The different areas of the internet explained

Darknet, dark web, deep web, surface web. You have probably heard some or all these terms, but what is the difference? In this article we will try to sort out the different terms as well as give you a basic understanding of the function of these different areas of the internet.

The iceberg

The areas of the internet are often described as an iceberg were the surface web makes up the top, followed by the submerged deep web in the middle and lastly the darknet in the very bottom. Although being a simplification, this picture serves a purpose when it comes to visualizing the complexity and vastness of the internet.

The areas that make up the internet

Surface web

The surface web is often estimated to make up of 4-10% of the internet. This is the part of the web we typically think of when we hear the word “Internet”. The surface web is open to everyone and all its content can be found using a web search engine. Although 4-10% might sound like a small number one has to keep in mind that Google was estimated to index roughly 35 trillion web pages in the year 2020.

Examples of content:

- News sites

- Company websites

- Blogs

- Open forums

Other names for the surface web: Public web, Visible web, Indexed web, Indexable web, Lightnet.

Deep web

The deep web is what makes up the largest part of the internet, the estimates usually range somewhere between 90 – 96 %.  The deep web is what makes up everything that is not indexed by standard web search-engines, meaning all pages that require a log-in to access. The deep web is estimated to be at least 4000 – 5000 times larger than the surface web.

Examples of content:

- Company intranets

- Internet banks

- Private forums

- Company databases

- Scientific and academic databases

- Medical records

Other names for the deep web: Hidden web, Invisible web.

Dark web / darknet

Technically the dark web is actually a part of the deep web. The exact size of the dark web is unknown, but regardless of the exact size it only makes up a very small fraction of the internet as a whole. What makes the dark web stand out – other than the infamous illegal activity that occurs on some of its websites – is that it is anonymous and consists of so called darknets, which are overlay networks that use the internet but that require special software, authorization, or configurations to access.

Examples of content:

- Marketplaces for sale of illegal drugs

- Marketplaces for illegal sale and exchange of personal data

- Child pornography

- Wikileak documents

- Scam websites and marketplaces (claiming to offer illegal goods or content)

- Non-illegal marketplaces, forums, and websites

Note! Contrary to common belief not all content on the dark web is illegal, same as not all illegal activity on the internet is concentrated to the dark web. Most illegal activity is taking place outside of the dark web in closed forums on the deep web.

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