Tor is a free to use, decentralized network designed for using the internet with as much privacy as possible. If used properly, the network enables private and anonymous browsing and communications.
Tor works by routing your internet traffic through those volunteer-operated servers, instead of making a direct connection to the site you’re trying to visit. This obfuscates where the traffic is coming from, and no server in the connection path is able to see the full path of where the traffic is coming from and going to, meaning even the servers you are using to connect cannot break your anonymity.
The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows you to connect for free and improve your privacy and security on the Internet. Individuals and organizations can also share information over the Tor network with “.onion hidden services” without compromising their privacy. Because Tor traffic is difficult to block and trace, Tor is an effective censorship circumvention tool.
Tor is legal in the United States, and it’s unlikely you’ll get in trouble just for using the Tor network. However, Tor’s anonymity is a double-edged sword: Some people operate illegal sites on the Tor network, and you could be held accountable for any illegal actions you perform, but these are exceptional circumstances. Tor is used by a wide variety of people including journalists, activists, minorities, and many other groups for perfectly legitimate activities.
Tor hides your IP address and other information from the websites you visit. Additionally, Tor allows you to bypass network censorship and securely access websites. It provides many of the same benefits as a VPN, with the bonus benefit of being completely free to use.
The “dark web” refers to websites which are not accessible via the normal internet. Tor allows access to a dark web of .onion websites, but other dark webs exist which are unrelated to Tor.
Tor provides many of the same advantages as a VPN, such as hiding your IP address from the websites you visit, and it is completely free! However, VPNs typically provide a performance benefit, and can tunnel UDP traffic which is important for some applications such as video conferencing. If you need total anonymity, Tor is the best option, but for many people using a recommended VPN provider could provide a better experience.