Skip to content
Technology & Innovation

NASA Sets Its Sights on the Real Final Frontier: The Deep Web

The space agency seeks to index the parts of the Internet Google won’t show you.

Sorry, Captain Kirk. Space is no longer the final frontier.

As reported by Danielle Wiener-Bronner at Fusion, NASA is setting its sights on the furthest, most wretched lengths of the known universe: the deep web.

“The space agency announced last month that it will join forces with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to help make sense of that part of the Internet commonly referred to as the Deep or Dark Web. Most Internet users first heard about it, if they’ve heard about it at all, in the context of Silk Road, the now-defunct online drug marketplace that was hosted on a hidden Web service. Silk Road was only accessible using the anonymity-enhancing browser The Onion Router, or TOR.”

For anyone who had been around the Internet long enough, the deep web was like the old abandoned house on the corner only the really brave (or foolish) kids broke into. The arrest, trial, and conviction of Silk Road’s Ross Ulbricht shed a new light on that house for laypeople. Now everyone wants to know what’s inside. That’s where NASA comes in with its missions to “access and catalog this mysterious online world.”

The effort isn’t merely a pet project. Deep search technology is important to NASA’s long-term goals. Here’s Wiener-Bronner again:

“Some sites aren’t linked to by Google because they’re private — behind paywalls, for example, or simply not worth Google’s efforts to index, like scientific data. That’s the kind of information in which NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is interested, because that’s where the information its spacecraft send back to earth winds up.”

So it’s legitimately a scientific effort, though the fun/scary byproduct is going to be an advanced new way for the public to explore the 96 percent of the web beyond Google’s grasp.

To learn more about the how and the why behind NASA’s plan, check out both the aforementioned story at Fusion and NASA’s own press release in conjunction with JPL.

Does deep search and advanced machine learning interest you? We’ve got Microsoft’s Director of Search Stefan Weitz here to tell you just how different your search engine will be in 20 years:

Photo credit: Bruce Rolff / Shutterstock


Up Next