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Deep web

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The term deep web is a neologism often used to refer to the dark web;Wikipedia's W.svg the Tor darknetWikipedia's W.svg for example. Public exposure to the "deep/dark web" remains largely limited to sensationalist reporting, covering, for example, red rooms and snuff films. Unfounded myth and legend continue to seep into popular culture as well.[1] While word of mouth and media information may paint the deep web as teeming with illegal and interesting content, in actuality much of its purported content is false and the actual content is far less interesting.

About the term[edit]

The terms "deep web" and "dark net" are greatly misunderstood, bastardized, and used to be the same term. According to's blog and Bergman’s originally definition,[2][3] the “deep web" consists of websites unindexed by search engines. On the other hand, the “dark web" consists of of illegal content and services. Despite this, news and media outlets confuse the terms as the same thing.

"Reputable" sources[edit]

A list of sites that confuse the terminology:

  • BusinessInsider[4]
  • HuffingtonPost — The Deep Web Is Filled With Drugs, Porn And ... Book Lovers(!)[5]
  • CNBC — From drugs to killers: Exploring the Deep Web[6]
  • DeepDotWeb[7]
  • NewsWeek — The Deep Web Drug Market Bounces Back After Silk Road[8]
  • DailyFail — The disturbing world of the Deep Web, where contract killers and drug dealers ply their trade on the internet.[9]
  • The Guardian — We're looking at you Andy Beckett.[10][11]

Not only do the articles use bad terminology — this in of itself is not really that bad — these articles also overreport drug vendors and illegal content.[note 1] This is a reflection of modern media reporting of usually reporting on the most shocking and worst things possible.

Why the darknet is bullshit[edit]


By 2013, with the Silk RoadWikipedia's W.svg shut down all over the news, the term 'Deep Web' is embedded into mass consciousness as this dark scary thing out there. While it is true that there are some drug and illegal markets on the darkweb, as illustrated in deep dot web's top drug markets list for example, this is also true for the clearnet:

And besides, the normal Internet already hosts loads of child porn, and is where human trafficking definitely takes place. [...] As long as people are obsessed with finding the next terrible thing on the dark web, these scam and troll sites are going to continue—feeding the exaggerated myth of what ultimately boils down to just a small collection of websites.
—Joseph Cox[12]

But so long as general media keep covering alleged drug busts and other criminal activities on the darkweb, the fallacy will live on.


Web based Hidden ServicesWikipedia's W.svg in February 2016[13][14]
Category Percentage
Violence 0.3%
Arms 0.8%
Social 1.2%
Hacking 1.8%
Illegitimate pornography 2.3%
Nexus 2.3%
Extremism 2.7%
Unknown 3.0%
Other illicit 3.8%
Finance 6.3%
Drugs 8.1%
Other 19.6%
None 47.7%

An accurate portrayal of Hidden Service content distribution can be found on Wikipedia for February 2016.[15][16] The table can be observed on the right.

Note that the the category "None" contains nearly half of Hidden Service content. This makes more sense if you just check out Deep Web in a Nutshell covered below. Also note that the table does not specify whether or not the illegal services are actually legitimate.

Not to mention, the multiple multiple HiddenWiki clones exist to filter out the garbage and present interesting content. In other words, it’s not the same thing as a web crawler which scavenges Onionland.[note 2]

Deep web in a nutshell[edit]
Why visit lots of dodgy onion sites on the "dark" web, when you can enjoy being bored out of your wits here on this site in perfect safety? Authentic feelings of disappointment guaranteed, or your money back!
—Deep web in a nutshell

Released in May 2015,[17] 'the Deep Web in a nutshell' presents a far more accurate depiction of services that can actually be found.

  • The abandoned forum — The best board is "I have made a nice forum, but nobody is here".
  • This site is hosted — Expect to see a lot of sites with only this text!
  • The weird website with an obnoxious picture


The size of the dark web has also been exaggerated and is in fact only an unprovable hypothesis as demonstrated from a quote from Denis Shestakov:

It is impossible to measure, and harsh to put estimates on, the size of the deep web because the majority of the information is hidden or locked inside databases. Early estimates suggested that the deep web is 400 to 550 times larger than the surface web. However, since more information and sites are always being added, it can be assumed that the deep web is growing exponentially at a rate that cannot be quantified. Estimates based on extrapolations from a study done at University of California, Berkeley in 2001[3] speculate that the deep web consists of about 7.5 petabytes. More accurate estimates are available for the number of resources in the deep web: research of He et al. detected around 300,000 deep web sites in the entire web in 2004,[18] and, according to Shestakov, around 14,000 deep web sites existed in the Russian part of the Web in 2006.[19]

Amusingly, the larger figure, 7.5 petabyte, is identified to be speculated. Apparently, someone at University of California, Berkeley thought that having a decimal point makes their speculated data seem less made up. Meanwhile, the figures that were obtained by research are relatively small to the world wide web's size.[20]

As of September 14th, 2016, harry71's onion crawler has archived a whopping total of over 6,000 onion websites. That's a pretty small number compared to's estimate of "at least 4.7 billion pages" as of September 14th, 2016.[20] But in reality, if such a dark web were to exist, it would contain a rather small community to begin with considering its supposed barriers. Therefore, the darknet would be very small in size of pages to coincide with the size of the audience; definitely not over 60% of the Internet according to an image below (the method by which this figure was developed is a trade secret).

Deep web "levels"[edit]

Truthiness in action.

In 2011 or early 2012,[21] an infographic was created at the time Tor and the Silk Road first gained popularity and crucially at the same time the deep web search term started to be conflated with the dark web. It helped feed the sensationalism and further imprint into the public’s minds what exactly the darknet was.

The concept of such 'levels' of the deep web was produced by an enterprising individual, sharing similarities with Dante's InfernoWikipedia's W.svg in its structure. In this (mis)infographic, the further down, the more insane and preposterous the content becomes. A January 2012 attempt at a corresponding corrected info graphic was also created, but never gained comparable popularity due to reliance of text and facts.

The infographic also perpetuates the fallacy that non-clearnet content somehow makes most of the Internet. As of September 14th, 2016, harry71's onion crawler has archived a whopping total of over 6,000 onion websites. That's a pretty small number compared to'sdiscussionitem=Document }}  #default=Link }} estimate of "at least 4.7 billion pages" as of September 14th, 2016.[20] But in reality, if such a dark web were to exist, it would contain a rather small community to begin with, considering its supposed "Polymeric Falcoghol Derivation" barriers. Therefore, the darknet would be very small in size of pages to coincide with the size of the audience; definitely not more than 80% of the Internet (the method by which this figure was developed is a trade secret).

Original (mis)infographicAnalysis

Level 0 Web — Common web[edit]

EVERYTHING The "common web" is a made up name for what is actually the surface webWikipedia's W.svg in search engine parlance. Typically the term clearnetWikipedia's W.svg is preferred when referring to non-darknet websites. However the deep web/surface web paradigm is simply more popular, despite these being search indexing terms.

Level 1 Web — Surface web[edit]

  • Reddit
  • Dig
  • Temple Email Services
  • Newgrounds
  • Vampire Freaks
  • Foreign Social Networks
  • Human Intel Tasks
  • Web Hosting
  • MYSQL[sic] Databases
  • College Campuses
For some reason, the infographic portrays the surface web... below the surface. Social networks like Reddit, Vampire FreaksWikipedia's W.svg and Human Intel TasksWikipedia's W.svg are also listed here — websites which have very little in common either technically or content wise. MySQL databases and college campuses are at least intranet based services with relationships to search indexing technologies.

Level 2 Web — Bergie web[edit]

  • FTP Servers
  • Google Locked Results
  • Honeypots
  • Loaded Web Servers
  • Jailbait Porn
  • Most of the Internet
  • 4chan
  • RSC
  • Freehive
  • Let Me Watch This
  • Streams Videos
  • Bunny Tube
So that damned iceberg is still in the graphic, so I guess we'll name this level after it. For some reason FTP servers are placed below MySQL databases. Of course, the more edgy content like 4chan and Jailbait is listed. Made up terms like 'Google Locked Results' (whatever that's supposed to be), a pirate streaming service 'Let me Watch This' are placed next to honeypots.Wikipedia's W.svg But surely if a honeypot was on a deeper level than normal, it would fail at being a honeypot? Try not to overthink this...

Proxy required after this point...

Level 3 Web — Deep web[edit]

  • "On the Vanilla" Sources
  • Heavy Jailbait
  • Light CP
  • Gore
  • Sex Tapes
  • Celebrity Scandals
  • VIP Gossip
  • Hackers
  • Script Kiddies
  • Virus Information
  • FOIE Archives
  • Suicides
  • Raid Information
  • Computer Security
  • XSS Worm Scripting
  • FTP Servers (Specific)
  • Mathematics Research
  • Supercomputing
  • Visual Processing
  • Virtual Reality (Specific)

Wait, the deep web inside the deep web? Try not to think too hard...

Apparently one can find celebrity scandals here; to be fair, this did pre-date The FappeningWikipedia's W.svg allegedly run by a tight-knit hacker group. Vague hacker jargon starts to be introduced such as "XSS worm scripting", "computer security", "visual processing" and apparently "specific virtual reality". And to think all this time you've settled for general virtual reality.

Tor required after this point...
  • Eliza Data Information
  • Hacking Groups FTP
  • Node Transfers
  • Data Analysis
  • Post Date Generation
  • Microsoft Data Secure Networks
  • Assembly Programmer's Guild
  • Shell Networking
  • AI Theorists
  • Cosmologists/MIT
Say "hello" to more hacker jargon such as data analysis, AI theorists, shell networking and the "AssemblyWikipedia's W.svg Programmer's Guild". Such sites do exist on the clearnet,#default=Link }} so why is this on the dark net? What's so bad about machine code? Stop thinking too hard.

As for AI information, to date, there are two mirror websites that host an AI titled VIKI. The websites claim that the bot has "been online since 01JAN70 in one form or another. Most likely, these websites were created because of this (mis)infographic.

Level 4 Web — Charter web[edit]

  • Hardcandy
  • Onion IB
  • Hidden Wiki
  • Candycane
  • Banned Videos
  • Banned Movies
  • Banned Books
  • Questionable Visual Materials
  • Personal Records
  • "Line of Blood" Locations
  • Assassination Box
  • Headhunters
  • Illegal Game Hunters
  • Rare Animal Trade
  • Hard Drugs Trade
  • Human Trafficking
  • Corporate Exchange
  • Multi-Billion Dollar Deals
  • Most of the Black Market
Let's list random sick shit: child pornography, The Hidden WikiWikipedia's W.svg (wtf?), Assassination Box, human trafficking, and god forbid banned books are here. The hard drugs trade can be found here and clearly not on well documented darknet markets.Wikipedia's W.svg

To be fair, one can find various anarchist writings but no more so than on the clearnet. In addition, "personal records" a.k.a. doxes can be found on websites such as Doxbin.Wikipedia's W.svg

Closed Shell System required after this point...
Possibly a reference to the cyberbrains of Ghost in the Shell.

More illegal porn (hey, what happened to the animal crush fetish porn?Wikipedia's W.svg This is discrimination!), artificial intelligence, and information about "secret"Wikipedia's W.svg Nazi discoveries that totally aren't publicly available now.

As for red rooms and snuff films, currently no evidence supports the existence of real red rooms on the dark net or the existence of a snuff films. In addition, it can be concluded that Peter Scully'sWikipedia's W.svg red room never existed either. He was charged with "pay-per-view video streams"; however, the reports of him live-streaming are allegations, according to Mamamia.[22][23] This doesn't stop websites from blindly stating otherwise.[24][25] Someone could always ask the man himself about it; however, even 60 Minutes had trouble getting Scully to speak about his crimes.[26]

80% of the Internet exists below this line...
This is rather not 80% of the physical information, but 80% of the information that effects[sic] you directly The (mis)infographic makes another reference to deep web search technologies while also making a bullshit statement on how the information affects someone.

Polymeric falcighol derivation exists below this line...
Shit… I don't really know faggot. All I know is that you need to solve quantum mechanics in order to view this on even the normal web, let alone closed servers. Quantum Computation exists, and the government powers have them. So be careful what you do here. The (mis)infographic just makes up the term Polymeric falcighol derivation. It wouldn't be a proper sensationalist graphic without a little homophobia and conspiracy-theory mongering, would it?

Level 5 Web — Marianas web[edit]

The day you get here is,[sic] when OP is no longer a faggot.
People are now even trying to sell access to the Marianas Web.

A reference to the Mariana Trench,Wikipedia's W.svg now an urban legend in its own right.[27] And of course Takedownman has reported on it...[28]

But wait, there's more! Some time around December 2014 an update to the infographic was created.

Level 6 web — (?)[edit]

Intermediary between the Marianas Web and Levels 7 and Level 8 Level 6: a level that exists for the sole purpose of being one.

Level 7 web — The Fog/Virus Soup[edit]

The best way to describe level 7 would but[sic] a war zone. Where it is every man for themselves, where everyone who "made" it here is trying to get to the 8th level preventing other people from getting there. ಠ_ಠ

Level 8 web — The Primarch System[edit]

Level 8 is impossible to access directly. The primarch system is what controls the Internet. No government or organization has control of it. Nobody even knows what it is. The system is an anomaly discovered in the 2000's. It is unresponsive, but sends out unalterable commands to the entire net, randomly. The entire 7th Level is people trying to gain access to Level 8 and stopping others from getting there. Level 8 is thought to be separated by "level 17 quantum t.r.001 level function lock" which is virtually impossible for our computers to break.

Also known as "The Final Boss of The Internet"

No, seriously…


Why people believe this bullshit[edit]

The mythos behind the deep web draws parallels to the Atlantis myth. In both cases, the subjects' portrayal take advantage of human curiosity and wonderment. Even if there is little to no actual evidence that points to a certain conclusion, evidence to support people's opinions are conjured through unrelated "evidence" or entirely falsified to sell stories. As for the latter, people look at stories from news authorities and assume the content and themes presented in said stories must be true.

Stories about Silk Road introduced the connotation that the Tor Network and other anonymous networks like I2P are mainly for illegal purposes. Now that this connotation has been initiated, people believe it and start their own Hidden Services and Youtube videos to prolong it. [12] Hidden services have the security advantage of having end-to-end encryption for web browsing[29] and Tor Browser has great security features, it's disappointing that the Tor Project's name is tarnished by stories related to Silk Road and urban legends.

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Tor.
Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Derp web adventure‎.


  1. Confusion of the terminology is generally a good tell of spotting sensationalist reporting.
  2. Because apparently the DarkWeb only exists on Tor?


  1. Dark web - In popular culture
  2. The Deep Web vs. The Dark Web | Blog
  3. 3.0 3.1 Bergman, Michael K (August 2001). "The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value". The Journal of Electronic Publishing 7 (1).;view=text. 
  12. 12.0 12.1
  13. Moore, Daniel. "Cryptopolitik and the Darknet". Survival: Global Politics and Strategy. Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  14. Cox, Joseph (1 February 2016). "Study Claims Dark Web Sites Are Most Commonly Used for Crime". Retrieved 20 March 2016. 
  15. See the Wikipedia article on Tor (anonymity network) — Usage.
  16. Wikipedia: Hidden Services 2016
  17. Your new #Tor Browser homepage — THE #Deepweb in a nutshell: http://dtt6tdtgroj63iud.onion #Darkweb #darknet
  18. He, Bin; Patel, Mitesh; Zhang, Zhen; Chang, Kevin Chen-Chuan (May 2007). "Accessing the Deep Web: A Survey". Communications of the ACM 50 (2): 94–101. 
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 The size of the World Wide Web (The Internet)
  21. How far into the Deep Web have you travelled?
  22. It's the Peter Scully 60 Minutes interview that you need to see.
  23. See the Wikipedia article on Peter Scully.
  24. Peter Scully's red room Is The Most Disturbing Story You'll Ever Read — Sick Chirpse
  25. Alleged paedophile Peter Gerard Scully fled a sordid past in Melbourne
  26. 60 minutes: Peter Scully Episode and Interview
  27. The myth of Mariana's Web, the darkest corner of the internet
  28. The Hidden Internet- Marianas web