September 26, 2017

Help us improve the usability of Tor and onion services!

Update 2017-09-11: We have collected several hundred responses, so we are now closing the survey to begin data analysis. Thanks for your help!

We are looking for volunteers for a study to improve the usability of Tor and onion services, but first some background: The Tor network is primarily known for client anonymity, that is, users can download Tor Browser and browse the Internet anonymously. A slightly lesser-known feature of Tor is server anonymity. It is possible to set up web servers—and other TCP-based services—whose IP address is hidden by the Tor network. We call these “hidden” servers onion services. Several well-known web sites such as Facebook, DuckDuckGo, and ProPublica have started to offer onion services in addition to their normal web sites.

Onion services differ from normal web services in several aspects; for example in their unusual domain format (an example is expyuzz4wqqyqhjn.onion, The Tor Project’s onion site) and in the way users connect to them—onion services are only accessible over Tor. In this research project, we are trying to understand how users deal with these differences by administering a survey to Tor users. A sound understanding of how users interact with onion services will allow privacy engineers to both improve onion service usability and better protect Tor users from surveillance, censorship, and other attacks.

You can help our research by filling out our survey (the survey is closed as of 2017-09-11). To learn more about our work, visit our project page, and don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.