wiki:org/teams/UxTeam/Misc/CircuitDisplay

Tor Browser Circuit Display

Background

Everytime a website is accessed through tor browser, users are able to visualise the tor circuit that was used to reach the current site. This is accomplished via the circuit display, a user interface component listing the countries and nodes that have been used to reach the visited page.

The circuit display can also be used to request a new circuit. Users would usually want to do so either if the page is taking to long to load or if they see anything is amiss with the page rendering. We have found out that when requesting a new circuit, many users were hoping to see the all nodes in the circuit to change. This is rarely the case. The first relay in the tor circuit, called "guard" is a fast and stable relay that remains the first one in the user's tor circuit for 2-3 months. This is a design feature within tor meant to protect against a known anonymity-breaking attack.

The problem we tried to solve is related to a new circuit request and how users can understand the circuit visualizer. Previously, there was no indicator on the circuit display to show the user that the first node is a guard, what guards are, and what happens when Tor creates new circuits for a user.

Relevant Ticket(s)

Old UI

In previous versions of the Tor Browser, the circuit display was hanging from the Tor Button. Users reported in our ticketing system (https://trac.torproject.org/), that they were confused by its design and the fact that every time they asked for a “New identity” or “New circuit for this site,” the first Tor node in the circuit would not change.

Additionally, users were not sure if the new circuit request would apply per site only or globall, for any other website visited. Furthermore, we got reports about some inconsistencies with the browser user interface.

New UI

In order to move domain related controls to the URL bar, we decided to move the Circuit Display to the Control Center panel in Tor Browser 8.

The guard node, which is the first node of the circuit, has a label now. This acts as a highlight to help users having a visual indication about which is the first node of the connection.

When a user clicks the [i] identity icon at the url bar, the Control Center panel opens.

https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/raw-attachment/wiki/org/teams/UxTeam/Misc/CircuitDisplay/old-new.png

User Testing

Motivation

The circuit display is a user interface component that educates users about how the tor network works and the design choices behind it. We want to keep this component as one of the tools that defines the Tor browsing experience.

This tool needs to be clear, transparent and consistent explaining its purpose.

Methodology

As part of the global south initiative, we visited users from India, Uganda, Colombia, and Kenya to meet the people we are designing for and discover their needs. We ran a small-scale, short, qualitative, open-ended user test.

Read more about our Global South Initiative.

Reports

Findings

Ticket Status Summary Owner Reporter
#28605 new OMG! Guard node only! tbb-team omg
#27749 new Opening about:config (about pages) shows circuit info of previously loaded content website tbb-team gk
#27590 new Display .onion alt-svc route in the circuit display tbb-team mahrud
#27447 new also show ip address of destination at tor circuit tbb-team h1n1
#26648 new Add bridge country to circuit display where applicable tbb-team gk
#26322 new Circuit display - UI bug - Long v3 name tbb-team antonela
#26176 new Display .onion services with "mixed" content in circuit display properly tbb-team gk
#25145 new Torbutton doesn't update the circuit display when the back button is pressed tbb-team cypherpunks
#23875 new Facebook's onion site is a single hop onion, but clicking on the Tor onion icon shows that it is a 6 hop circuit. tbb-team Dbryrtfbcbhgf
#19335 new Tor circuit display shows example circuit instead of real tbb-team axdoomer
#18583 new Tor Browser doesn't show the circuit for downloads tbb-team teor
#16936 needs_information Circuit display should show original circuit for each tab tbb-team arthuredelstein
#15239 new Add hyperlinks in tor circuit display to show "more info" about relays tbb-team arthuredelstein
#14939 new Support ipv6 addresses in Tor Circuit DIsplay tbb-team arthuredelstein

Last modified 4 weeks ago Last modified on Nov 12, 2018, 5:49:41 PM

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