Tor Messenger is shutting down, and it didn’t even leave beta
From Telegram to Signal, lots of companies have been trying to build the world’s most secure messaging platform. Now it seems like one of the most secure messaging clients is closing up shop, as Tor (The Onion Router) announces that Tor Messenger is winding down, before it even had the chance to leave its beta phase.
The Tor Project, which is better known for its privacy-focused browser that grants people access to the dark web, built Tor Messenger in late 2015.
In a similar vein to the Tor browser, Tor Messenger was a messaging client that would exchange encrypted messages between users over the Tor network. What set it apart from platforms like Telegram, however, was that it worked with other popular messaging platforms, instead of creating its own third-party messaging infrastructure. This meant that it worked with platforms and protocols like Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, Yahoo, IRC and Jabber (XMPP). With that functionality, Facebook users could send Tor-encrypted messages. It also employed off-the-record (OTR) messaging by default, and would only allow users to exchange messages if OTR was enabled.
So why is it shutting down? There are a number of reasons why, but the main cause is down to the messaging client that Tor Messenger is built on. Instantbird, which is an open-source messaging client developed by Mozilla’s community, announced that work would be stopped on the client last year.
Add to that Tor Messenger’s issues with metadata still being accessible, low interest and reoccurring security flaws, and it’s no wonder the client never received an official release. Metadata, while not revealing actual data, can reveal social graphs such as who you’re talking to, for how long and how frequently.
“Even after all the releases, Tor Messenger was still in beta and we had never completed an external audit (there were two internal audits by Tor developers),” Tor developer, Sukhbir Singh, wrote in a blog post. “We were also ignoring user requests for features and bug reports due to the limited resources we could allocate to the project. Given these circumstances, we decided it’s best to discontinue rather than ship an incomplete project.”
While Tor Messenger is still working, we don’t recommend continuing using it, seeing as it won’t be updated from here on out. There aren’t many alternatives to Tor Messenger, the Tor devs recommend CoyIM, but it still faces the same metadata problems highlighted above.