In brief

  • The Zcash Foundation is supporting a project designed to boost the Tor network.
  • Tor developers need to provide a detailed brief of the upgrade to receive a $50,000 grant.
  • The Tor network lets people browse the Internet anonymously.

Developers at Tor, the privacy-preserving browser, are working toward a $50,000 grant to scale the network. The upgrade promise to make Tor run quicker and support more people, without sacrificing security.

Tor is an anonymous web browser that guarantees user anonymity by masking IP addresses. Its network is built up of thousands of layers of routers, which bounce users’ IP addresses around them, making it impossible for anyone to uncover their identity. 

The Tor network is a way of accessing the Internet without Big Tech spying on you. Image: Shutterstock.

The Zcash Foundation—which helps run the privacy coin Zcash—has agreed to provide the grant if the Tor developers can create a detailed specification of the proposal.

The solution is known as the “Walking Onions proposal”—a reference to Tor domain names, which end in “.onion.” It puts forward a set of protocols that should help to scale the network by reducing the amount of data each user has to download.

The goal of the project is to create a specification for an upgrade that accomplishes this. The result, hopes the team, is that Tor scales to meet a growing user base; it becomes “a viable option for third party applications;” and becomes a whole lot quicker. 

Here’s the problem the team is trying to solve: currently, each Tor client needs to download the whole list of routers, and clients must add more information over time to make sure they have the latest information.

Since the Tor network is growing, all that information can slow down the network. But it can also lead to the “failure of censorship bypassing methods”—which is the whole point of using Tor to begin with. 

The team comprises Nick Mathewson, Alexander Færøy, Gabriela Rodriguez, and Mike Perry, who have all worked on Tor for a number of years.