Darknet (networking)

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A darknet is a private overlay network where connections are made only between trusted peers — sometimes called "friends" (F2F)[1] — using non-standard protocols and ports. The dark web is the most commonly known subsection of the Darknet which is also part of the Deep web — the part of the Web that is not indexed in standard search engines.[2]

Darknets are distinct from other distributed peer-to-peer networks as sharing is anonymous (that is, the IP addresses of peers are not publicly shared).[3]


The term 'Darknet' is often used interchangeably with the terms dark web and deep web due to historical close associations between the technology, culture and accessibility.[2][4]

When used to describe a file sharing network, the term darknet is often used as a synonym for "friend-to-friend", describing networking exclusively between trusted peers, in contrast with many file sharing technology such as BitTorrent where peers typically communicate directly with anyone else on the network.

The term "darknet" has also been used to describe all non-commercial sites on the Internet.[5]

It has also been used to refer to all "underground" web communications and technologies, most commonly those associated with illegal activity or dissent.[3]

The Dark Web[edit]

The Dark Web, Dark Internet or Darknet is a set of the World Wide Web that is built on top of darknets rather than the Internet. Typically but not by necessity those darknets are overlay networks (virtual networks) built upon the infrastructure of the Internet. The Dark Web is often ambiguously referred to as the Deep Web even though it only makes up a very small portion of the Deep Web.[2][4]


Originally coined in the 1970s to designate networks which were isolated from ARPANET (which evolved into the Internet) for security purposes,[6] darknets were able to receive data from ARPANET but had addresses which did not appear in the network lists and would not answer pings or other inquiries.

The term gained public acceptance following publication of "The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution",[7] a 2002 paper by Peter Biddle, Paul England, Marcus Peinado, and Bryan Willman, four employees of Microsoft who described the concept as follows:

The idea of the darknet is based upon three assumptions:

  1. Any widely distributed object will be available to a fraction of users in a form that permits copying.
  2. Users will copy objects if it is possible and if they are interested in doing so.
  3. Users are connected by high-bandwidth channels.

The darknet is the distribution network that emerges from the injection of objects according to assumption 1 and the distribution of those objects according to assumptions 2 and 3.

The researchers argued that the presence of the darknet was the primary hindrance to the development of workable DRM technologies.


Darknets may be used for various reasons, such as:


Although much of the dark web is innocuous, some prosecutors and government agencies, among others, are concerned that it is a haven for serious criminality.[8]

Much of the Dark Web consists of Tor hidden services as well as other major darknets such as I2P.

Commercial darknet markets have gained media coverage such as the Silk Road selling drugs and other illegal merchandise.[9]

Specialist news sites such as DeepDotWeb.[10][11] and All Things Vice[12] provide news coverage and practical information about dark web sites and services.


All darknets require specific software installed or network configurations made to access them, such a Tor which can be accessed via a customised browser from Vidalia, aka the Tor browser bundle or alternatively via a proxy server configured to perform the same function.


A cartogram illustrating Tor usage


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mansfield-Devine, Steve (December 2009). "Darknets". Computer Fraud & Security 2009 (12): 4–6. doi:10.1016/S1361-3723(09)70150-2. 
  2. ^ a b c "Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web". brightplanet.com. April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Wood, Jessica (2010). "The Darknet: A Digital Copyright Revolution" (PDF). Richmond Journal of Law and Technology 16 (4): 15–17. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Solomon, Jane (6 May 2015). "The Deep Web vs. The Dark Web". Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  5. ^ Lasica, J. D. (2005). Darknets: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-68334-5. 
  6. ^ "About Darknet". Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  7. ^ Biddle, Peter; England, Paul; Peinado, Marcus; Willman, Bryan (18 November 2002). The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution (PDF). ACM Workshop on Digital Rights Management. Washington, D.C.: Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Lev Grossman. "The Secret Web: Where Drugs, Porn and Murder Live Online". TIME.com. 
  9. ^ Burleigh, Nina (19 February 2015). "The Rise and Fall of Silk Road, the Dark Web's Amazon". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  10. ^ Cite error: The named reference yahoo was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  11. ^ Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (13 May 2015). "Hackers Tried To Hold a Darknet Market For a Bitcoin Ransom". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Solon, Olivia (3 February 2013). "Police crack down on Silk Road following first drug dealer conviction". Retrieved 27 May 2015. 

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