Refresher: Still No Deep Web Levels

Those of you who read this blog regularly are probably familiar with the concept of the “deep web levels,” which I’ve said don’t exist – on more than one occasion. Someone asked me about it today, however, so here’s your “deep web primer.”

The person who created the infamous deep web levels picture was just a troll – simply that. The reason that the image got popular at all is that the creator shared it around the time that the Silk Road market was shut down by law enforcement (and thus the idea of the dark web was now part of the public consciousness):


This was also around the time that news outlets started conflating the terms “deep web” and “dark web,” so the timing was perfect! I think that its popularity also stems from the fact that the general public doesn’t have a good grasp of computer networking:


Anyhow, what you actually have, if you’re thinking of what I refer to as the “dark web,” are anonymity networks like Tor, I2P, Freenet, GNUnet, and ZeroNet. Most of these aren’t that difficult to set up – just download the software. Some require you to change your proxy settings (like I2P) as well.

The “deep web,” in a technical sense, just refers to web content that isn’t indexed by standard search engines, like Google, Bing, and even DuckDuckGo (which a lot of people seem to think is a Tor search engine).

Search engines use what are called “web robots” or “crawlers” to index content, but websites have what’s called a “robots.txt” file, on which you can instruct the robots not to index your site. If you do that, then technically, it’s in the “deep web.” Real edgy, right?


So-called dark web sites, on the other hand, would be things like Tor’s .onion sites, I2P’s eepsites (“.i2p), and Freenet’s freesites, for instance. Here’s one example of an onion site:

qj3m7wxqk4pfqwob.onion – which is MadIRC, my favorite IRC chat.


Freenet links, on the other hand, look like this:,yboLMwX1dChz8fWKjmbdtl38HR5uiCOdIUT86ohUyRg,AQACAAE/nerdageddon/1/ These are known as URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers). Here’s the site in question:


Don’t get me wrong – there are other networks too, but were you to see them, I doubt that they would be much more exciting or edgy than the ones I’ve talked about here.

That is, unless you still want to create your own Shadow Web. I’d be up for that.





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