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Facebook has 1.32 billion users, 864 million of which visit the site everyday for an average of 21 minutes.

The lion’s share of the world’s connected (not currently located behind the Great Firewall of China) fit into a similar browsing pattern, spending their free time browsing the corporate surface web — which in addition to Facebook includes sites like YouTube, Yahoo, Google and Amazon.

The handful of sites at the top of the Alexa rankings command the majority of our attention spans. Then there’s everything else that is easily found through a tertiary search protocol: blogs, Reddit, news outlets, Pinterest, Craigslist, et cetera.

Beyond this lies the deep web, also known as the invisible or hidden web. You cannot Google your way through it and it is estimated to be some 500x larger than what we’re able to see on the surface. To understand just how big the deep web really is, consider the following: in 2008, Google had indexed approximately 1 trillion unique URLs. The number has grown substantially since then, and the deep web is 500 times bigger than whatever that number is now.

Typically associated with a laundry list of very bad things, the deep web is actually a generic term that simply describes areas of the Internet that are not accessible by standard search engines, which includes things like academic databases and organizational intranets.

Take another step into the deep end and you’ll find The Onion Router (TOR) — a network of virtual tunnels that allows its users to “protect their privacy and defend themselves against network surveillance and traffic analysis.”

Now this is where things start to get interesting and weird. It’s also where you’ll begin to peel back the layers to find those shadowy corners of the Internet that the news warned you about.

Tor features sites like:

  • The Silk Road anonymous market
  • Bankers of God: offering citizenship services and “diplomatic world introductions.”
  • Bitmix Bitcoin Laundry
  • PayPal Heaven: “easy money!”
  • Anonymous Firearms: ”I will sell firearms for bitcoin, I can accept escrow.”
  • Black Ops Forgery: *Fake passports *Stolen identities *Counterfeit Yens.
  • Netflix4U: Dirt cheap Netflix accounts.

Plus many, many, many more. Some too unspeakable to mention in print. But Tor isn’t just a den of vice, though it is more often than not characterized that way. In addition to providing a marketplace for illicit objects and services, Tor is an invaluable tool used by whistleblowers, activists and journalists in countries where anonymity is a life or death issue. Which these days, is most countries.

But still the web goes deeper. If you keeping digging under Tor, and even past all the PANs, LANs and WANs (personal, local and wide area networks) and you have enough patience, dedication and know-how, you’ll eventually reach what is known as the fabled “Mariana’s Web.”

This is the black hole of the Internet. Google it and you’ll be told it’s a hoax and that it doesn’t exist, which in many ways is completely accurate characterization. Mariana’s Web is not so much a place you can find, but a place that you can’t find once other things are found.