Beneath the Surface…the Deep Web

Beneath the Surface…the Deep Web

Although not as well known as its Surface Web cousin, the Deep Web can provide people with a wealth of information on myriad topics.

You’ve probably heard that people use only about 5 to 10 percent of their brain. (As pointed out in a previous post, that’s actually a myth. We use our entire brain.) Nevertheless, the 5- to 10-percent figure is popularly believed.

In a similar vein, only about 4 percent of the World Wide Web is part of the Surface Web (sometimes called the Visible Web), the part that is easily accessible to people. And that isn’t a myth.

Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of the Computer Science Department at Southern, points out that about 96 percent of the World Wide Web lives in the “Deep Web.” The precise percentage is impossible to calculate, but most experts believe it falls somewhere between 95 and 99+ percent.

The Deep Web includes those items that are not indexed by popular search engines, such as Google and Yahoo! It can be anything from new Web pages that an agency does not wish to go public with at the moment; to classified information from governmental agencies or other organizations; to searchable databases.

If you are using a library database, you are probably in the Deep Web. Tax collection information controlled by municipalities is another example.

Lancor says that sometimes people confuse the Deep Web with the Dark Web. The Dark Web is only a relatively small part of the Deep Web. Many illegal operations, such as “Silk Road” until it was shut down by the FBI, exist on the Dark Web. (Silk Road was an electronic marketplace for illegal drugs.) She notes that the Dark Web is rife with illegal activity. But she points out that not everything on the Dark Web is bad or illegal. For example, conversations with political dissidents by journalists or U.S. government officials, are conducted on the Dark Web as a means to try to maintain anonymity.

But the Deep Web has much in the way of valuable information that is not as easily accessible as on the surface Web. Many databases on a vast array of subjects are part of the Deep Web.

“A slew of resources are available to explore the Deep Web, including meta-search engines, semantic databases and some pay-for-search services,” Lancor says. She points to a list of Deep Web tools recently published by Online College Blog as potentially valuable to Internet users.

Other special pieces of software are also available to surf the Deep Web (including the Dark Web) with the intent of doing so anonymously. But Lancor cautioned that it is best to assume that those networks have been compromised by government intelligence operations.