Tor ‘sunsets’ secure Messenger that never exited beta

Cross-platform chat client crueled by death of code underpinnings

The Tor project will “sunset” its Messenger, a project launched in 2015 in the hope of improving security for social networks’ messaging services.

At launch, Tor advanced Messenger as a replacement for multi-protocol chat clients like Adium and Pidgin. The project’s plan was to route messages sent using XMPP, IRC, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Twitter and Yahoo! through its deliberately-confusing labyrinth in order to enhance users’ privacy.

Which would have been handy, but proved hard to pull off. As Tor explained, the Instantbird code on which the project was based is no longer maintained and it proved impossible to stop leakage of metadata. The Tor Project also just didn’t have enough people to respond to feature requests or fix bugs, which is one reason the tool went through eleven betas without ever receiving a formal release.

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“We still believe in Tor's ability to be used in a messaging app, but sadly, we don't have the resources to make it happen right now,” wrote developer Sukhbir Sing. “Maybe you do?”

Even if you answer Sing’s question in the affirmative, a further question “Why bother?” seems apt given the good range of secure messaging tools on offer these days. Apple and Facebook both offer end-to-end encryption for their messaging services. They aren’t cross-service, as Tor wanted, but the likes of Signal span iOS, Android, Windows and macOS desktops and combine TXT with secure messaging in a single client. WhatsApp is widely adopted and uses Signal’s widely-admired protocol, so offers better-than-decent security (unlike Telegram).

None of which quite matches the likes of Adium or Pidgin, but perhaps such cross-platform tools just aren’t needed any more now that the big messaging services are tied to platforms that already link you to many of the people who matter in your life. ®




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