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Tor, an anonymous web-browser that lets you access the Dark Web, is getting a major overhaul.
“The legacy onion system has been around for over 10 years and its age has started to show,” the organisation wrote in a blog post announcing the update. “The new system is a well needed improvement that fixes many shortcomings of the old design, and builds a solid foundation for future onion work.”
The Tor network works by bouncing your connection through multiple other users’ computers on the network before you finally connect to the internet via an “exit node.” So someone from Sweden might have their connection routed through South Africa, Canada, and Denmark, before finally connecting to the internet via Mongolia – masking their true identity and location.
The browser can be used to view the regular internet anonymously – but also lets users access the “Dark Web,” websites that aren’t indexed by search engines like Google and are only accessible if the user is using Tor.
Historically it has been associated with online drug marketplaces like Silk Road and general criminality, but is also used by everyone from political activists fearing retribution to privacy activists. Even Facebook offers a special link to the site for people connecting via Tor these days.
The new update focuses on security, and lays the groundwork for future improvements – but Tor says that for regular users, the main difference is that the links for dark web sites will be way longer. It gives 7fa6xlti5joarlmkuhjaifa47ukgcwz6tfndgax45ocyn4rixm632jid.onion as an example, versus Facebook’s link: https://facebookcorewwwi.onion/. But the legacy system and old links will continue to work for a “few years.”