Every now and then the media comes up with a sensational story about the Deep Web. Often these tales are shocking and frightening – but are they true?

What is the Dark Web and Deep Web?

Before going further, we need to understand what the Deep Web actually is – fortunately the concept is much easier than you might think. Any web page that you can locate from a search engine is known as the “Surface Web” – links to these pages are easy to find. Other pages, like those included in pop-ups or hidden away behind login forms count as “Deep Web” because they cannot be easily found, and they are not publicly linked.

So the rule of thumb is that if you can find a page on Google it counts as “Surface Web”. If not, that page is considered “Deep Web”.

So should you be worried about it?

To help you decide, here are 5 facts and fictions to help cut through the hype.

  • Fact: The Deep Web is bigger than the Surface Web
    Current estimates suggest that the Surface Web is made up of 1 billion documents. The Deep Web contains 550 billion, so it is much, much larger.
  • Fiction: The Deep Web is run by criminals
    Many news stories about the Deep Web confuse non-indexed web pages with the Dark Web, a system used to hide online activities. The reality is that most of the Deep Web is perfectly legitimate, run by reputable companies and individuals.
  • Fiction: You need special tools to access 
    Most of the Deep Web is just basic web pages – all you need is a standard web browser like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Safari. The Dark Web on the other hand uses a special browser called Tor to hide browsing activity – and you can’t get in without it.
  • Fact: Most of the Deep Web is completely free to access
    Although Deep Web content is slightly harder to find, 95% of those pages, videos and images are completely free to access. Deep Web content that is not free to access includes subscription content like newspapers and membership sites.
  • Fiction: The Dark Web and Deep Web are the same
    Some people use the terms interchangeably – but they are totally different things. The Dark Web is built around the idea of protecting privacy – a fact that is sometimes exploited by criminals to trade illegally. The Deep Web is simply content that is inaccessible to search engines, making it slightly harder to uncover. Experts estimate that although the Deep Web accounts for 90%+ of the Internet, the Dark Web makes up less than 0.1%.

Safe or unsafe?

The reality is that the Deep Web is mostly harmless. And although the Dark Web does contain plenty of unsafe content, the reality is that most people will never come into contact with it.

Unfortunately the similarity between names, and the hysterical headlines means that many of us are confused about the difference between the two. It also means that many of us have been accessing the Deep Wen all along – we just never realised!