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A darknet (or dark net) is a portion of routed, allocated IP space not running any services. Traffic arriving to such IP dark space is undesired since it has no active hosts.[1]

The term dark net has been mistakenly conflated with the dark web which is an overlay network that can be accessed only with specific software, configurations, or authorization, often using non-standard communication protocols and ports. Dark webs are friend-to-friend networks (usually used for file sharing with a peer-to-peer connection) and privacy networks such as Tor.[2][3]

The reciprocal term for an encrypted darknet is clearnet or surface web when referring to content indexable by search engines.[4][5][6][7]


As of 2015, the term "darknet" is often used interchangeably with the "dark web" due to the quantity of hidden services on Tor'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.[8][9][10]


"Darknet" was coined in the 1970s to designate networks isolated from ARPANET (which evolved into the Internet), for security purposes.[11] 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.[12]


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.[13] Subsequently, in 2014, journalist Jamie Bartlett in his book The Dark Net used the term to describe a range of underground and emergent subcultures, including camgirls, cryptoanarchists, darknet drug markets, self harm communities, social media racists, and transhumanists.[14]


Darknets in general may be used for various reasons, such as:


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.


A cartogram illustrating Tor usage

No longer supported[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ De Santis, Giulia; Lahmadi, Abdelkader; Francois, Jerome; Festor, Olivier. "Modeling of IP scanning activities with Hidden Markov Models: Darknet case study". IEEE.ORG. IEEE. Retrieved 16 April 2018.|1|1
  2. ^ Wood, Jessica (2010). "The Darknet: A Digital Copyright Revolution" (PDF). Richmond Journal of Law and Technology. 16 (4): 15–17. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  3. ^ Mansfield-Devine, Steve (December 2009). "Darknets". Computer Fraud & Security. 2009 (12): 4–6. doi:10.1016/S1361-3723(09)70150-2.
  4. ^ Miller, Tessa (10 January 2014). "How Can I Stay Anonymous with Tor?". Life Hacker. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  5. ^ Torpey, Kyle (2 December 2014). "Blockchain.info Launches Tor Hidden Service". Inside Bitcoins. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  6. ^ Roger, Jolly. "Clearnet vs Hidden Services – Why You Should Be Careful". Jolly Roger’s Security Guide for Beginners. DeepDotWeb. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  7. ^ Barratt, Monica (15 January 2015). "A Discussion About Dark Net Terminology". Drugs, Internet, Society. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web". BrightPlanet.
  9. ^ NPR Staff (25 May 2014). "Going Dark: The Internet Behind The Internet". Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  10. ^ Greenberg, Andy (19 November 2014). "Hacker Lexicon: What Is the Dark Web?". Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Om Darknet". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Lasica, J. D. (2005). Darknets: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-68334-5.
  14. ^ Ian, Burrell (28 August 2014). "The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett, book review". Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  15. ^ Taylor, Harriet (19 May 2016). "Hit men, drugs and malicious teens: the darknet is going mainstream".
  16. ^ "Who uses Tor?". Tor Project. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  17. ^ Bennett, Krista; Grothoff, Christian; Kügler, Dennis (2003). Dingledine, Roger, ed. Privacy Enhancing Technologies Third International Workshop (PET 2003). Springer-Verlag (Heidelberg). pp. 141–175. ISBN 9783540206101.
  18. ^ Xiang, Yang; Lopez, Javier; Jay Kuo, C.-C.; Zhou, Wanlei, eds. (2012). Cyberspace Safety and Security: 4th International Symposium : Proceedings (CSS 2012). Springer (Heidelberg). pp. 89, 90. ISBN 9783642353628.
  19. ^ Young Hyun Kwon (20 May 2015). "Riffle: An Efficient Communication System with Strong Anonymity" (PDF). Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  20. ^ Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office (11 July 2016). "How to stay anonymous online". Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  21. ^ "Anticounterfeiting on the Dark Web – Distinctions between the Surface Web, Dark Web and Deep Web" (PDF). 13 April 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to Darknet at Wikimedia Commons