The wonder about the Internet is that it’s still expanding at an incalculable rate, and it remains defiantly free and democratic, despite all attempts at controlling it. So there’s no embarrassment to admit we’re far from grasping even a fraction of its multi billion-plus sites.
But as vast as the Web may be, it is but a shallow dip into its depths. To dive unprepared into the bowels of what’s known as Deep Web, is not advisable. Unreachable by search engine spiders, it’s like falling into an abyss, and like the ocean, it can crush you.
It’s not enough to Google ‘dark net’ in order to get to it, but it does bring up a staggering number of links. And that’s a start for a glance of the Deep Web which is some four to five hundred times larger than what’s available to everyone: about 6,500 terabytes compared to the meek 20 terabytes you can all access to. As for what’s in really in there, it’s another matter.
Close 500 billion of that numbing figure are of sites you’ll probably never be admitted to, and as you’ll find out, nor should you try to. That is, unless you’re absolutely sure about what you’re getting yourself into. Consider that a fair warning.
Of course, not all that info is really relevant to the lives of the majority of people. But if you really need to be granted access, and there are ways to get it, what you’ll find is way more reliable data that you’re used to be fed by a regular search. A lot of it sits inside directories, under specific topic-driven searches, though.
WHERE THE WEB IS STICKIER
Despite the benign imagery used to invoke the differences between the regular Interweb and the Deep Web – fishing through the surface of the ocean as opposed to deep sea fishing – there’s not much that’s benign about this bottomless well of info, and many may find themselves, well, out of their depth while searching it.
That’s because traditional search engines have standard (more)
* It Blogs the Mind
* Spinning World
* Why, Fine
ways of looking for data on the net, that render them blind to what’s really below the surface. Those hidden sites simply don’t exist for Google, Yahoo, and all other, commercial and advertising-driven engines.
Or you may say that they know what’s good for them. Besides lacking explicit commercial potential, this non-indexed region, the Hidden Wiki, is populated with law enforcement, organized crime, spy agencies, pedophile networks, hacker forums, scientists, and mad revolutionaries, terrorists, data miners, kidnappers; you name it, it’s probably there.
So, as you wouldn’t wander idly into an unknown, lawless neighborhood, you wouldn’t want your computer’s ID to be linked to a site that operates under its own rules. Unless, of course, you do have business to attend there, it’s your godamned business to do as you please, and does anybody have a problem with that?
Many of those realms, of course, are not downright illegal, or harbor any ill against society. They’re simply driven by specific bits of knowledge to be pursued, researched, or enriched, and people who run them are just contributing to the greater good of the humankind. Yeah, and we’re taking our first trip to Mars tomorrow too.
TO HELL AND BACK
To get to this Hades, where the underbelly of the big beast stores more knowledge about our human adventure that it’d ever be possible by the visible Web, there are a few ‘vessels,’ many of which you may need proof of ID to board. Infomine is one of such ship to the underworld. The Virtual Library is another one.
Intute, Complete Planet, (be careful, this one will grab you) and Infoplease, which you probably already know, are some other ones. The site makeuseof.com lists a few others. What regular engines don’t recognize, such as .onion and others, new browsers, such as the Tor project do. Again, a browser may help you navigate the few downloads and additional clicks needed to get to the shore of this immense body of data.
Although you may hear from a lot of people that it’s no big deal, it’s always wise to have in mind a sense of purpose and to take a few precautionary measures, before diving in. In fact, it’s no wonder that, as people wise up to the invasion of their privacy routinely perpetrated by the sites they visit, they begin to wonder whether there’s another way.
Then again, the great majority of net surfers are fine just wandering about it, giving away their personal data, either unwittingly or in exchange for some coffee mug, without really wondering how it’s going to be used, and who’s about to profit from its trading.
Restrain is one of the rare things that’s very hard to find on the Web, visible or invisible. Quite the contrary: some like to boast their ability to simultaneously ‘exist’ in different realms of virtual reality, and don’t mind being branded in real life by the private tastes and idiosyncrasies they sport online. And vice versa.
A TASTE OF THE UNDERWORLD
Whatever may be our motivation to dig deeper into the Internet, the contemporary version of the ancient Library of Alexandria, we’re bound to return from it singed by its primeval fires. For down where great minds may dwell to find cures or to rid the world of the scourge of war, it’s also where masterminds of perversion may conspire to our own demise.
So if you must go, arm yourself with all the care needed to come back as unscathed as possible. Remember the myth of Orpheus, who successfully charmed his way to the underworld on the sheer power of his songs, in order to rescue his beloved Eurydice. But he nonetheless failed to heed to the instructions for her safe return, and, at the last moment, lost her forever.
As it is now, it’s impossible to know how long the Internet will last. Or if some day this gargantuan repository of human knowledge will too be done in by fire or ignorance. For now, despite being only a few decades old, it’s already astounding in size and extension.
It’s been also a place of constant transformation, of infinite interconnections, and catastrophic miscommunication. It’s as physical as the air we breathe, and yet, it feels like a metaphoric channel of human expression. It is billions of things to billions of people, but one thing it is not: a playground. To treat it like a toy may be the equivalent of trying to cross an autobahn by foot. You will get run over.
(*) Originally published on Sept. 5, 2012.