A URL, or uniform resource locator, is a string of characters that specifies the location of a resource on the internet. URLs are used to access websites and other internet resources, such as images, videos, and documents.
On the surface web (also known as the visible web), URLs typically use the familiar “http” or “https” prefix and a domain name, such as “www.helloworld.com”. These URLs are indexed by search engines and can be accessed using a web browser.
Sites on the dark web, on the other hand, are a little different. Tor is a special program that allows people to use the internet without anyone being able to see what they are doing. When you use Tor, your internet connection is wrapped in layers, similar to an onion. Each layer is similar to a secret code that only unlocks when it reaches the correct location. Nobody will be able to see what you are doing online or where you are doing it from. Tor is extremely useful for people who want to keep their online activities private, such as visiting websites that are blocked in their country or being concerned about someone tracking them online.
On the dark web (also known as the deep web), URLs use a different prefix, “http://” or “https://”, and a different domain name system (DNS).
A DNS, or domain name system, is like a phone book for the internet. It helps computers find websites and other online resources by matching a website’s name (like www.helloworld.com) to its internet address (like 192.0.2.1).
Imagine you have a phone book with a list of all the phone numbers in your town. When you want to call someone, you look up their name in the phone book to find their phone number. Then you dial the number and your phone connects to their phone.
The DNS operates in a similar manner. When you type a website’s name into your web browser, your computer searches the DNS for the website’s internet address. Then, using that address, it connects to the website’s server, and you can view the website on your computer.
The DNS makes it easier for people to find websites, because it is easier to remember a name like “www.helloworld.com” than a bunch of numbers like “192.0.2.1”. It also helps keep the internet organized by making sure that each website has a unique name.
The DNS for dark web sites typically uses a series of random letters and numbers, rather than a familiar domain name. For example, a dark web URL might look like “http://ga3gsdg456.onion”.
To access a website on the dark web, a person must use specialized software, such as the Tor network, which allows them to connect to the dark web anonymously. Once connected, they can enter the URL of the website they wish to access and the software will connect them to the site.