The Tor Project is about to get a whole lot faster thanks to a brand new system introduced in the latest version of the popular browser.
Called Congestion Control, the new system promises “significant performance improvements in Tor, as well as increased utilization of our network capacity”, the announcement reads. Congestion Control is already available in version 0.4.7.7., albeit with a caveat which we will discuss further below.
The Onion Router, or Tor, is free and open-source software that enables anonymous communication. However, the tool could never brag about being the speediest thing out there, with congestion on the network’s nodes and long queues on the exit relays slowing communication speeds down.
The volunteers that run the anonymous browser have been looking for a solution for almost 20 years (Tor was first introduced in 2002), and now believe they have found it, in the form of three new algorithms: Tor-Westwood, Tor-Vegas, and Tor-NOLA.
Westwood’s goal is to minimize packet loss in large pipes, while Vegas estimates queue length and balances it out. NOLA is a bandwidth-delay estimator.
Tor also shared simulation results, showcasing the difference in browsing speeds and latency between versions 0.4.6. And 0.4.7., which BleepingComputer described as “impressive”.
As for the abovementioned caveat – for everyone to benefit from the new system, all exit relay operators need to be upgraded to version 0.4.7. It was also said that internal Tor nodes operators don’t need to upgrade just yet, but will need to set bandwidth limits.
“Because our network is roughly 25% utilized, we expect that throughput may be very high for the first few users who use 0.4.7 on fast circuits with fast 0.4.7 Exits until the point where most clients have upgraded. At that point, a new equilibrium will be reached in terms of throughput and network utilization,” the devs said.
“For this reason, we are holding back on releasing a Tor Browser Stable with congestion control until enough Exits have upgraded to make the experience more uniform. We hope this will happen by May 31st.”