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Re: Bigger Thinking [was: Tor Project 2008 Tax Return]

Mike Perry wrote:
Actually there are several large-userbase companies that want to
include Tor by default in their product, either as a client, a relay,
or a bridge.  Unfortunately, the only answer we have for them in the
immediate term is "For the love of goddess don't do that, you'll
destroy Tor".
Our immediate concern is making it possible to support at least a
fraction of one of these userbases in either the relay or the bridge
roll. The relay role will require a significant update to Tor's
directory mechanisms, and we are trying to drive academic research
forward in these areas.  ...

This might be a good time to bring up a concern that has been on my mind for a while. I don't know if this is one of the concerns that has already been identified when thinking about a much larger relay pool.

I connect to the Internet with dialup. I have been successfully using Tor clients for 4+ years. One of the issues with using Tor over a slow connection is the amount of time it takes to update the information about the network when Tor is first started after having been off-line for a while. Depending on connection speed and how long the client has been off-line, this typically takes about 3 to 10 minutes. Perhaps a bit longer. My experience is that during this time the connection is pretty much useless for any other purpose.

While inconvenient, this situation is certainly manageable. My concern has been what happens as the Tor network grows. At some point the delay would start being a serious problem. So as you think about how to change the directory mechanisms to handle a significantly larger number of relays I request that you also think about changing how this information is distributed to clients. Perhaps with a much larger Tor network, each client doesn't actually have to know about all of the nodes but can make do with a reasonably sized "sampling." Or maybe there is a way to spread out over time the increased amount of information available.

I can imagine that a solution to the problems a slow connection has might not be acceptable for relays. As such, maybe there could be a "slow connection" option in torrc that would not be used by relays.

Thanks for giving consideration to this issue.


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