[guardian-dev] Orbot as a pure VPN?

Nathan of Guardian nathan at guardianproject.info
Mon Mar 27 15:44:53 EDT 2017

There was a lot of "we need to make tor easier" discussions at the Tor
dev meeting, in particular thinking about mobile first/only type users.
One thing I realized is that Orbot today is neither a VPN or a browser,
and that confuses many users, since it doesn't fit into a neat category.
For many places in the world, there is a need for a trustworthy, free,
open-source "unblocking" service. We had reports from trainers in South
America who said that the current user experience of Orbot was confusing
for novice users who just wanted to access sites or use apps that were

So, for my hackathon time for tor dev, I created a new variation on the
Orbot user experience, called OrbVPN or Orbot VPN. It is a pure VPN
version of the app with a single "connect" button, that lets the user
choose which apps to use with Tor, through a grid of app icons. It only
shows app that have the "internet" permission requested, and that have
proper names (i.e. not system services). There is no "tor everything"
option - the user must choose the specific apps they want to "unblock":

You can find the APK and source here:
The app is also quite small, less than 5 MB. This is because it doesn't
include any of the root/transproxy code, the polipo http proxy, or the
obfs4 bridge client. Most of that is still Tor itself (around 3MB), but
we had additional discussions at the dev meeting about working to make a
stripped down "client only" build of Tor, that wouldn't include any of
the more server-oriented functionality.

It also requires Android 5+, since that is where the VPN API works the
best, and allows for easy white-listing of apps without hijinks.

Anyhow, just food for thought, and potentially a future direction. We
also want to move to having Tor and other native dependencies be
available as official standalone gradle libs/AARs, to make the
experimentation, creation and maintenance of these different kinds of
user experiences around Tor much easier. 


  Nathan of Guardian
  nathan at guardianproject.info

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