What is the dark web?

What is the dark web? That’s the question I’ll be answering today. I assure you, it’s not what the world, media or even the internet itself says it is.

Why limit ourselves at the definition, right? I’ve also shared step-by-step guides on accessing the dark web, finding links and a lot more!

Here’s a sneak-peek at everything that’s included:

By the end of this piece, you’ll be able to buy weapons and drugs off the dark web (no kidding!). This is why, it’s very important you go through the disclaimer below before you proceed.

Legal disclaimer

This article explains what is the dark web. As a result, it may have very empowering content, links, tutorials and data. Note that it’s to be used purely and exclusively for LEGAL purposes only. E.g. you may use the content here to expose your government or share your opinion freely with the world.

However, no illegal use is encouraged, recommended or supported. Meaning, you can not buy/sell illegal goods, launder money, hire killers or engage in any illegal activity whatsoever.

The dark web is full of scams and fake websites. We can not be held responsible if you fall prey to any such website.

Anything on this website, including text, links, graphics, background scripts and everything else is purely meant for research and education only.

Any and all use of any information/link/data/graphic on this website is solely and exclusively your own responsibility. The creators/owners of this website can not be held responsible for any of your actions.

It is your duty to confirm the legality of your actions depending on your jurisdiction.  Proceed only if you agree 100% to the disclaimer above.

What is the dark web?

The dark web is a concept that’s misunderstood by a majority of the people. It’s often confused to be the same as the deep web. That’s not the case.

In order to fully answer the question- “What is the dark web?” you must first understand what the deep web is.

It’s easier to understand dark web in combination with the deep web rather than trying to understand it as an individual subject.

Deep web vs. dark web

So, the deep web is basically “any and all web content, which is not indexed by your traditional search engines”. By traditional search engines, I mean search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and so on.

The dark web too is not indexed by traditional search-engines. This is how they are similar, and are often confused to be the same thing.

This graphic here will list all the major differences between the deep web and the dark web:

Note that the deep web is not illegal. In fact, most of you have already used the deep web. E.g.:

  • Your university records
  • Bank statements
  •  E-mails and a lot more.

Simply because this content is not-indexed, it’s deep web content. You can’t just Google for my bank statement or I can’t search for your school records, and that’s what makes this deep web content.

Did you know that-

“over 90% of the “Internet” is actually DEEP WEB (unindexed)?”

However, this content can be accessed by the right person, generally with a password.

In some cases, some websites are just not enabled for search-engine indexation. The developers manually disable indexation and then those become deep web content as well. You can access those websites using specific IP Addresses or URLs.

While deep web content may be illegal sometimes too, it’s often just-

“hidden content, that’s still legal”.

On the other hand, the content on the dark web is majorly illegal! This is one of the biggest differences between the deep web and the dark web. For example, the dark web is where you find dark net markets. These markets let you buy almost anything! Primarily:

  • Drugs
  • Weapons
  • Credit cards
  • Fake passports/other documents
  • Illegal forums
  • Online accounts and a lot more.

In fact, just 48 hours ago, over 20 million Big Basket account details were leaked on the dark web!

Do note that not all dark web sites are illegal. There are a few sites on the dark web which are still legal. (I’ve explained the legality of the dark web in the later sections, with examples.)

The third major difference between the deep and the dark web is their accessibility. You can still access the deep web using clear net/traditional browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.

The dark web doesn’t use the “clearnet” rather it has its own “network”! Accessing the dark web requires specialized software and tools. Most of these are free.

Furthermore, because the deep web is still on the “clearnet”, it can be censored by the government, law enforcement, or other powerful third-parties.

On the other hand, because the dark web is on a different network (mostly the .onion network), it’s very hard if not impossible to censor dark web content .This is why it sees so much illegal activity out there.

Clearnet is also very easily traceable. If you access your bank statement,  hospital bill, some other deep web site, the website owner(s), your ISP, the govt. and others can see your IP address, your location and can trace these back to you.

Because of the network, and the special tools the dark web uses, it’s anonymous by nature. So, even the website owners do not know who you are or what your IP address is. Other details such as OS, screen-size, device and basically everything else is hidden as well.

This is why the dark web is also used for legal purposes. For example, journalists use it to expose corrupt govt. and politicians, company workers may use it to contact higher authorities and so on.

The last difference I’d like to mention is the URL structure. The deep web can be found on the clearnet, as a result, the URLs are mostly www.something.com/.org/.in/.net and so on.

Because the dark web uses its own network, it doesn’t use .com/.org/.net and other common TLDs (domain extensions).

Rather, its URL structure is mostly a string of random alphabet and numbers, followed by a .onion extension. E.g. inclibuql666c5c4.onion is a dark web URL.

I can only sum up the difference by saying that

“all unindexed content is deep web, however, unindexed content that’s mostly illegal and requires special tools for access is the dark web”

How to access the dark web?

In order to access the dark web, you’d need the following:

  • A VPN (optional, but not really!) – Download VPN!
  • Tor browser- Download Tor browser.

Once you have both these tools, you can access the dark web exactly like you access any clearnet website. You simply have to launch Tor browser and enter the dark web URL you wish to visit.

If you keep reading, I’ll explain both the tools and the exact steps which will help you access the dark web.

Why the VPN?

Now, you “can” access the dark web without a VPN! But, I’d strongly advise against it!

As mentioned earlier, dark web URLs are random alphabet and numbers. You never know what the URL leads to without clicking on it.

As a result, you may be tricked into clicking extremely illegal links. E.g. underage porn! Even being on one of these websites is a crime!  The website owners may then blackmail you for ransom.

Furthermore, there are sites called “Honeypots”. These are set up mostly by law enforcement agencies/ other third-parties purely with the intent of identifying users.

And finally, even if you do something deliberately illegal on the dark web, a VPN makes sure you aren’t caught.

A VPN is just a software which masks your IP address (most of you knew this already, didn’t you?) But, did you know even most VPNs are liars? They secretly keep logs of your IP address and even share these logs with the police if and when required!

This is why I’d recommend you go with  NordVPN! Now, the strongest reason for this is their independently verified “no log” policy by a third-party audit agency! NordVPN doesn’t just say “we don’t keep logs”, they proved it via an audit to the public, TWICE!

This means, even when all hell breaks loose, and NordVPN is forced to comply with some law enforcement agency, they just can’t even if they want to! No logs “exist” which can be shared!

It’s also the fastest VPN I’ve ever used, and it’s based in Panama. Moreover, NordVPN has dark-web exclusive features such as “onion over VPN”. This allows you to connect to the dark web with a lot more anonymity.

And hey, you can afford NordVPN if you skip just half a pizza! Plans start at $3.71/month! If you don’t think it’s worth it, there’s a 30-day refund policy as well!  

NordVPN pricing

Once you have the VPN, simply launch it and click on the “Onion over VPN” button.

Onion Over VPN

You’ll be automatically connected to the best server for dark web browsing.

You can also skip the added protection and simply choose a random country from the list! The point is, connect to a country no matter which (preferably a country that’s different from where you live).

Now, let’s move onto the next step.

What is the Tor browser?

Tor browser is probably the most crucial element to any answer for the question- What is the dark web?

As I’ve repeatedly mentioned, the dark web has its own network. The most common network for the dark web is the Onion Network. There sure are other networks (I2P/Freenet) but they only have a fraction of onion network’s database in terms of websites/users.

Now, this Onion network can’t be accessed using Google Chrome or other clearnet browsers.

This is where Tor browser comes in. TOR stands for “The Onion Router”. It’s an open-source and completely free internet browser.  In other words, Tor lets you access the dark web over the onion network.

But, it does a lot more than just that! It also masks your IP address and encrypts your connection! Tor uses volunteer-run nodes. Imagine these as relays/proxies. Every browser request is routed through at least 3 such nodes/relays.

 So, the final website you visit doesn’t know who you are or what your IP address is. Rather, it sees the IP address of the last node from where your request exits.

Despite sounding complex, Tor is created using Mozilla Firefox’s code. As a result, using it is almost exactly identical to using Mozilla Firefox!

This is the most famous graphic, designed by the Tor team to explain the functioning of Tor:

Note that these nodes can’t trace back the connection back to you either. As shown in the screenshot above, the nodes only know their immediate previous and future nodes.

No node in the Tor circuit knows both the user requesting the connection, and the final website he/she is accessing.

Tor is 100% free and you can download it from official website. Link is https://www.torproject.org/download/

Now that you have the Tor browser, you can enter any dark web site link you wish to visit! It functions exactly like a normal browser! (I’d recommend connecting to the VPN first before you launch Tor browser.)

How to find websites on the dark web?

If you’ve downloaded a VPN and the Tor browser, you now need dark web URLs, don’t you? How do you find those? It’s pretty easy actually. Visit this link https://darkweblinkssites.com/ (Biggest Tor sites directory, managed by us) or you can use search engines!

Didn’t I say dark web URLs are “not indexed” on search engines? I did, and that’s true! However, there are search engines exclusively made for the dark web.

These do index .onion websites on the dark web. In most cases, these search engines themselves are on the dark web and can’t be accessed without Tor browser.

By now, I suppose you’re connected to your VPN? If you are, launch Tor browser and enter this URL there- http://phobosxilamwcg75xt22id7aywkzol6q6rfl2flipcqoc4e4ahima5id.onion

This is the URL for Phobos, a dark web search-engine (and it’s my favourite). You can simply paste the URL onto Tor browser. On the search engine, simply search for a keyword just like you do on normal search engines.

E.g. I search for “Drugs” (because that’s the most common commodity on the dark web).

It shows me dozens of results related to my search. Some may be darknet markets selling drugs, some may be educational resources on drugs and so on.

Other dark web search engines you can use:

Link directories are another popular method of finding dark web sites. Now, these too give you links but they aren’t exactly like search engines.

E.g. you can go to this URL using your Tor browser- hdwikihod77v6fas.onion. It’s one of the most popular darknet link directories- The Hidden Wiki. You’ll see something like this-

These are a bunch of links, curated and maintained by the website owners. While search engines automatically crawl the dark web, link directories are manually compiled articles of links.

There are a few key points I’d like to share here. Generally, link directories are a better way of finding dark web links. That’s because as these are manually-curated links, often the website owners also put up descriptions, short reviews and opinions about each website.

However, they may also be misleading. E.g. scammers may pay directory owners to list their dark web sites as legitimate sites.

Also, link directories need manual updates. As a result, they may often include dead/offline links. Search engines on the other hand mostly fetch live results.

Some link directories also have Reddit-like upvote/downvote features. These allow users to increase rankings for legitimate links and downvote scammers/dead links.

Do note that while dark web search engines are mostly on the dark web themselves, link directories can also be found on clearnet sites.

Other dark web link directories:-

Safety tips for the dark web

Because you’re asking “what is the dark web?”, you’re clearly new to this. As a result, it’s vey easy for you to fall prey to a number of dark web issues.

Do note that I’m against using the dark web without a VPN. It’s technically optional but without a VPN your dark web activities can be traced back to you. So please, if you can afford it, do go for a VPN. You will also like to read my recent article on Best VPN for dark web.

Even after getting the VPN, it’s a good idea to increase your Tor security (yes, it’s possible).

 Just go to this URL in your Tor browser- about:preferences#privacy > click on “Privacy and Security” and then select “Safest” as your security level.

Note that this will disable a few Tor features such as JavaScript. Some websites may not load properly. But this adds massive protection against fingerprinting and identification for you.

Anyway, never trust links posted on social media/Reddit blindly. Anyone can post these links. They can either be scammers, law enforcement, blackmailers and so on.

Secondly, when registering on any darknet market/ forum/ chat site or any other such platform, use random, false information. E.g. do not use your real name, your locality, your age or anything else. These details should be as random as possible. “iPhone821Mars” is one example.

You can use this website – http://elfq2qefxx6dv3vy.onion/fakeid.php to generate an extremely detailed fake identity for you.

This is 100% legal (it’s just random data). You’ll get a random name ,address, SSN, vehicle number, favourite colour, favourite location and a lot more. You can then use this identity for all dark web intents  and purposes.

Third, always use Cryptocurrencies for any and all dark web trades. Never use fiat options even if they’re available. Also, always lounder/clean/mix/wash your cryptocurrencies before sending them to the other party. Never directly send funds from your primary wallet.

Done! If you follow the above steps, you’re nearly as invisible as is possible on the dark web!

How to get on the dark web using mobile devices?

If you’re thinking you can only access the dark web on computers, you’re wrong!

In order to access the dark web on mobile devices (both Android and iOS) follow this:

  • Step 1: Download NordVPN  (It’s available both for Android and iOS devices).
  • Step 2: Download Tor browser for Android / Onion browser for iOS.
  • Step 3: Use the exact same methods described above to find dark web URLs, paste them on the Onion browser and you’re done!

Interesting facts about the dark web

I’m sure you’re exhausted if you went through all that! Well, I’ve got a few titbits to cheer you up!

  • The internet that you normally access is only about 10% of the actual “internet”!
  • Silk Road was one of the most successful darknet markets. It sold everything including weapons, hitman for hire services, fake passports and a lot more.
  • Bitcoin is the most common mode of payment on the dark web.
  • “The FBI seized over 70,000 Bitcoins from Silk Road! (Imagine their value in USD at 1BTC= nearly 60,000 USD TODAY!)”
  • The dark web was actually meant for free speech, decentralized and a privacy-friendly world. These features however are today majorly used for illegal means.

Frequently Asked Questions

For anyone who’s asking what is the dark web, I’ll clear some of the most common doubts you’re bound to have at this point.

#1. Is the dark web real?

The first and foremost question is, is it real? Yes. Contract killers, weapons, underage porn, red rooms (people being tortured/raped on live cam) is all 100% real.

Now, most dark net sites claiming to offer those services are scams and fake. However, I assure you, legitimate sellers/providers of the above services do exist.

Obviously I wouldn’t share the links directly or indirectly anywhere for legal and ethical purposes.

#2. Is accessing the dark web illegal?

No. Accessing the dark web is not illegal and it’s completely legal, as long as you’re not involved in any darkweb activity directly or indirectly.

To prove my statement, here are a few darknet sites:

These are all 100% dark web sites and yet, they’re all 100% legal (heck, the FBI and CIA have official sites there).

There are other websites sharing conspiracy theories or just criticizing their government, totally legal as well!

This proves that just because a website is on the dark web, does not mean it has to be illegal. This also proves that just “accessing” the dark web is not illegal. You’re simply accessing a website on the Tor network.

#3. When is the dark web illegal?

Accessing the dark web becomes illegal if you buy/sell illegal products. E.g. if you order or try to sell weapons, drugs, or issue contracts for killing someone it naturally becomes illegal.

In some cases (e.g. underage porn websites, red rooms etc.) even accessing the websites may be 100% illegal. Even when you do not do anything, being on the sites is a crime by itself!

The basic definition is, as long as you aren’t doing something illegal in general (real-life), the dark web isn’t illegal.

Final words on what is the dark web?

I’m confident you got a pretty decent idea as far as your question “What is the dark web” goes, didn’t you?

To sum it up, all I’ll say is, it’s a part of the internet that has its own networks and can be accessed with specialized tools.

It’s not illegal in general, however, a majority of the websites there are illegal. The dark web is harder to censor/monitor than the clearnet. Due to its anti-censor and privacy-friendly ways, it’s used by individuals to share data/documents without risking their lives.

Finally, now that you’ve learnt what is the dark web, should you access it? Totally! Just be sure to not get involved in anything that’s even remotely illegal. And be sure to use a VPN just in case you slip and do find yourself on one such illegal site.