The dark web is a hidden collective of internet websites that can only be accessible by a special web browser. It is often used for keeping internet activity anonymous and for illegal activities. But did you know how the dark web came to be?
Freenet, the first darknet and often cited as the start of the “dark web,” began as a thesis project by an Edinburgh University student named Ian Clarke. He got a B for his paper.
The Beginnings of the Freenet
Freenet is a piece of free software that allows you to share files anonymously, browse and publish freesites or websites accessible only through Freenet, and chat on forums without fear of censorship. Freenet is decentralized to make it less vulnerable to attack, and it is very difficult to detect when used in “darknet” mode, where users only connect to their friends.
Freenet node communications are encrypted and routed through other nodes, making it extremely difficult to determine who requests the information and what it contains.
It seemed so obvious that that was what the net was supposed to be about, freedom to communicate. But back then in the late 90s that simply wasn’t the case. The internet could be monitored more quickly, more comprehensively, more cheaply than more old-fashioned communications systems like the mail.Ian Clarke, Student from Edinburgh University
Users contribute to the network by providing bandwidth and a portion of their hard drive, referred to as the data store for file storage. Files are kept or deleted automatically based on their popularity, with the least popular being discarded to make room for newer or more popular content. Files are encrypted, so the user cannot easily discover what is in his data store and, hopefully, cannot be held liable for it. This distributed data store is the foundation for chat forums, websites, and search functionality. (Source: Freenet Project)
The Impact of Freenet in Today’s World
Since the project’s inception, Freenet has been downloaded over 2 million times and has been used to distribute censored information all over the world, including China and the Middle East. Freenet’s ideas and concepts have significantly impacted the academic world.
According to Citeseer, our 2000 paper Freenet: A Distributed Anonymous Information Storage and Retrieval System was the most cited computer science paper of 2000. Freenet has also inspired papers in the fields of law and philosophy. The creator and project coordinator of Freenet, Ian Clarke, was named one of the top 100 innovators of 2003 by MIT’s Technology Review magazine. (Source: Freenet Project)
Why Do People Use Freenet?People get involved in the Freenet Project for a variety of reasons. Some share the views outlined in this document; some share variations of these views, which are also served by what we are attempting to achieve; and some simply enjoy the technical challenge. These ideas prompted me to design the system in the first place, but they are not necessarily the views of everyone involved in the Freenet Project. (Source: Freenet Project)
Image from BusinessCollective