Skip to main content

ITE-115: Information Literacy Modules

3 a. Introduction

What are the Internet, Deep Web and Open Web?

The Internet is a worldwide network of computers. The World Wide Web (also called WWW, "the Net" or "the Web") is an information system that links Internet documents and allows users to navigate through the Web, moving quickly and seamlessly from one source to another via Web links. Documents available on the Web can include text, sound, video, and images.

One prevailing misconception is that everything is available on the Internet or open web. As a matter of fact, only a small fraction of the world of information is available on the Internet or open web. Think of the Web as an iceberg. Anyone can see and access roughly one-third of the information available on the open Web for free, using popular search engines like Google. Wikipedia articles, for example, are open Web resources that are available online to anyone who searches for them. In the illustration below, the area above the line represents the open Web, where anyone has easy access to free information.

The other two-thirds of the information available on the Web is hidden from view and is known as the "deep Web." The deep Web is where information is not free and is not included in popular search engine results. Library databases, for example, are deep Web subscription resources that are available online, but only to authorized users such as students enrolled Reynolds. Books, journals, magazines, newspapers and videos that are commercially available are usually not available on the open web. Thus, some of the most reliable information in existence must still be obtained from licensed library databases or traditional print sources. In the illustration below, the area underneath the line represents the deep Web, where it costs money to gain access to higher-quality, reliable information.

Open web vs. deep web


(Original graphic created by Kevin Simons from Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus and adapted by Virginia Community College System librarians for the statewide Connect for Success information literacy tutorial)