What the Heck is Tor and Tor Browser

Probably, you have heard of Tor or Tor Browser before reading it in this article. Perhaps you think these are fancy names for same thing. Sorry to disappoint you, but they are not!
Tor and Tor Browser are two different things and in this article, I am going to clear out all your terrible misconceptions about Tor and Tor Browser.

https://www.torproject.org/ Hero Image

First, what is the purpose of Tor or Tor Browser (whatever it is)?
The idea behind Tor is “internet users should have private access to an uncensored web” and this is why Tor and Tor Browser exist. Enough intro, lets tear down your misconceptions.

Majority of People think Tor and Tor Browser are same thing and use the terms interchangeably. However, Tor and Tor Browser are two different things. Tor is the core Software which routes the internet traffic through a special Network. Routing Traffic through That special Network is half story of Protecting Users privacy.
As the word Browser suggests, Tor Browser is a Browser built on top of Firefox. Firefox and Tor Browser are not same thing. Although Tor Browser extends from Firefox but Firefox is a general browser like Chrome. Tor Browser lacks some features that are in Firefox. Those features have been removed to make it a more secure browser.

Tor was first released on 20th of September, 2002. However, what lead to the birth of Tor goes back to 1990. In 1990, the lack of security and absence of user’s privacy was becoming clear. 1995, David Goldschlag, Mike Reed, and Paul Syverson at the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) asked themselves if there was a way to create internet connections that don’t reveal who is talking to whom, even to someone monitoring the network. Their answer was to create and deploy the first research designs and prototypes of onion routing. .Tor Project came out of a project named “Onion Routing”. The Onion Routing program is made up of projects researching, designing, building, and analyzing anonymous communications systems. In the early 2000s, Roger Dingledine, a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate, began working on an NRL onion routing project with Paul Syverson. To distinguish this original work at NRL from other onion routing efforts that were starting to pop up elsewhere, Roger called the project Tor, which stood for The Onion Routing.

Recognizing the benefit of Tor to digital rights, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) began funding Roger’s and Nick’s work on Tor in 2004. In 2006, the Tor Project, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was founded to maintain Tor’s development. Development of Tor Browser began in 2008.

Tor is built on the core idea “internet users should have private access to an uncensored web”. Since the foundation of The Tor Project, Inc. the organization has worked so hard to uphold their core idea. This lead to the current form of Tor and Tor Browser is much more accessible and user friendly than it used to be.

Apart from Tech people, everyone else has a belief about Tor. That Tor is a bad thing and is used by bad people. Their belief is neither entirely wrong not entirely right. Good and bad people need privacy and security. Bad people have lot of other ways but good people do not have. Normal people do not have the time or money to spend figuring out how to get privacy online. This is the worst of all possible worlds. Tor is the hope and shield of Normal people looking for privacy on internet. It’s true that Bad people use Tor as an easily accessible way to carry out their bad acts but taking down Tor or putting a backdoor in Tor will not solve this either. For the idea of backdoor, there are two problems. First, it technically weakens the system too far. Having a central way to link users to their activities is a gaping hole for all sorts of attackers; and the policy mechanisms needed to ensure correct handling of this responsibility are enormous and unsolved. Second, the bad people are not going to be caught by this anyway, since they will use other means to ensure their anonymity (identity theft, compromising computers and using them as bounce points, etc.).

Just like, there are good people with guns and there are bad people with guns. If one exist then the other must exist to keep a balance.

Tor is a software which routes the traffic through a special network while Tor Browser is a browser which lets you utilize the Tor and send your traffic through the special network.

You don’t have a reason to use these terms interchangeably after reading this article.

Contributor in Tor Project, Web developer, Gamer. I tend to write article to help beginners.