There has been much discussion about the increase in traffic and data overload on the network in the last decade, which was triggered especially by the appearance of video OTT platforms, that not only operate with standard quality, but also in High Definition and 4K, exceeding the capacities projected by Internet providers at a global level and generating immense operational cost overruns.

According to Juan Ramón García Bish, Andinalink professor and engineer of the company Gigared, only Google with its portfolio of services, including YouTube, consumes approximately 30% of the total user traffic, Netflix consumes around 15%, Facebook another 10% although the figures vary between rural and urban areas, since Netflix increases in the urban area. Although CDN (Content Delivery Network – Datacenter) and Peering (direct connection, traffic exchange or pairing) lighten the load a little, the figures inflate local and international networks.

Although the so-called OTTs are mostly responsible for this congestion, they are neither the only ones nor the main ones, since there is a hidden, non-indexed and undocumented Internet that produces huge amounts of irregular traffic, constituting more than 90% of the total data hosted in the cloud, whose traffic in most cases is uncertain, some estimate it at 5% and others more pessimistic at 10%. The truth is that it has consolidated as a great global threat, not only because of its unpredictability and uncontrollability, but also because of the illegal market that leverages it and that has alarmed users, providers and authorities.

What is Deep Web, Dark Web and Darknet?

It is necessary to first understand the definition of these four concepts: Deep Web, Dark Web and Darknet, in order to understand why these networks constitute a major threat to humanity and to the Internet itself.

The most common and therefore, easy-to-understand concept is Clearnet: This is the Internet as we know it, all the web pages found on Google and which can be accessed directly through a conventional browser such as Edge, Chrome or Firefox. For example, our Andinalink Blog is a Clearnet page, because it is quickly found if it is googled as well as if you want to access it through its URL. Clearnet by 2018 and google alone, registers about 1.5 Billion unique websites indexed.

On the other hand, Dark Web is that fragment of the Internet that can only be accessed through specific applications and is part of the Deep Web, occupying approximately 0.1% to 0.3% of it, according to Xataka portal figures, which defined Dark Web in a specialized article as: “the portion of the Internet that is intentionally hidden from search engines, uses masked IP addresses and is accessible only using a special web browser“.

The Dark Web is composed mainly of pages that have proprietary domains such as those used by the TOR system whose extension is .onion or .i2p of I2P eepsites, which in both cases require exclusive navigation systems and owners, being TOR generally the most used.

Finally, the term Darknet was coined and defined by Peter Biddle, Paul England, Marcus Peinado and Bryan Willman (Microsoft Researchers) in 2002 in a paper they called “The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution” stating that the Darknet is: “A collection of networks and technologies that could revolutionize the sharing of digital content“.

While there is only one Clearnet: The World Wide Web. However, there are many variants and technologies in the case of the Darknet, the best known being the friend-to-friend Freenet, I2P or Invisible Internet Project (Eepsites with .i2p extension or ZeroNet with its multiple services). But the most popular of all the dark networks is TOR, a highly encrypted and embedded network, which has developed its own Darknet environment, and is the most referenced when the dark network is to be mentioned.

Controlling and measuring Clearnet traffic is possible and relatively simple, most Internet providers, whether they are large wholesalers or small ISPs, have the ability to know how the content that transits through their networks, searches, emails, photographs, video or other indexed and conventional services is distributed, however, the traffic that is generated through the dark web is mostly encrypted and not visible. In some cases, it is possible to determine the bandwidth generated and the percentage of infrastructure that is demanded on the network in a moderately precise manner. Nevertheless, it is not possible to establish the type of content that is being processed, which means that millions of transactions of illegal drug sales, child pornography, arms trade, human trafficking, among many other illegal activities, occur on the infrastructure of the providers, without them being able to prevent it in most cases, and what is much worse, not even knowing it for certain.

At the same time, government pressure falls on the Internet providers themselves, i.e., given the impossibility for governments to manage and exercise authority in the cloud, they end up increasing the regulatory burden on Telcos, ISPs and Cable Operators, who must deal in many cases with issues that occur through their networks, demanding additional investments in monitoring, control, management and provisioning technologies, which considerably increase costs, complicate technical operations and generate legal burdens that are mostly impossible to comply with.

The Dark Web, in some of its forms, has also become a sabotage tunnel for the infrastructure it demands, i.e. it operates like a Trojan horse inside the providers, whether through bandwidth theft, server congestion, service denials or simple masking of criminal acts using the resources owned by the providers. All of the above greatly damages the systems that support the network, in many cases causing prolonged damage, incalculable losses and very serious consequences in social, political, economic and technological terms.

One of the biggest challenges of the next decade will be to govern and prevent the dark web from transforming the internet into a weapon against the global economy, society and democracy. For this, it is necessary that associations, companies, telcos, ISPs and governments discuss this phenomenon in a much more extended and profound manner, inviting civil society to participate, interacting with the models of autonomous governance of the Internet, respecting network neutrality, freedom of expression and providing regulatory tools.


Gabriel E. Levy B.