Many people first heard about the dark web following the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, founder of the dark website The Silk Road in 2015. Ulbricht received a thirty-year prison sentence as the master mind of a drug operation that used bit coins to purchase drugs on the Internet. Ulbricht’s empire topped $1 billion a year and used the free software known as Tor to mask his identity and drug transactions. Tor is an acronym for a software project named The Onion Router, developed by the United States Research Laboratory and a research team of computer scientists with the goal of preventing Internet monitoring of sensitive government communications.
Tor is only one of several software programs that allow users to operate anonymously outside the World Wide Web in the dark web, an area of cyberspace not indexed by search engines like Google. Freenet is a popular P2P platform that allows for anonymous file sharing in the dark web. Freenet was developed by Ian Clarke as part of a student project when he was a student at the University of Edinburgh in 1999.
The dark web has become a rallying cry for cyberlibertarians and free speech on the Internet advocates. However, the anonymity afforded in the dark web has become a starting point for file sharing and music piracy, but also for criminal enterprises like the Silk Road. However, government and corporations are also beginning to take advantage of the privacy of the dark web. In time, the dark web will become as mainstream as the world wide web.