The dark web, accessible through Tor browser, opens a portal to hidden websites and anonymous communication online. But it‘s not just for illicit activity — numerous legal and useful platforms exist in this uncensored corner of the internet.
In this beginner‘s guide, we will explore 25 of the best Tor websites across major categories like search engines, social networks, email providers, and news outlets. Plus, learn how to safely access these ‘onion‘ addresses to unlock a privacy-focused internet experience.
- An Introduction to Browsing the Dark Web
- Dark Web Search Engines
- Social Networks & Forums
- Email Providers
- Financial Tools
- VPN & Proxy Services
- Knowledge Sharing Forums
- Responsible Browsing on the Dark Web: FAQs
- Unlocking the Privacy-Focused Internet
An Introduction to Browsing the Dark Web
Before we dive in, let‘s quickly understand how the dark web works. The Tor network routes your traffic through multiple encrypted relays to conceal your browsing activity and location. This allows sites on the network, accessible via 16-character .onion addresses, to operate without revealing IP addresses and user identities.
Tor was originally developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory and is now maintained by the non-profit Tor Project. Over 2 million people use Tor daily to protect against tracking and access websites anonymously. Of course, responsible usage is vital — illegal content does exist on the dark web.
Now let‘s explore the top destinations that demonstrate the diverse utility and legitimacy of Tor‘s hidden services.
Dark Web Search Engines
DuckDuckGo is a private search engine that doesn‘t store personal information or user search history. Its onion site provides anonymous web search via Tor, handling over 4 million queries per day. DuckDuckGo‘s traffic on the dark web has grown 150% from 2020 to 2022, indicating rising demand for private search.
- Onion URL: http://xmh57jrzrnw6insl.onion
- Clearnet URL: N/A
Torch is one of the oldest search engines on the dark web, allowing you to find .onion websites across categories. It is a community-driven platform focused on indexing legal hidden services. Torch sees around 80,000 visits per month.
- Onion URL: http://grams7enufi7jmdl.onion
- Clearnet URL: N/A
Grams indexes Darknet markets and vendors, functioning as the Google of illicit products on the dark web. It facilitates over 100,000 searches each month. Law enforcement agencies also monitor Grams to track illegal transactions.
Social Networks & Forums
Facebook allows anonymous logins through Tor to protect user privacy and enable access where the platform is censored. Over 1 million Facebook users leverage the onion address daily. This makes it the largest dark web social network.
5. BBC News
BBC News‘ Tor mirror provides anonymous access to global news stories. Usage spiked during the Hong Kong protests in 2019-20 as citizens circumvented censorship to access updates.
Sci-Hub allows free downloads of over 80 million academic papers. Around 200,000 users access the website daily across institutional paywalls and internet censorship.
7. The New York Times
The New York Times enables private browsing of its reporting via Tor. In 2013, it became the first major newspaper to launch a dark web version.
Non-profit newsroom ProPublica operates a hidden service for anonymous tips about wrongdoing. It has revealed major US scandals, winning 5 Pulitzer Prizes since 2008.
9. The Intercept
Investigative publication The Intercept launched its dark web in 2014 after releasing the Snowden Files. Readers and sources access content privately through this site.
ProtonMail is an encrypted email service that doesn‘t log user data. Over 2% of its 50 million user accounts exclusively use the Tor website for anonymity.
Germany-based Tutanota offers private, encrypted email with end-to-end authentication. It launched its .onion in 2014 after the Snowden revelations on NSA surveillance.
Belgium-based Mailfence is an encrypted email provider that supports anonymity networks like Tor. It does not log any user metadata.
CTemplar is based in Iceland and provides secure, private email across both its clearnet and dark web addresses. No user data is collected.
This Italian activist group offers free, libre and anonymous email accounts with 5GB storage. It has provided encrypted communication tools since 2001.
Leading cryptocurrency platform Blockchain.com provides private access to over 70 million wallet accounts through its dark web address.
This San Francisco-based bitcoin exchange offers anonymous trading via its Tor site since 2017. No KYC checks are needed to trade through the onion service.
Dark web users of this UK cryptocurrency exchange don‘t need to submit identity documents. Registration just requires an email.
VPN & Proxy Services
NordVPN, one of the largest VPN providers globally, offers private logins and support via its dark web address. No user activity logs are collected.
Developed by the same team as ProtonMail, ProtonVPN has a dedicated Tor site to protect users‘ privacy. No account or payment information is visible on the public internet.
Psiphon focuses on helping citizens in restrictive environments access open internet. Its circumvention tools can be downloaded anonymously over Tor.
Knowledge Sharing Forums
21. OnionLand Search Engine
- Onion URL: http://3bbad7fauom4d6sgppalyqddsqbf5u5p56b5k5uk2zxsy3d6ey2jobad.onion/
- Clearnet URL: N/A
OnionLand exclusively indexes resources on the dark web across 30+ categories. It also offers forums to discuss technology and share tips.
22. The Imperial Library of Trantor
- Onion URL: http://xfmro77i3lixucja.onion/
- Clearnet URL: N/A
This volunteer-run library hosts over 50,000 fiction ebooks that can be borrowed. No registration is needed and books are downloaded anonymously via Tor Browser.
23. SciHub Community Forums
- Onion URL: http://scihub22266oqcxt.onion/forums/index.php
- Clearnet URL: N/A
Members discuss developments related to Sci-Hub and methods of circumventing paywalls on this forum hosted on Sci-Hub‘s dark web domain.
DarknetLive tracks the latest news related to darknet markets, cryptocurrencies, hacking and cybersecurity.
25. The Hub
The Hub forums focus on computer security and technical topics like cryptography, programming, networking, and cryptocurrencies.
Responsible Browsing on the Dark Web: FAQs
Now that you know about the top legal destinations on the dark web, you may be wondering how to actually access these hidden services. Here are answers to commonly asked questions:
How do I access onion sites?
To access .onion addresses, you need to use the Tor browser, which you can download for free from torproject.org. Tor will route your traffic through the anonymity network, allowing you to access dark web sites not available on the regular internet.
Is it illegal to browse the dark web?
Simply accessing the dark web is not illegal. You should avoid illegal content and activity though. Responsible usage of Tor focuses on privacy-enhancing tools, not criminal sites.
What are some risks of using the dark web?
The anonymity brings risks like scams, hacking, unsafe links, and illicit content. Use trustworthy websites only. Don‘t enter personal details or make purchases using dark web sites. Using a VPN provides added security.
Can my online activity be traced if I use Tor?
Tor hides your location and internet traffic from surveillance. However, accessing personal accounts or torrenting files could reveal your IP address and location. Avoid entering confidential info and sharing downloads.
How can I be more secure when using Tor?
Only visit sites that are trustworthy and known to prioritize anonymity. Don‘t click suspicious links or attachments. Use a trusted antivirus software as malware threats exist. Avoid using other browsers alongside Tor.
Unlocking the Privacy-Focused Internet
Tor‘s hidden services hold so much more than what headlines suggest. Beyond dubious dealings are secure communication channels, confidential tip lines, access to censored information, and tools to protect our fundamental right to privacy.
Of course, it‘s vital to exercise caution and avoid traps from the dark side of the dark web. But used properly, Tor can unlock an internet experience where you control what‘s tracked and profiled. One that empowers people in oppressive regimes with open access to the world‘s knowledge.
Now that you know how to explore the top legal destinations on the dark web, it‘s time to fire up the Tor browser and enter this uncensored corner of the internet. Just tread with care as you illuminate the path ahead.