Tor Browser Version 10.5 Released, Enhances User Experience of Connecting to Tor, Snowflake Becomes a Bridging Option

Updates to Tor Browser version 10.5 focus on improving the process for users when they first connect to Tor, as well as making Tor launch automatically by removing the Tor Launcher UI and relying on a better UI embedded in the browser's home screen to provide visual feedback for subsequent use. In addition, Snowflake will be released as one of the default bridging options in the stable version of the Tor Browser.

What is the new change?

Visiting a V2 domain will see a prompt warning that the V2 Onion service is abandoned

As announced last year, the v2 Onion service will be completely inaccessible once the Tor Browser migrates to Tor 0.4.6.x in October 2021. Between now and then, the Tor Browser will warn you of impending abandonment when you visit the v2 Onion site.

Snowflake can now be used as a bridge

With Snowflake, censored users can rely on a volunteer-run proxy to connect to the Internet.

In the first quarter of this year, the UX team conducted a survey of Tor Browser Alpha to better understand the Snowflake user experience. The survey received 1,795 complete responses, with 726 participants confirming that they use Snowflake as a pluggable transport. The majority of Snowflake users who completed the survey began using the Tor browser several times a week over the past year. 75% of users had a positive view of Snowflake, although many experienced connection issues and slow browsing. These facts and a stable network of volunteers have allowed us to make it available in this release.

Snowflake is a pluggable transport that uses a combination of domain fronting and peer-to-peer WebRTC connections between clients and volunteers to circumvent Internet censorship. Snowflake, which is the spiritual successor to flashproxy, aims to lower the barrier for running anti-censorship proxies, resulting in a large pool of proxies for users to connect to. Instead of requiring a server with consistent up-time, Snowflake proxies run as an addon or extension in your browser. These proxies can move locations as users connect to different networks, providing a moving target that is more difficult to block. We currently have about 8 thousand available Snowflake proxies each day. When a user connects to Snowflake in order to circumvent censorship, they are matched with a currently available proxy. If this proxy "melts," or disappears, the user will be seamlessly matched with a new proxy.

Snowflake currently uses domain fronting for the initial connection to match users with Snowflake proxies, and to allow each peer to exchange the connection information necessary for WebRTC. This channel is highly censorship resistant, and used only for the initial bootstrapping of the connection. As such, it requires much lower bandwidth and shorter connections than existing domain fronting pluggable transports like meek, making it a more scalable alternative.

Improving the user experience of connecting to Tor

For years, Tor Launcher has served as an options panel for advanced Tor network configuration. It also serves as a control point for users in censored networks. ux and anti-censorship teams work together to improve the connection process for Tor Browser users. This release is the first in an upcoming series that helps censored users seamlessly access the open Internet by simplifying the connection process, detecting censorship, and providing a bridge.

From:On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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