A dark net or darknet is an overlay network
within the Internet
that can only be accessed with specific software, configurations, or authorization,
and often uses a unique customized communication protocol
. Two typical darknet types are social networks (usually used for file hosting
with a peer-to-peer
connection), and anonymity
proxy networks such as Tor
via an anonymized series of connections.
The term 'darknet' was popularised by major news outlets to associate with Tor Onion services
, when the infamous drug bazaar Silk Road
used it, despite the terminology being unofficial. Technology such as Tor
, and Freenet
was intended to defend digital rights by providing security, anonymity, or censorship resistance and is used for both illegal and legitimate reasons. Anonymous communication between whistle-blowers
, activists, journalists and news organisations is also facilitated by darknets through use of applications such as SecureDrop
The term originally described computers on ARPANET
that were hidden, programmed to receive messages but not respond to or acknowledge anything, thus remaining invisible, in the dark.
An account detailed how the first online transaction related to drugs transpired in 1971 when students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and Stanford University
traded marijuana using ARPANET accounts in the former's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
, the usage of dark net has expanded to include friend-to-friend
networks (usually used for file sharing
with a peer-to-peer
connection) and privacy
networks such as Tor.
The reciprocal term for a darknet is a clearnet
or the surface web
when referring to content indexable by search engines.
The term "darknet" is often used interchangeably
with "dark web
" due to the quantity of hidden services
's darknet. The term is often inaccurately used interchangeably with the deep web
due to Tor's history as a platform that could not be search-indexed. Mixing uses of both these terms has been described as inaccurate, with some commentators recommending the terms be used in distinct fashions.
"Darknet" was coined in the 1970s to designate networks isolated from ARPANET
(the government-founded military/academical network which evolved into the Internet
), for security purposes.
Darknet addresses could receive data from ARPANET but 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
", a 2002 paper by Peter Biddle
, Paul England
, Marcus Peinado
, and Bryan Willman
, four employees of Microsoft
who argued the presence of the darknet was the primary hindrance to the development of workable digital rights management
(DRM) technologies and made copyright infringement
inevitable. This paper described "darknet" more generally as any type of parallel network that is encrypted or requires a specific protocol to allow a user to connect to it.
Journalist J. D. Lasica
, in his 2005 book ''Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation'', described the darknet's reach encompassing file sharing networks. Subsequently, in 2014, journalist Jamie Bartlett
in his book ''The Dark Net'' used the term to describe a range of underground and emergent subculture
s, including camgirl
, darknet drug markets
, self harm
communities, social media
racists, and transhumanists
Darknets in general may be used for various reasons, such as:
* To better protect the privacy
rights of citizens from targeted
* Computer crime
(cracking, file corruption, etc.)
* Protecting dissident
s from political reprisal
* File sharing
, personal files, pornography, confidential files, illegal or counterfeit software, etc.)
* Sale of restricted goods on darknet market
and news leak
* Purchase or sale of illicit or illegal goods or services
* Circumventing network censorship
and content-filtering systems
, or bypassing restrictive firewall
All darknets require specific software installed or network configurations made to access them, such as Tor
, which can be accessed via a customised browser from Vidalia
(aka the Tor browser bundle), or alternatively via a proxy
configured to perform the same function.
Tor is the most popular instance of a darknet, often mistakenly equated with darknet in general.
is a decentralized friend-to-friend network built using VPN
and software BGP
is a high performance semi-decentralized peer-to-peer communication protocol
*Decentralized network 42
(not for anonymity but research purposes).
is a popular DHT
file hosting darknet platform. It supports friend-to-friend
can be utilised as a darknet if the "F2F (network) topology
" option is enabled.
(Invisible Internet Project) is an overlay
proxy network that features hidden services called "Eepsite
has a browser extension that may backup popular webpages.
is an open source project developing a protocol for e-commerce transactions in a fully decentralized marketplace
is a friend-to-friend
messenger communication and file transfer platform. It may be used as a darknet if DHT
and Discovery features are disabled.
is a government, client-server darknet system that simultaneously provides secure anonymity (as long as at least one server remains uncompromised), efficient computation, and minimal bandwidth burden.
is a peer-to peer communication protocol, mesh network, and self-hosted social media ecosystem
used to publish distributed
forums over the anonymous networks of I2P, Tor and Freenet.
(The onion router) is an anonymity
network that also features a darknet – via its onion services
is an anonymous BitTorrent client with built in search engine.
is a DHT
Web 2.0 hosting with Tor
No longer supported
* Turtle F2F
* Darknet market
* Dark web
* Deep web
* Private peer-to-peer
* Virtual private network
Category:Virtual private networks
Category:Distributed computing architecture