Mr. Robot

Most internet people are aware of the so-called “deep web,” which is fancy name for stuff that isn’t indexed by search engines—like sites that require a password, archived pages, or things that simply aren’t linked to by any other sites. One small part of the deep web isn’t so innocuous, though. It has the infinitely spookier name “dark web,” and it’s supposedly a lawless wasteland that you need special software to access where high-tech villains sell drugs, trade illegal pornography, and order bulk shipments of rocket launchers. Remember that episode of Mr. Robot where Elliot helped Darryl from The Office with his scary website? That was a dark web thing.

To see just how terrifying the dark web really is, Gizmodo’s Bryan Menegus dove deep into the blackest corners he could find and managed to live and tell the tale—but, as it turns out, the tale isn’t quite as harrowing as you might expect. He explains that some people see the dark web as the lawless wasteland we described above while others view it as a haven from the evil corporations that control the normal internet, but in reality, Menegus says “the dark web mostly resembles the internet of 20 years ago.” Apparently, many of the sites that “don’t actively work to circumvent laws” actually “lack any sort of function at all.” Lots of them are just annoying gifs and stupid sounds or “a single word on a blank page.” He describes it as “amateurish graffiti scrawled against a digital landscape that’s purpose-built to be undiscoverable by the overwhelming majority of people.”

That’s a pretty strange idea that the average person might never understand, but maybe that’s the beauty of it? Menegus’ story has a handful of screencaps showing the stops on his virtual travels, and there’s got to be some reason—no matter how bizarre—that stuff like this exists on the dark web:

Or this probably unsolvable puzzle-looking thing:


Or this “top secret page”:

There’s definitely interesting or scary stuff out there on the dark web, but much like the vanilla web, it turns out that it’s surrounded by a lot of boring nonsense.