New technologies have always been scary. In fact, a study shows that Americans are more afraid of robots than actual death. It might seem a bit of an exaggeration, but with the ongoing technological advancement like the ability to control the mind, such as Elon Musk’s NeuraLink, it might be in its place. However, this fear can also create confusion. Cryptocurrencies have caused many concerns among people since they first emerged. Now, some have also confused the decentralization of Web3 to be reminiscent of the infamous Dark Web. However, are the dark web and Web3 really the same?
What Is the Dark Web?
The dark web, also known as the darknet, is an encrypted branch of the internet that is not indexed by regular search engines such as Google. This means that the content available on the dark web cannot be accessed directly, and it would need special browsers such as The Onion Router (TOR) Browser.
How so? Well, traditional search engines showcase results that contain indexes of links to websites. The information found on the dark web however is encrypted, and therefore, cannot be detected on indexes.
It includes pages that don’t show up when you run a search query. These pages can be content that requires a login. For instance, a certain movie on Netflix has to be on a page somewhere on the internet. However, running a search query wouldn’t get you to that page because it is locked behind a paywall. These pages reside on the deep web.
Deep Web vs. Dark Web
Hold on, deep web? That’s right. The internet has 3 layers of accessing information.
- The Surface Web: The data available on the surface web is purposefully indexed by search engines. That means that everything you see on the internet is part of the surface web.
- The Deep Web: This layer constitutes around 95% of the internet. The data on the deep web is encrypted and not indexed by search engines. Here is where you can find websites that can be accessed with a username and password, legal and medical records, and banking accounts.
- The Dark Web: The data on the dark web cannot be accessed directly like other internet layers. You have to have special software to access the dark web. Websites on this layer usually have TOR URLs that are impossible to guess, remember, or trace.
The dark web is known for being a place filled with drug and unregistered weapons marketplaces, stolen data exchanges, abuse, and other illicit activities. However, although it has a bad reputation, the dark web can be accessed for legitimate reasons such as for political dissidents and to keep information private.
What Is Web3?
Unlike the dark web, Web3 is not a layer of the internet. It is however a new iteration of the internet. The version of the internet you are using now is called Web2. The World Wide Web, from its inception, has witnessed many advancements. It went from users being content consumers in Web1 to people being content creators in Web2.
- Web1: The first stage of the internet. In the first iteration of the World Wide Web, users were mainly consumers browsing static HTML. It was the “read” era and was almost completely not interactive.
- Web2: The current stage of the internet. This era of the Internet started in the early 2000s when users had the ability to share their content. This concept made widespread adoption through the emergence of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Web2 functions on a client-server model that give centralized control to authorities behind certain platforms. Which might lead to censorship and the control of private data.
- Web3: The new stage of the internet. Web3 is a completely decentralized stage of the internet that is built on an immutable ledger, the blockchain. Web3 functions through peer-to-peer networks that eliminate the central power of control. Giving the power right back to people.
So, Web3 came around as a solution for the issues generated by centralized authorities. It is self-governing, permissionless, and secure, harnessing the high-security level of the blockchain.
Web3 mostly runs using Decentralized Finance (DeFi) principles. This is where cryptocurrencies come in. In order to have an internet that is completely decentral, the reliance on central banks and forms of currencies isn’t that efficient within the Web3 ecosystem. This is why most decentralized Apps (dApps) require you to link a crypto wallet to your account.
Web3 vs. Dark Web: Not the Same Thing
So, it must be clear to you that the dark web and Web3 are completely separate things. However, why do most people confuse them? Well, there are a few key similarities that might make Web3 resemble the infamous dark web.
- Decentralization: Both Web3 and the dark web run on a decentralized peer-to-peer network.
- Encryption: Both Web3 and the dark web utilize cryptography to encrypt data.
- Privacy: Both Web3 and the dark web ensure user privacy.
So, if Web3 is a decentralized place where only the end user control their encrypted data and no central entity can shut it down, doesn’t that seem very similar to how the dark web functions? Well, yes. But both vary in their core purpose. People use the dark web for anonymity, which cannot Web3 cannot guarantee. Cryptocurrencies, although decentralized, can be traced back to their original owner.
At its core, the dark web isn’t even that decentralized. The TOR network is distributed, however, the onion domain is just another HTTP server of that of Web2.
It’s important to note that although the dark web is associated with illicit activities, many people use it for legitimate reasons. This is also mirrored in Web3. Web3 is known to be legitimate, even though it is not been yet regulated by the law. Some people utilize Web3 and cryptocurrencies to conduct illicit acts such as money laundering, phishing scams, identity theft, and other unlawful activities.
The Use of Crypto on the Dark Web
It’s vital to mention another reason why some might relate Web3 to the dark web, this is because of cryptocurrencies. Most dark web users refer to cryptocurrencies for their anonymity, ease of cross-border transactions, and finality of settlement to conduct illicit acts.
Infamous dark web marketplaces such as The Silk Road, a platform for illegal activities such as buying and selling drugs and unregistered weaponry, used Bitcoin as a method of payment. A couple of months after the launch of Silk Road, the value of Bitcoin shot up from one dollar to thirty dollars. This raised suspicions from the US government, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down Silk Road in 2013.
A big proof that Web3 is not the dark web, or not in a way similar to it, is the fact that blockchain technology aided law enforcement to track the illicit transactions of that marketplace.
Now, however, criminals use the Monero cryptocurrency when conducting illegal transactions on the dark web. Monero is an altcoin founded back in 2014 and gained attraction from dark web users for its digital address concealment. This altcoin is also famous among cryptojackers that hack victims’ devices to steal computing power to mine cryptocurrencies.
The Legimitacy of Web3
Attributing Web3 to the dark web is actually against Web3’s ethos. Cryptocurrencies and Web3 technologies such as NFTs have not been yet labeled by the law as illegal or legitimate, and so, judging this new iteration of the internet on a few bad actors seems unfair. All sectors have their fair share of illegal activities, and Web3 is no exception.
In order for Web3 to grow and gain mass adoption, people need to be openly accepting of its core concepts of decentralization and be less afraid and skeptical of this new technology. Web3 still has a long road ahead, and this technological advancement has yet to tap into its potential.