A brief history of the dark web

Unveiling the shadows of cyberspace

Phil Siarri


Human trapped in blue “matrix” system
Image by Egonetix_xyz from Pixabay

The internet transformed the way we communicate, acquire information, and conduct business. However, beneath the public web’s surface sits a hidden area known as the dark web, a strange and frequently misunderstood sector of cyberspace.

This article aims to explore the history of the dark web, tracing its origins, development, and the implications it carries for society.

Early origins

The dark web is a section of the World Wide Web that is not search engine indexed and requires special software, setups, or authorization to access. It’s frequently used for anonymous communication, illegal trading, hacking, terrorism, and other nefarious acts. The dark web is not the same as the deep web, which features primarily benign sites that cannot be found using search engines, such as password-protected email accounts, Netflix accounts, and online forms.

The dark web’s origins can be traced back to the 1960s, when the US government created ARPANET, a forerunner to the Internet that allowed researchers and military personnel to connect securely. In the 1970s and 1980s, some hackers and activists began to share information and challenge authority by using ARPANET and other networks. They also developed bulletin board systems (BBS) and Usenet groups, which enabled users to communicate messages and files in an anonymous manner.

The earliest incarnation of the modern dark web appeared in March 2000, when an Irish student named Ian Clarke created and distributed Freenet, software that allows users to communicate anonymously online through a decentralized network of Freenet users. Users can store and exchange data on Freenet without revealing their identify or location. The Onion Router (Tor), first debuted on September 20, 2002, is the software that popularized the dark web.


Tor was created by the US Naval Research Laboratory to allow personnel of the US intelligence community to use the Internet without fear of being identified. Tor employs an onion routing technology, which encrypts data and reroutes it through numerous servers (called nodes) before arriving at its destination. This makes tracing the data’s origin and destination…



Phil Siarri

Founder of Nuadox | Tech & Innovation Commentator | Digital Strategist | MTL | More about me> linktr.ee/philsiarri