The Onion Router

What Does The Onion Router Mean?

The Onion Router (Tor) is an open-source software program that allows users to protect their privacy and security against a common form of Internet surveillance known as traffic analysis. Tor was originally developed for the U.S. Navy in an effort to protect government communications. The name of the software originated as an acronym for the The Onion Router, but Tor is now the official name of the program.


The main idea behind designing Tor was to protect the personal privacy of network users, and allow them to conduct confidential business. Tor is also widely used in location-hidden services to provide anonymity to servers.

Techopedia Explains The Onion Router

The Tor project was developed as a cross-platform software program to facilitate online anonymity. Tor was released in 2002 and is geared toward protecting users from online surveillance that aims to track their online activities. Tor is written in C programming language with roughly 146,000 lines of source code.

Tor consists of a huge proxy database that users can access to protect their network privacy and keep their online identity safe. Tor works with Web browsers, remote login applications and instant messaging programs. Tor is an implementation of onion routing, which involves running an onion proxy on a user’s machine. The software is designed to negotiate a virtual tunnel through the Tor network by encrypting and randomly bouncing communications through relay networks across the globe. Tor networks provide anonymity to applications such as Internet relay chat, instant messaging and Web browsing. Tor is conjugated with privoxy, a proxy server that provides privacy at the application layer.

Tor is now used by common Internet users, journalists, the military, activists, law enforcement officers and many others.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…