aceplace57, you’re confusing the dark web with the deep web, an unfortunately common mistake. The deep web is sites that are not indexed, eg. because the pages are generated dynamically based on form input, or because the page requires a login. For example, your bank’s web page that you see when you log in to your account is obviously not indexed by Google.
The dark web is sites that can only be accessed by special software like Tor, not ordinary browsers, and usually involves extra layers of encryption to anonymize its users. Because of the anonymous nature of dark web access, it’s used a lot for illegal activities.
If you could easily find it, for instance using a search engine, then it wouldn’t be on the dark web, now would it? You would have to get a link from somebody who knows it, or from an up-to-date list.
That does raise the interesting question of what exactly counts as “dark” and what content is out there. Certainly there are a lot of shady and/or criminal forums (e.g., a 2016 survey of web-based hidden services found that illicit drugs and illicit finance were the most common categories, at 15% and 12% respectively), but I would expect most random web pages to be boring internal private corporate sites, and a lot of so-called “hidden” services are totally advertised and searchable via search engines and therefore not dark in the least.
Who is making this distinction, though, and is it relevant? Most users don’t know or care what any software does on a technical level, so what’s the difference between an ordinary web site found through an ordinary search engine and accessible via an ordinary web browser, and a Tor web site on a Tor search engine and a Tor browser, except that the user may have had to install an extra plug-in or browser that supports additional protocols?
Having to use Tor is the distinction. It’s more than just a browser plug-in, you also need the Tor software which often has the browser addons bundled in a single installer. Tor is analogous to a VPN and significantly changes how network traffic is handled. The separate browser software is just a convienence to have a browser preconfigured to access the Tor network without having to alter your normal browser settings.
The dark web is part of the deep web since it’s not indexed, but the distinction is VERY important for those who depend on the anonymizing behavior of dark web sites. You don’t want the police busting down your door because you bought your nuclear weapons on a deep web site instead of a dark web site.
It is worth highlighting the history of Tor, and the curious Faustian Bargain it entails.
Tor was originally developed with funding from DARPA and the US Navy. Why? Because they wanted a secure system by which secret communication could be performed without there even being any trace of the communication, let alone the content. The Tor system has the interesting property that it becomes more secure the more people that use it. If only government agents used it it would be trivially defeated. It is the presence of all the other traffic on the Tor network that provides the anonymising background. So the obvious course for the developers was to make the system freely available and encourage uptake. So you have the tension that defence wants to have Tor operate securely, whilst civilian law enforcement wants to break it.
TOR isn’t just a browser. It is supported by thousands of servers all over the world which randomly route data to each other. Each time your data passes from one server to another it adds a layer of encryption. Each individual server doesn’t know where the data will ultimately end up. If people stopped hosting TOR data on their servers, the whole thing would fail. Capturing a TOR server doesn’t do much good, because it would not reveal much about who was transmitting data through that server. And yes, there are enthusiasts and activists whose hobby is hosting TOR servers for whatever ideological reason.
The whole point is that TOR users only talk to other TOR users, so as to maintain anonymity for all parties.
The TOR software allows users to touch “public” websites like anyone else, but with added layers of privacy. There is also the “dark web” which can only be accessed through TOR browser. The Dark Web is a network of sites overwhelmingly devoted to pedophiles, hackers, and contraband retailers. If you are not interested in these things, I really can’t see much reason to spend time on a “Dark Web” site. If you are selling legitimate products, for example, using a Dark site would be self-defeating. Journalists, political activists, and other people in danger of discovery might have a “legitimate” use for dark sites, but the average person does not.
Of course, a web-privacy activist would probably say that everyone should use TOR just for the protection it provides against snooping.
For the purposes of the OP’s question, the distinction is relevant. The deep web is a normal part of the web. Your web-based e-mail and your online banking are deep web. The dark web is a completely separate network that houses criminal activity—that’s what the OP is asking about.
The most important distinction for the term “dark web” is being a fear-mongering term for the purpose of selling personal security services like life-lock and all that nonsense. There is no “separate network” for criminal activity - only higher-level and more obfuscated access controls. It’s all the same Internet.