The Different Types of Sites on the Dark Web. 3/3
Unlike navigation on the clear web, the Tor network does not offer a guided pathway when the browser is launched. Traditional browsers embed the clear web’s main search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). This allows users to conduct searches in a clear and signposted terrain. Tor Browser embarks DuckDuckGo. Ironically, DuckDuckGo doesn’t index the Tor network. This means that using this search engine will present many results, but none of them from an Onion site.
How can users browse the Tor network? This section will describe the dark web’s directories and search engines.
Though they are not embedded in Tor Browser, there are search engines for the dark web, as well as lists of Onion sites (Tor directories). To our knowledge, the oldest site listings are The Hidden Wiki and TorLinks (renamed OnionLinks). These two directories list a very limited quantity of sites (around 100 each), which is very few in comparison to the more than 110,000 active Onion domains (v2) our search engine detected.
Dark web directory
Certain sections of the Hidden Wiki are even obsolete, particularly the list of sites in French (see the screenshot of the non-English Hidden Wiki) since some of the domains listed have disappeared since 2019 (French Deep Web, Liberty’s Hackers). Sillkitie, one of the two Finnish sites, was also dismantled a while ago. Some newer directories such as UnderDir are more elaborate, with several thousand domains.
There is also a search bar in the top right corner of UnderDir’s homepage. We wanted to see whether this search tool could meet the needs of a dark web user. Given the network’s typical activities, we conducted a search using the word “ketamine”, which we also used on several other dark web search engines. While our search engine brought up more than 160,000 pages on the dark web, UnderDir only showed two matches.
However, we must admit that UnderDir, as its name indicates, is primarily a directory, and the search bar is not its main function. This is not the case for other actual search engines.
Dark web search
We selected seven of the most reputed search engines on the Tor network and conducted searches using the same word, “ketamine”. The results were varied, but always disappointing in terms of the number of pages found. Below are the results from each search engine, in alphabetical order.
Ahmia, the first search engine we tested, was developed by a Finnish researcher named Juha Nurmi. This switch engine excludes pornographic content. It can also search the I2P network, which is pretty rare. Our query for “ketamine” pulled up 95 relevant matches.
Unlike Ahmia, Hoodle is a search engine that seems to be funded by adverts for illegal marketplaces, as is the case for most dark web search engines. We can see the five most common queries listed below the search bar. Two of them, “Topic Links” and “LS magazine” leave no doubt about what is being searched for.
OnionLand Search also contains links that are sponsored by other sites on the dark web. Our query presented 167 matches, with the first few showing links to marketplaces. Like Ahmia, OnionLand Search can search the I2P. A section called “Most Popular Search Terms” also gives us a sense of user searches without needing to qualify them.
Tor66 is another search engine sponsored by marketplaces. Besides its standard search function, it also suggests random links (Random Onions) for the most curious – or the most reckless. The risk is somewhat limited because the search engine shows the title of the links, meaning users have an idea of the type of random content they will consult.
Using the same model, Torch brings up many matches. Our query pulled up more than 6,000 matches with specific URLs. In terms of both the number and quality of the matches, Torch is the best search engine we have tested, though it cannot compete with a professional search engine.
The TorDex search engine pulled up more than 1,000 results with specific URLs.
The Tor Search Engine is the last and certainly the least effective search engine we reviewed; besides its very basic design, it only displayed two results.
Tor Search Engine
This means that users of the Tor network do not have a Google for the dark web, since no search engine seems to thoroughly index Onion sites. Some of the search engines we tested here presented interesting results, but fell well below our expectations. Users must therefore develop their own strategies to browse the dark web without getting lost or consulting content they do not want to encounter
Our search engine is not directly in the Dark Web, it is a full-fledged solution that indexes the Dark Web. In fact, where our search engine can bring up more than 143,000 pages from the dark web, UnderDir only offers two results.
Aleph Search Dark