The Tor Project is about to get much faster thanks to a whole new system introduced in the latest version of the popular browser.
Called Congestion Control, the new system promises “significant improvements in Tor performance, as well as increased utilization of our network capacity,” the announcement states. Congestion Control is already available in version 0.4.7.7., but with a caveat that we will discuss later.
The Onion Router, or Tor, is free and open source software that enables anonymous communication. However, the tool can never boast of being the fastest on the market, with congestion on network nodes and long queues on output relays slowing down communication speeds.
The volunteers who run the Anonymous Browser have searched 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 big pipes, while Vegas estimates queue length and balance. NOLA is a bandwidth delay estimator.
Tor also shared simulation results, showing the difference in browsing speed and latency between the 0.4.6 versions. And 0.4.7., which BeepComputer described as “impressive”.
Regarding the caveat mentioned above – in order for everyone to benefit from the new system, all Exit Relay Operators must be upgraded to 0.4.7. It was also said that internal Tor node operators do not need to upgrade yet, but will need to set bandwidth limits.
“Because our network is about 25% utilized, we expect throughput to be very high for early adopters using 0.4.7 on fast circuits with fast 0.4.7 outputs up to the point where most of customers have upgraded. At this point, a new balance will be achieved in terms of network throughput and utilization,” the developers said.
“For this reason, we are holding back the release of a stable Tor browser with congestion control until enough releases have been upgraded to make the experience more consistent. We hope this will happen by the time May 31.”