Beneath the Web’s Surface

May 2006
by Reid Goldsborough

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The deep Web, also called the
invisible Web and the hidden Web, has an aura of secrecy and mystery, conjuring
up images of private caches of supremely useful information beyond the reach of
mortal Web surfers.

 

The reality is much more
pedestrian.

 

The deep Web simply consists of
information accessible over the Web but not accessible through ordinary search
tools, including Google and Yahoo. Such search engines can’t find it for two
main reasons: It’s stored within databases and retrievable only with a
particular site’s search tool; or it resides at sites that require registration
or subscription.

 

How much information lies below
the Web’s gleaming surface? The answer depends on what you read. One estimate
is that the deep Web is about twice as big as the surface Web. Another—and
frequently repeated—estimate has the deep Web about 500 times bigger, but this
number comes from BrightPlanet Corp. (www.brightplanet.com), a company that
sells a program for accessing the deep Web.

 

What’s Down There

 

Deep Web information is usually
narrow and specialized. Nuclear Explosions Database (www.ga.gov.au/oracle/nukexp_form.jsp)
is typical. A free offering of the Australian government, it lets you search
for the location, time, and size of nuclear explosions worldwide since 1945.

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