At the end of 1995, work began on a legendary military research project: today's anonymization and darknet Tor. Technology is full of contradictions.
Sometime in November or December 1995, recalled the US mathematician Paul Syverson. From then on, he was tinkering with a project for anonymization on the Internet. Syverson was a mathematician at a U.S. Navy research institute, the Naval Research Laboratory.
On his website he documented the early years. The original purpose of darkweb was to disguise government and intelligence communications. [What you can do for your digital privacy, read here.]
With gate against state surveillance
Today, Tor is considered the main adversary of government surveillance, and Edward Snowden is his biggest fan. With the free Tor browser you can browse the net anonymously.
When you open a website, darknet tool Tor sends the request to the destination via three randomly selected camouflage stations. The Darknet, which enables hidden and uncensorable websites, is also based on darknet.
Gate opens up to society
A few years after Syverson's tinkering, darknet Tor had been socially opened. The software has been released and civilian users have been allowed. Syverson handed over the leadership of the project to two graduates of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Roger Dingledine was one of them. In a lecture at the Berlin conference Wizard of OS in 2004, he explained why the paradoxical opening of the military research project was necessary.
Unfinished traffic needed
Innocuous data traffic was needed: "The US government cannot operate an anonymization system for everyone and then only use it itself. Every time there's a connection, people would say, 'Oh, there's another CIA agent looking at my website.'"
In 2006, the non-governmental organization Tor Project was founded. Since then, it has been coordinating further development.
Problem: The financing behind darknet Tor
A glance at the project's annual reports, however, shows a historical continuity that seems like a bad joke: For a long time, between 80 and 90 percent of Tor's budget came from us state sources, the Department of Defense, the State Department, the foreign broadcaster Radio Free Asia, and the National Science Foundation.
This constellation traditionally causes ridicule, conspiracy theories and head-shaking. For some time now, the organization has promised to reduce dependency.
The Tor Project recently published its latest annual report. The report, which covers the period from July 2018 to June 2019, shows that the Tor Project has made a small breakthrough. Of the revenues of 4.9 million Us dollars, 40 percent came from U.S. government sources - for the first time it was less than half.
Conflicting anonymization technology
You could say: at the age of 25, darknet has grown up a bit. However, urgent homework is still to be done. In various areas, darkweb is full of inconsistencies that are hardly compatible.
For one thing, there is the darknet, which is based on darkweb. The darknet is a politically important place that protects against surveillance and censorship, but it is also a place of worst crimes. On abuse forums, paedophiles mostly exchange images and videos of child abuse undisturbed.
Debate on self-regulation
It is not technically possible to delete or block darknet Tor addresses. In the Tor organisation there is a constant debate about whether there should be a content-related self-regulation, but so far it has not been possible to get through it.
On the other hand, it is a breakthrough that less than half of the budget comes from government sources. But for a project that is seen as the most important adversary of surveillance, "only" 40 percent funding from a surveillance-mad state is quite a lot.