The Dark Web has been a mystery in the imagination of all internet users for many years. Everyone who has heard of this mythical shade of the internet has their own version of what it might be. People often have a lot of misconceptions about the deep web.
Tor or I2P to access the Dark Web?
At first glance, you may think both Tor and I2P basically perform the same function. This presumption is only half true. In fact, there is a significant difference between the purpose and functioning protocol of both. Understanding this difference is essential for figuring out which software to use when.
So, let us take a comparative look at both these software and understand what makes them different.
The Onion Router is the go-to browser for anyone who has online privacy and anonymity on their mind. While generally speaking, Tor can perform the same base level function as a VPN, it is not meant for that purpose. For real anonymity, it is best to combine Tor with a reliable, paid VPN.
The fundamental idea behind Tor is that it anonymizes users by bouncing their connections through a circuit relay. There are basically three distinct segments of the Tor connection – the entry point, the intermediary relays, and the exit point. There are multiple intermediary relays in the middle and each of them only has a limited knowledge of where the connection is coming and going.
So, your connection’s exit point will only be aware of what the connection is doing. It will not be aware of who is at the other end of the connection. Similarly, the entry point will only be aware of who is behind the connection but not what the connection is doing. This helps ensure that even the relay point owners are not aware of the user and their online activities in full.
How Tor Works
When you start your Tor connection, your client will acquire a list of active relay servers. This will then create a randomized sequence out of all the available relays and then create the connection. This process is very different from the traditional IP creation model where the best possible path is chosen. However, that path exposes the user to easy detection and so, Tor uses a randomized sequence to complete the connection.
Now, when the connection is initially made, it is done through the use of cryptographic keys. These are basically encryption codes which are shared throughout the connection relay to both facilitate connectivity and secure it. Each node within the connection matrix develops its own, slightly altered version of the cryptographic code. This grants layers of encryption to the connection and ensures that nobody can compromise the user’s identity.
Tor’s Extra Features
An important aspect of Tor is the use of dedicated services such as messaging, emailing and access to forums among others. This is a popular reason for why Tor is used even though this is not the primary function it is intended for. Tor is basically meant to general browsing of the internet. Specialized services are not its strong suit due to its complex relay process. And this is where I2P serves as a better tool.
Compared to Tor, I2P is less well-known and is used less frequently. And there is a very good reason for that. With Tor finding a secure relay network is relatively easy. Since it is designed for general browsing of the internet with the potential for specialized services, hosting is relatively risk-free. As such, Tor functions like a hyperloop between ports across the internet.
I2P, on the other hand, is a network unto itself. It uses the same relay protocol as Tor. But the number of active outbound relays in the I2P network is very limited. That is why I2P’s relay process is called garlic routing as opposed to Tor’s onion routing. This means that unlike Tor, there is no directory of relays in I2P. Rather, it is a distributed network referred to as netDB.
In effect, I2P’s relay process is also very similar to conventional internet routing. This allows it to provide a better connection with greater reliability and redundancy than Tor. The central premise behind I2P’s relay process is the creation of a simplex network. In this process, two tunnels are created for an end to end connectivity. This differs from Tor in the sense that Tor provides a singular duplex circuit.
Is I2P Easier to Use Than Tor?
Another major difference that exists between I2P and Tor is the use of services. On Tor, you are simply given a proxy connection. This does not facilitate the use of specific services automatically. In case you want to use any such service, then you will need to configure it manually. Alternatively, you can download dedicated bundles which are pre-configured to provide specific functionalities.
For I2P, these functions are provided beforehand. In fact, all you need to do to use any such service is to bring up the I2P interface and navigate to the service you are looking for. This is certainly a much easier and more effective way of accessing dedicated services. Also, this means that there are dedicated relays which can serve the purpose of these services.
TOR vs I2P – Conclusion
As we have explained and explored, Tor and I2P each provide their own set of benefits. On the whole, Tor is better suited for generic functions which do not go beyond the ambits of the deep web. It can also be used manually for dedicated services. Tor also has a more complex and thus less efficient connection relay.
On the other hand, I2P makes use of a simpler and therefore more effective relay process. This makes it better suited for navigating the Dark Web much more efficiently. Further, the dedicated services that are offered by the I2P interface make it a better option for set functions.
In short, both I2P and Tor have their specific set of pros and cons to offer. As a user, you should understand what they can do for your intended purpose and practice pragmatic online safety.