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The Different Layers of the Internet

By Peter Clarke, JD on September 13, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Most of us regularly use the surface level of the internet. But there are other deeper and darker levels. So, let's briefly explore three levels of the internet.

First, there is the "surface web." As you read this blog, you are operating on the surface web. When you access your email, when you tweet on Twitter, when you conduct Google searches, when you listen to Pandora, when you watch YouTube videos, when you buy and sell things on eBay, and when you shop on Amazon, you are utilizing the surface web.

This part of the internet probably is the most familiar to you, so you might think that it comprises the vast majority of the internet. Wrong! According to a recent blog by Vinay Kumar, the surface web comprises only 4 percent of the internet.

Second, we come to the "deep web." This part of the internet is not indexed and cannot by searched by Google or any other search engine. Apparently, as stated by Kumar, practically 96 percent of the internet is made up of the deep web. What is there? It is very common now for individuals and companies to save information in the cloud. This information can include text data, audio files, photos and videos. Unless purposely made publicly available, this information is not locatable through search engines. Probably it is a good thing that the deep web generally is not searchable, given that much of the content there is private and/or personal.

And third, there is the "dark web." This is a place on the internet where you really should not want to go. In the dark web, there can be the trafficking of guns, ammunition, illegal drugs, slaves, and other illegal items. Criminal activity of various types takes place in the dark web. Usual search engines do not lead to the dark web. Obviously, there are ways of getting into the dark web, but your faithful blogger (moi) has not looked into such access, nor would your blogger tell you about how to access this part of the internet even if he knew.

Be smart and safe out there! Hopefully, your life will benefit from the surface web in many ways, you will have private access to your personal information in the deep web, and you will say away from the dark web.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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