of the surface web. This is the web that most people interact with daily.

The deep web is unindexed. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s hidden, just that it’s stored different than the surface, indexed content. A search box on an e-commerce site, for instance, wouldn’t be part of a list of Google results. Nor would a password that you’ve entered online and that a website has to be able to remember somehow to grant you access. These are examples that of the deep web – parts of the internet that most users still have access to but aren’t searchable by Google or other search engines.

Dark web

The dark web is a small subset of the deep web. Dark web content has been intentionally hidden and is inaccessible not just by search engines, but by traditional web browsers. Writer Andrew Quinney notes that “The technology to create the Dark Web was initially created (and still funded) by US Military Researchers in the mid-1990s to allow spies and intelligence agencies to anonymously send and receive messages.” It’s also been used by journalists who need anonymity.

While once reserved for those with military access, some dark web content is now available for anyone with the right tools. Those with specialized browsers and other software can develop dark websites and also access and view them.  Dark web websites such as AlphaBay Market run illegal operations and have an online black-market presence, often selling drugs, chemicals, counterfeit documents, weapons, and computer malware. Much of the content on the dark web is illicit or illegal in nature, hence individuals who use special means to keep it secretive.

Shadow web

Some people speculate that a deeper “layer” of the dark web exists, called the shadow web. There are conflicting reports of the accuracy of these claims and the existence of such a level of internet secrecy and restricted access. Forums and web boards have alluded to the shadow web as a pay-wall level of the dark web where people can view things like video documentation of executions.

So how does the conversation around deep web vs. dark web vs. shadow web relate to you or your business? The information on the deep web is growing, due to encrypted and password protected sites needing to ensure the safe exchange and storage of sensitive information. Many people interact with deep web websites regularly. What many people will likely never interact with is any content on the dark web. This is by design and to the benefit of most, as malware is a commonly found object in dark web marketplaces.

Even though you are very unlikely to encounter any dark web content through normal internet browsing and behavior, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your virus protection and data storage security are up to date to ensure that your data stays private and protected.

Marianne Chrisos
Marianne Chrisos
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, growing up outside of Chicago, Illinois, and currently living near Dallas, Texas, Marianne is a content writer at a company near Dallas and contributing writer around the internet. She earned her master's degree in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University in Chicago and has worked in publishing, advertising, digital marketing, and content strategy.