There’s a part of the Internet that lies beneath the one you access every day. It’s a place that you can only access via specially designed anonymizing software. While it’s a place where political dissidents and whistle blowers can hide their true identities, it’s also a place where a lot of illicit transactions take place.
This place is called the dark net, and it’s a lawless land.
Understanding the Dark Net
The dark net is actually part of the Deep Web, which is a bunch of Internet connected material that isn’t searchable by normal search engines. Most of what is part of the Deep Web is unintentional castoff material, such as database queries and strange file types.
But the dark net is different, in that it masks itself with specially designed software that both encrypts and anonymizes everything. On the dark net, a lot of dirty things are taking place, such as buying credit card numbers, purchasing weapons, gambling sites, hacker forums, illegal drug sales, and many other things that would get you into serious trouble if you would do them on the normal Internet.
The dark net began around 2004, which is when hidden websites started appearing. These sites could only be accessed on the TOR network (TOR stands for The Onion Router, and was originally developed by the US military to keep military information encrypted). The TOR network was released as open source freeware to the public. Out of this, the dark net was born.
Experts estimate that there are between 200,000 and 400,000 websites operating exclusively on the dark net.
The Bright Side of the Dark Net
While dark net is a lawless place, it also has a positive side. There are many countries that do not allow free speech, and the dark net allows these people to speak freely without fear of censorship. The dark net can also be used by whistle blowers to reach out to the media without fear of government persecution.
Jamie Bartlett, the director of Demos, a UK think tanks, said in a recent TED talk that “[the dark net is] a censorship-free world visited by anonymous users.” He went on to say he believes that the dark net will become more mainstream, because “the customer is king.” The user experience on dark net sites is really good. These sites must do everything they can to satisfy customers, or they quickly go out of business.
More than that, dark net sites are concerned about privacy, do not track you, and have no pop up ads. Many of us concerned about our privacy and being tracked online would most likely welcome a marketplace that puts the consumer first.
Getting to Know the Dark Net
It’s no secret that we are being tracked by both advertisers and possibly the government when we use the Internet. The dark net gives us the ability to be fully anonymous when we use the Internet, which after all, is simply a form of communication and knowledge sharing.
So while the dark net has a sinister side, it also has a positive side, and perhaps may even play a pivotal role in the way we use the Internet in years to come.