What if I said there was Internet beyond what you can normally ’see’? Like dark matter, or the memory of a half-remembered dream, it lies just outside of perception, hidden beneath the sea of information. It is estimated that the Dark Web is several orders of magnitude larger than the surface of the Web. Just what is it? And how can you access it?
Tor .onion domains
There are many different techniques in use, but Tor’s onion router network is probably the easiest one to get started with. The .onion domains are not part of the ICANN registry, and will not resolve until you are running Tor (download it here). Because of the way Tor routing works, both the host serving out web pages and the requesting client are obscured and are not easily identifiable in the twilight (see these diagrams for full explanation). The combined effect leaves this form of Internet far beyond any kind of government control or regulation. You only need to click the ‘new identity’ button and Tor will pick a new node to make requests through – which will seem to give you a new IP address and a completely new identity even for regular Internet (see below).
With Tor installed, you can access .onion domains such as the Hidden Wiki (which tells you a little about this realm), setup hosting with freedom hosting, create a blog at blog.masked or visit the Tor directory to see what other services are available.
Hosting Pages on the Tor Network
There are no laws here and you are free to publish anything and everything and nobody will even be able to identify you, much less stop you. As always, use this technology responsibly! You can configure hidden services for tor by clicking setup, then services and clicking the add (+) (see diagram below). Simply run your favourite server, whether this is Apache, IIS or whatever then on this menu screen point Tor at localhost / 127.0.0.1 (in this case we are using it for http / web so we choose port 80). Tor will automatically generate the hash string which you may give out to others to access your server through – although they will have no way of identifying you.
As you can imagine, you will find all manner of unsavory things on the dark side of the Internet (it hit the news recently, when U.S. senators realised that websites openly sold drugs), but it is also used for a tremendous amount of good. It is a place where the people may gather, out of sight and even further out of reach. I urge you to see this as the Wild West, or Tokyo before the Edo period; wild and untamed but full of possibilities!
Another form of dark net or dark internet can be found in the I2P2 network (See the Wikipedia here. You can download the software here. I2P works in a very similar way to Tor, although is a little bit more flexible and can be used for many different types of protocol and different applications including Web access, email, IRC Chat, fire sharing and more. Running this software will allow you to access I2P Domains, another form of Dark Internet.
See the great tutorial below for how to set this up:
Namecoin .bit Domains and Alternative DNS
Many similarly great projects are currently under development. Namecoin is an decentralised, distributed DNS system that provides .bit top level domains, built on the same architecture as Bitcoin. Basically you need to ‘mine’ for Namecoin in the same way you mine for Bitcoins. This is then exchangeable for a .bit domain name. Interestingly ICANN have also recently announced an increase in the number of allowed web suffixes. Perhaps the timing is no co-incidence.
Other Forms Dark Web and Darknet
It should be noted that Deep Web is an all-encompassing term that includes all manner of content that is not typically accessible (either due to it being on some non-standard DNS like Dark Internet or that it is simply not indexed for (and cannot be found through) search, or that there are simply no links to the sites. Darknet however, typically refers to the file sharing side of things (including peer-to-peer file sharing methods) and also IRC chat relays most of which are typically not index-able. I will argue that the Dark Internet itself is the natural and inevitable response to a government trying to assert more control than the technorati feels it deserves. I predict we will see a steady growth and development in these areas in the coming months. Who knows what we will see, but one thing is for sure – the architecture of the Internet is about to develop a lot further.