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What is the dark web and why should I care?

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You may have heard about the “dark web” here and there, but what exactly is it? It’s any set of web content that can’t be accessed through a normal browser, the most popular of which is Tor. Tor is a browser built on Firefox, and allows you to access “.onion” sites that normal browsers can’t find.

Using Tor, it’s virtually impossible for a website to know who you are, because every move you make is routed to various servers around the world to make you difficult to track down. Similarly, any .onion site is hard to pin down, because the address doesn’t take you directly to an IP address, but bounces around as well.

Here is a great TED Talk from Jamie Barlett that explains more about it and why he feels it will become much more popular in the near future:

Despite the misunderstanding and anonymity surround the dark web, it’s really quite easy to access. Simply download the Tor browser and you can go from there. As I mentioned before, the browser itself is built on Firefox and is completely safe to use. Many of the sites, as Jamie explained in his video, are not quite as safe. Using the Tor browser, you can view any normal websites just like you always could, but you also can now view .onion sites, which are only available on Tor.

Setting up sites on the dark web is a bit of a different animal that we won’t get into for now, but you can’t use your normal hosting companies for it yet (HostGator, ClickHOST, GoDaddy, etc). We’ve set one up to test things out, and made a very simple directory of other useful sites you can find. If you have Tor set up, head over to o2yf7ke4v6jervqy.onion to see it (it’s a bit up and down, so refresh a few times if needed).

The site isn’t much to see, as it was essentially a proof-of-concept for us to play with and learn. If you’re sharp, you may notice that the site is built on WordPress. Why not? At the core of the dark web, it’s still just HTML-based websites and can be built any way that you want. The difference is simply how users and sites are tracked.

Have you tried out Tor yet? Do you think Jamie is correct that millions more will be hopping on soon?

About the Author

Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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