Deep Web

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The deep web is the section of the World Wide Web (WWW) that is somewhat hidden. It contains pages that are not indexed by traditional web search engines - such as Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.

The deep web is the opposite term of the “surface web.” As such, it may also be referred to as the “hidden web” or “invisible web.”


Beyond the surface

The deep web accounts for over 99% of the content on the web. It is a part of the WWW that is different from the so-called “surface web,” which is the visible part of the web. The surface web is the most easily accessible layer. It includes all indexes (or searchable) pages.

Although the amount of content discoverable through search engines is vast, the surface web contains much less information than the deep web. A study published in 2001, indicated that less than 0.05% of all the content is available in the surface web, while the other ~99.95% is found in the deep web.


What is the Deep Web?

By definition, the deep web includes both pages that are obscure or that can only be accessed through a specific authentication method. Being obscure means that they require a direct URL to be found (searching on Google doesn’t work). Still, the majority of the deep web’s content falls under the latter category.

Along those lines, we may consider as part of the deep web any website that asks for a login and password. In other words, many of the pages people access every day are actually part of the deep web. This includes social media profiles, email inboxes, and bank accounts.

This may sound confusing at first because the popular terminology has that the deep web is the obscure web. But since our personal accounts are not indexed on search engine pages, they are also considered as part of the deep web.

Still, the largest chunk of the deep web consists of statistics and private databases. For instance, U.S. government agencies like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) account for a significant amount of this digital data.


Deep web vs. dark web

It is also common to see confusion concerning the differences between the deep web and the dark web. In short, the dark web is a portion of the deep web that is anonymous. 

Thus, it is often associated with websites that facilitate illegal activities or that provide some kind of privacy benefits for activists and whistleblowers (including black hat hackers and hacktivists). The dark web is estimated to account for less than 0.01% of the deep web and is only accessible through specialized platforms, such as Tor.

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