As the dark web has become a more common topic of discussion, the term “deep web” is often used synonymously with dark web — but there is a significant difference between the two. Read on to learn about the difference between the deep web and the dark web:

What is the deep web?

Deep web simply refers to pages that are not indexed by Google and other search engines — meaning you won’t find these pages by searching for them online — but you likely access the deep web each day you’re online. Anytime you log into a page that requires a direct address, a login, or you can only find it through sites and not search engines, you’re on the deep web.

Some examples of the deep web include:

  • Online banking
  • Your email account
  • Online access of personal documents such as medical records
  • Paid content such as news subscriptions
  • Streaming services such as Netflix (once logged in)
  • Pages not linked to by any other pages that require the exact URL to access

As you can see from the examples, you’re probably using the deep web all the time! It’s quite useful in our day-to-day lives. Deep web pages are simply URLs that can’t be found on a Google search or other search engine — and these pages make up the vast majority of all pages on the web.

So, what’s the difference between the deep web and the dark web?

Like the deep web, the dark web isn’t indexed by search engines and can’t be found in a Google or Bing search. Unlike the deep web, however, the dark web can’t be accessed at all from standard web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

Some in the industry like to use the analogy of an iceberg for the internet:

  • The Surface Web: If you think about an iceberg, the part that sticks out above the surface of the water is just a fraction of the entire thing — the tip of the iceberg. The surface web is just the tip of the internet iceberg. They’re pages you find when you search for something online and never need login credentials to access. Though immense in number, these pages make up only a small portion of the iceberg/internet.
  • The Deep Web: The lion’s share of the web, like an iceberg, lies below the surface. The deep web consists of the types of pages listed above and is accessed by most web users every single day. Innumerable deep web pages exist, and they’re generally not malicious.
  • The Dark Web: The dark web is the bottom part of the iceberg that descends into the dark depths of the ocean. A vast amount of web pages exist here as well but can’t be accessed by standard web browsers — special software and a distinct type of web browser are required. Accessing the dark web is not illegal on its own, but it consists of illicit markets and forums, as well as many other types of sites where illegal activity does occur.

The dark web hosts a variety of unknown sites and is notorious for hosting stolen personal data. To find out more about the dark web, read our dark web guide.