Tor Browser’s Login Wizard Eliminates Censorship Bypass Frustration
Tor Project has announced the release of Tor Browser 11.5, the latest version of the open-source web browser designed to help people bypass censorship and stay anonymous.
It achieves this by routing network traffic through a series of Tor network nodes and limiting node information; this enhances user privacy through anonymity and helps circumvent censorship. Certain Internet resources may be blocked in specific regions or countries, and the Tor Browser is a viable option for accessing these resources.
Tor Browser 11.5 is a major release that introduces the new Connection Assist feature, HTTPS-only mode by default, and redesigned network settings.
Tor Project engineers started improving the login experience in Tor Browser 10.5, which was released last year. One of the main changes was the integration of the login flow into the browser. Previously, users had to use Tor Launcher for this.
While this improved the process, it still required manual configuration, for example, how to make the Tor Browser work with the bridges to unlock its capabilities. The Tor network is blocked in several countries, including Russia, Belarus, and China.
Connection Assist is a new automated feature designed to automatically apply these configurations to the user. The feature takes the manual configuration process out of the equation at best, so Tor Browser users can start browsing the internet right away.
Connection Assist relies on a list with country-specific options. The list is downloaded and then used by the Tor browser.
Connection Assist works by searching and downloading an up-to-date list of country-specific options to try to use your location (with your consent). It manages to do this without needing to connect to the Tor network first using moat – the same domain tool that Tor Browser uses to request a bridge from torproject.org.
Default HTTPS-only mode
The Tor Browser previously used HTTPS Everywhere to provide access to HTTPS resources whenever possible. Mozilla introduced HTTPS-only support in Firefox a while back to give Firefox users the option to prioritize HTTPS over HTTP, or even block HTTP connections altogether.
The Tor Browser, based on Firefox ESR, now also uses HTTPS-only mode. Unlike Firefox, which has it disabled by default, it is enabled in the Tor Browser. The HTTPS Everywhere extension is therefore no longer provided with the Tor browser. The extension’s developer announced his retirement in 2021.
Sites that do not support HTTPS are still accessible, as it is possible to add exceptions in the settings. Tor Browser users can disable HTTPS-only mode in the settings by also loading about:preferences#privacy, but this is not advised.
Improved Tor network settings
Network settings have undergone an overhaul in the new version of Tor Browser. The Login Wizard should help many Tor Browser users automatically, but manual adjustments may still be needed. Additionally, some Tor users may wish to make manual changes to the configuration.
Tor network settings have been renamed to connection settings. These can be accessed by loading about:preferences#connection into the address bar.
The page displays the last connection status and an option to test the internet connection without using Tor.
Managing bridges is now a streamlined process, and there are new bridge cards, which provide the most important details about a bridge at a glance.
Other Changes in Tor Browser 11.5
Tor Browser comes with a list of bundled fonts. The new version includes more fonts to improve the display of fonts on the Internet.
Tor Browser for Android lags behind when it comes to features. Development focused on improving Tor for Android, such as fixing crashes and other issues users encountered. The main goal is to catch Firefox for Android and eventually catch up to the desktop feature set. For now, all the features mentioned above are only available in the desktop version of Tor Browser.
Now you: do you use the Tor browser? What is your opinion on the changes?