Home / Articles / Privacy / Deep vs Dark Web: 9 Key Differences

Deep vs Dark Web: 9 Key Differences

Surface Web vs Dark Web vs Deep Web
The web is much more than meets the eye, tons of it is hidden in the Deep and Dark Web levels.

The Deep Web and the Dark Web are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different parts of the Internet. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between the Deep Web and the Dark Web.

Visiting the Dark Web? Safety First
The Dark Web is no Disneyland. Use a VPN to keep your data safe and avoid government tracking when surfing Dark Websites > Check out NordVPN (59% Off + Free 3 Months) or SurfShark ($2.30/mo).

Deep Web vs Dark Web

FeaturesDeep WebDark Web
AccessibilityNot indexed by search engines, but can be accessed without anonymityRequires specific software and configurations, and is designed to protect user anonymity
ContentPrimarily unindexed databases, archives, and other content not meant for public consumptionKnown for both legal and illegal activities, such as anonymous communication and illicit marketplace sales
AnonymityNot required, but possibleDesigned to protect user identity
PurposeWide range of legitimate purposes, such as online banking and secure government communicationBoth legal and illegal activities
SecurityNot necessarily more secure than the regular webDesigned with enhanced security features
SizeMuch larger than the regular web and the Dark WebTiny fraction of the size of the Deep Web
UsabilityCan be more difficult to navigate and use than the regular webChallenging to use and requires specific software and configurations
LegalityGenerally legalDepends on the specific activities being conducted and the laws of the jurisdiction
ReputationMixed reputation, with some legitimate and some questionable or illegal contentWidely known for controversial and illicit activities

What is the Deep Web?

The Deep Web is largely owned by large corporates, service providers, or governments. Information found on the Deep Web is usually safeguarded behind powerful firewalls and kept away from search engines.

For examples – your private photos in your Apple iCloud account, personal information and financial data stored by banks, medical records stored in your local hospital server, and so on – all these are part of the Deep Web. These information is never exposed to the public for good reasons.

The size of the Deep Web is estimated to be 1,000 times larger than the surface web (the “normal” Internet that can be easily accessed through search engines like Google).

Potential Applications for the Deep Web

There is a long list of potential applications for the Deep Web.

  • Online Banking: Many banks use the Deep Web to securely communicate with customers and manage financial transactions.
  • Government Communications: Government agencies use the Deep Web to communicate securely and share sensitive information.
  • Academic Databases: Universities and other education institutions use the Deep Web to access databases and archives containing research papers, journals, and other scholarly materials.
  • E-commerce: Online retailers use the Deep Web to manage orders, shipping, and inventory data.
  • Cloud Storage: Cloud storage services use the Deep Web to securely store and access data.
  • Healthcare: The healthcare industry uses the Deep Web to securely store and access patient records and medical information.
  • Scientific Research: Scientists and researchers use the Deep Web to access databases and simulations for their work.
  • Law Enforcement: Law enforcement agencies use the Deep Web to access criminal databases and share information.
  • Job Searching: Many job search websites use the Deep Web to store applicants' resumes and employers' job postings.
  • Market Research: Market researchers use the Deep Web to access data on consumer behavior and market trends.

What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web. The term “Dark Web” refers to the part of the Internet that is hidden from regular search engines and can only be accessed through specific software, such as the Tor browser.

Websites on the Dark Web often run on networks of private servers that allow communication only via specific means. This enables a high degree of anonymity and makes it difficult for authorities to shut down.

There are different top-level domains – such as .bit and .i2p, that were specially made for Dark Web websites. However, most sites on the Dark Web are on “.onion” extension.

For example, this is the .onion address for Ahmia.fi, a popular search engine on the Dark Web. 


The Dark Web isn't a place for everyone but it's worth exploring some parts of it. In case you are one of the curious ones – here's a list of 160+ Dark Web websites.

Potential Applications for the Dark Web

While (unfortunately) the nature of anonymity makes the Dark Web a hotbed for many illegal or immoral activities, there are other possible uses for the technology:

  • Whistleblowing: Whistleblowers can use the Dark Web to share sensitive information without revealing their identity. For example, Edward Snowden resorted to the Dark Web when he leaked many of the revelations that helped to unmask NSA surveillance.
  • Political Activism: Political activists can use the Dark Web to organize and communicate with one another without fear of government retaliation.
  • Research & Journalism: Journalists and researchers can use the Dark Web to access information and sources that may not be available through traditional channels. Dark Web tools like Secure Drop is widely used by journalists and news organizations to receive information securely from their sources.
  • Online Privacy: People concerned about online privacy can use the Dark Web to protect their personal information and online activity from being tracked or monitored.

The Dark Web is No Disneyland

Screenshot of a dark web site. Something you can expect to see at any time on the Dark Web – seized websites.

The Dark Web is a dangerous place – We highly urge users to exercise caution when experimenting in this area. All content published here is for educational purposes only. I do not suggest, recommend, or advise users to be active on the Dark Web.

When visiting the Dark Web, always ensure that your Tor browser is kept up to date and try to stay abreast of vulnerability notices. Also – consider using a VPN, like NordVPN, for an extra layer of protection.

Onion Routing, Tor Project, and the Dark Web

Tor Network and Onion Routing are often mentioned when people talk about the Dark Web – mainly because the Dark Websites can only be accessed through the Tor network.

What is Onion Routing?

Onion routing helps users to securely transmitting data over the Internet by encrypting it and sending it through a series of servers. This makes it difficult for third-parties to trace the actual physical location of the sender.

What is Tor Project?

The Tor Project is a non-profit organization that maintains and develops the Tor Network – a free and open-source implementation of onion routing. The network is designed to provide online privacy and protect users' internet activities from surveillance and censorship. The Tor Project also provides a web browser, called the Tor Browser (download here), which is specifically configured to use the Tor network.

Wrapping Up

To recap – the Deep Web is the part of the Internet that is often password-protected AND isn't indexed by search engines like Google and Bing.

The Dark Web, on the other hand, is a subset of the Deep Web that can only be accessed through special browser like the Tor. The Dark Web is well-known for its association with illegal and immoral activities, as well as legitimate uses like political activism and journalism.

Read More

Photo of author

Article by Jerry Low

Keep Reading