I got a question from a colleague about the difference between the dark and deep web. Trying to explain the difference clearly and quickly took effort. However, I think many people want a quick “what is [term]?” So here is my effort at tl;dr* friendly explanations of some terminology that keeps popping up in today’s conversations about the internet.


The deep web is the term to refer to all of the internet content that for one reason or another cannot be indexed by search engines because blocks such as of paywalls or security measures. Think databases, medical records, or encrypted sites. The dark web is part of the deep web, but not all of the deep web is dark.


The dark web is the term for a collection of sites that mask their IP address so it is difficult, if not impossible to find out where the servers originate. Most of these sites run encryption, like TOR, see below, which means that they cannot be accessed by normal browsers. In simplest terms, both the site and the user agree to talk only when both are anonymous. The dark web is not only used for illicit drugs and sex trade, it is also used to help whistleblowers or to avoid censorship


TOR, short for The Onion Network, is an anonymity network. It encrypts the information sent through the network and sends the signal through several servers so as to hide the origination point. This allows for anonymity in browsing but makes traversing the internet very slow since the information has to travel through a great many servers end to end. TOR created a nifty little animation on what TOR is and why people might use it.

Some libraries have even set up TOR exit relays.


Blockchain is a digital ledger maintained by a network of individuals. It was used originally as a financial ledger to track Bitcoin, but can track anything of value. Fundamentally, a transaction occurs and the information of that transaction is simultaneously sent to all the individuals maintaining the ledger. After a certain amount of entries, the information is encrypted in such a way that it cannot be edited by anyone person as it would conflict with everyone else’s ledger. It is often described as incorruptible, but the system has a weakness. It depends on 51% of individuals being honest, but should 51% conspire to falsify some data point, it could be compromised. Therefore the more people involved, the more secure blockchain is. Here’s a great breakdown of way blockchain works and here is a video of blockchain at work.

Have other terms you’re curious about, let us know in the comments, and we’ll see if we can help in a future post. 

*too long; didn’t read


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