You have heard a lot of rumours about the dark web, but you know seeing is believing. You believe you’re now ready to visit yourself to see what’s so special about it, but you can’t seem to load any pages on your browser, then reality hits: you need a dark web browser to access the dark web.
It sounds somewhat weird, but you cannot open up your browser and start viewing a webpage on the dark web; it just won’t work. There are specific browsers created specifically for that purpose, and unless you get one of them, you’re stuck with the traditional “.com” websites.
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to find and install a dark web browser on your computer. However, there are so many out there, and most of them do not have intuitive interfaces. In this article, you’ll learn about five of the best free dark web browsers that you can use as a complete noob on the dark web.
What is the Dark Web?
Before you start looking for browsers that will let you access the dark web, it makes a lot of sense to learn what it means exactly. While you might have learned things about it through online and offline rumours, you may have to unlearn some of those. So, what is the dark web exactly?
Before getting into what the dark web means, you have to understand that the web is of three different parts: the surface web, the deep web, and of course, the dark web.
The surface web is the part of the internet that’s open to all and accessible from a search engine. This part is only about 10% of the web, which is surprising since you expect it to make up the bulk of the web. Well, it will stop surprising you when you learn what the deep web means, and how it differs from the surface web.
The deep web is the part of the internet that isn’t open to all but can be accessed from a regular browser. It is usually locked behind a paywall or a login, and only authorized individuals can access web pages on the deep web.
Your email inbox is on the deep web; nobody can access it from a search engine. When you log into your school’s student portal, you’re already on the deep web for the same reason. Since most of the sites you visit work this way, you can understand why the deep web makes a significant part of the web.
Finally, we have the super-secret part of the internet that uses decentralized darknets to share information across computers in an anonymous way. While some legal actors exist on the dark web, there are also tons of illegal material, using anonymity to evade detection and prosecution.
What are Dark Web Browsers?
A dark web browser refers to any piece of software that lets you access a website or webpage on the dark web. They’re like regular web browsers, but with more enhancements that make it possible for users to surf the dark web.
There are many popular dark web browsers out there, with TOR Browser being the most popular of all. Some browsers also let you access both the regular part of the internet and the dark web, albeit you may have to change a lot of settings to make that possible.
If you want to have my recommendations on the best free dark web browsers to use this year, you may want to continue reading this article. For now, let’s take a look at why you should use dark web browsers.
Why You Should Use Dark Web Browsers
If you will be accessing the dark web, you don’t need a lot of convincing to download and use a dark web browser. There’s only one strong reason for the recommendation and that reason is a deal breaker: there’s no other choice.
Seriously, it’s impossible to access websites on the dark web using a regular browser, unless that regular browser is a dark web browser with the functionality of a regular browser built-in (it exists). Apart from that, there aren’t a lot of reasons why you may want to keep using dark web browsers, because frankly, their interface usually sucks.
5 Top Free Dark Web Browsers
Not everyone is savvy enough to know what the dark web is, and certainly, only a few people care about creating a browser for the dark web. Thankfully, you have several options to choose from, and while most of them are nothing to write home about, interface-wise, they all do the job well.
With that said, here are the top 5 free dark web browsers you can find anywhere.
1. TOR Browser
The Orange Router browser, popularly referred to as the TOR browser, is so popular that it has almost become synonymous with the dark web. It was originally based on the Firefox browser, but with some code modifications and privacy enhancements to make it usable for the dark web.
The TOR Browser routes all your internet traffic through the TOR network, which is what makes it possible for it to access websites on the dark web. After each browsing session, the browser deletes all your browsing data, including cookies and browsing history, so you might want to find another browser for Twitter.
The TOR Browser is available on Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, and pretty much every device apart from the iPhone. If you have to access the dark web from an iPhone, you may have to look past this, although it remains the best free dark web browser out there.
Yes, you can use Firefox to access the dark web after some modifications. If you can recall, I stated that the TOR Browser was based on Firefox; since the TOR project is open source, it’s only logical for Firefox to follow in its footsteps and integrate the function that lets users visit the dark web.
As you’d expect, Firefox ships with a function that essentially prevents you from accessing websites on the dark web, but you can disable that block pretty easily. Simply enter “about:config” into your address bar and press enter; then click on “Show All” to see the configuration options.
Using the search bar at the top, start typing “network.dns.blockDotOnion” until you see the option pop up. Change the value of the option from True to False, and you should be able to access dark web websites from your Firefox browser pretty easily.
Before surfing the dark web using Firefox, you may want to install some security programs and extensions. You also want to ensure you have a VPN for anonymity; you don’t know who’s sharing your computer with you.
3. Invisible Internet Project
The Invisible Internet Project, popularly referred to as I2P, is one of the more popular browsers for the dark web that doesn’t run solely on the TOR network. It also allows you to access its darknet, which is the browser’s default behavior; you’ll need separate plugins to access websites on the TOR network.
In addition to websites on the dark web, you can also use I2P to access regular web pages on the surface web. The entire idea of the browser is to make your browsing experience as secure as possible, often at the expense of user experience.
Speaking of user experience, you should probably go with TOR or Firefox if you have any reasonable expectations of it. The other options are either built by people who haven’t heard of the phrase “user experience,” or you may have to install virtual machines or operating systems to use them.
If “secure” is a browser, it would be Whonix. The Whonix OS (it’s technically an operating system) is based on code from the TOR browser, which pretty much explains how it can open websites on the dark web. Also, you shouldn’t expect the browser to be vastly different from TOR for the same reasons.
The browser is so secure that it reliably masks your IP address so well that even malware with root privileges cannot access your true IP address, according to the developers. When you understand how the browser works, it becomes impossible to dispute the claim.
The IP masking works so well because Whonix theoretically doesn’t run on your computer; it’s an operating system on its own. You install it into a virtual machine on your physical device, and you have to open that new operating system each time you need to use the browser. The Whonix OS also ships with other productivity apps like a word processor and an email client.
5. Subgraph OS
Subgraph OS is not how you usually imagine a browser: instead of a simple piece of software that lets you browse the web, or dark web, in this case, Subgraph OS is an entire OS, as the name suggests. Before using it, you must install the entire OS on a virtual machine.
If you’re wondering why you need to install a virtual machine and an additional OS to use the dark web, you almost certainly don’t know what that part of the internet contains. The dark web is completely unregulated, so you have a very high chance of encountering malware (considering that some bad actors “sell” malware over there).
You certainly don’t want your main machine to fall victim to a malware or ransomware attack, which is why you want to run the browser on a separate operating system completely detached from your files and data. That’s the level of security you get from browsers like Whonix and Subgraph.
How Can I Safely Visit the Dark Web?
The best way to find websites to visit on the dark web is using dark web search engines and directories. Sites like HiddenWiki (a directory) and DuckDuckGo (the search engine of choice on the dark web) are great options for finding websites to visit on the dark web.
Where Can I Find Dark Web Sites to Visit?
Since the dark web is unregulated, there’s a pretty high chance that you’ll randomly run into malware or something even worse while surfing casually. To prevent that occurrence, you may want to enable a VPN while browsing for protection. Also, you want to ensure you have an antivirus package while you’re at it.
The dark web could be dangerous, but there are legitimate websites on there too. If you’re curious about how it works, you can get one of the dark web browsers above and start surfing. You should consider using a VPN in the process to avoid malware.