What is Tor, the Deep Web, and the Dark Web?

Find some quick descriptions on the Tor network, the deep web, and the dark web to aid in your Beacon navigation.

We are all familiar with the popular surface web giants of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube. However, these websites and others that live within the surface web only make up around 10% of the internet. The other 90% of the World Wide Web is comprised of what we call the Deep Web and the Dark Web.


The Tor browser was created by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in the 1990’s with the aim of enabling secure communications within the government. The name is derived from an acronym for the original software project name, "The Onion Router". When a user uses Tor, their Internet traffic is routed through Tor’s network and enters several randomized relays before exiting the Tor network. This process makes it theoretically impossible to decipher which computer originally requested the traffic, thus signifying the layering behind the “onion” browser and ultimately creating anonymity for the user. To learn more about Tor and to download it, please visit their website: https://www.torproject.org/

Deep Web

The deep web includes websites and data that are non discoverable by search engines within the surface web. This includes the dark web, as well as password-protected or dynamic pages, encrypted networks, and internet archives. Most of the content within the deep web requires authentication to view, such as banking information, email accounts, and direct messages on social media. It is estimated that the deep web is at least 400-500 times the size of the surface web.

Dark Web

The Dark Web goes deeper than the Deep Web, and is classified as any content intentionally hidden or anonymized online. The Dark Web is made up of websites that can only be accessed through the Tor browser. Tor allows for anonymity of the user, creating a breeding ground for illicit activity, ranging from the sale of weapons, drugs, hitman services, and much more.