The Tor Project releases beta version of its anonymous instant messenger



Tor was originally called The Onion Router because messages are encapsulated in layers of encryption like the layers of an onion

On Ars Technica, Cyrus Farivar presents a five-minute tutorial in getting up to speed on Tor Messenger, which will interoperate with your existing chat contacts and accounts for Google (GChat), Yahoo, Facebook, and any XMPP account.

It uses OTR protocol to encrypt messages, which pass through Tor’s network of volunteer computers. Other popular instant messaging software, like Pidgin and Audium, do offer OTR as well, but they either come as separate plugins to be downloaded or are not enabled by default.

Since users are communicating over Tor network, their location is hidden, as Tor Messenger rocks the power to hide the users’ route to the server, permitting Facebook users, for instance, to communicate with their friends even in countries where the service is blocked.

If you have worked with Instantbird before you will find yourself at home right away once you get the application to start up. That means that it probably won’t work perfectly and users will occasionally encounter bugs and issues with it. Nonetheless, it’s the first attempt from the secure network to create a messaging service for its millions of users.

So, if you have any reason to be paranoid or simply nervous about your privacy then Tor Messenger is arguably your your solution for instant messaging.

“We will be fixing bugs and releasing updates as appropriate, and in the future, we plan on pairing releases with Mozilla’s Extended Support Release (ESR) cycle”, said Sukhbir Singh, a member of the Tor Project, in a blog post.

Tor Messenger isn’t flawless, and its developers admit as much. Services like Pond and Ricochet, by contrast, don’t reveal that contact metadata. It allows for off-the-record (OTR) messaging, and sports an easy-to-use UI in multiple languages. But Tor Messenger is still in beta, and like any early privacy software, it should be approached with caution.

But they still warn users not to trust Tor Messenger until it’s been more comprehensively audited. For the time being, Tor says the beta is a major work in progress so don’t expect everything to work perfectly.

“I think it shows the worries people have that chats and other clients are being snooped on”, he added.