Onion-location: increasing the use of onion services through automatic redirects and aliasing
= Background =
People can't remember, or type in onion sites very easily. We should try to fix this somehow.
ilf is experimenting with automatically redirecting Tor users to .onion versions of websites that they visit (because they want more people to visit onion sites and they will do so if it is painless to them). But when users were redirected automatically to an onion site, they freaked out about it because they didn't know what happened, didn't know what onion sites were, and the "https" was dropped.
asn and dgoulet also were trying to find a solution to make onion sites more accessible to use. Specifically, onion addresses are quite long and random-ish, making them hard to remember and hard to type. There were many solutions discussed casually to try and resolve this, but none stood out as a clear winner.
= Discussion =
I like the idea of redirecting users to .onion sites automatically when they type in the websites non-onion address. This way, users don't need to remember anything else, need to type in anything long, or really even know what onion sites are.
My suggestion is to follow the https design pattern, and create a similar indicator for .onion sites.
The proposed solution would be this: when a user types in a website (pad.riseup.net), they would automatically be redirected to the onion site. When this happens, there would be an onion icon next to the address bar (replacing the https lock icon if there is one, or just being there an https lock icon would be if redirection from an http website), similar to that of the https lock icon. The address in the address bar can turned a different color or indicated in some way that this is an alias for the onion site.
From my observation, people don't mind automatically being redirected to https sites from http sites, but freak out when redirected from an http/https site to an onion site. I don't think that this is because people know what https is and find the idea comforting (although this can help). I speculate that they don't mind because they don't notice, and the reason why users freaked out at the redirect to onion sites is that they saw the website address visibly change in the address bar.
If we want to show users the address of the onion site, we can additionally have a feature to reveal the onion site when the user clicks in the address bar.
I don't know how I feel about this, since it may just be confusing, and just shock the user later. Users don't know that pad.riseup.net resolves to some numerical IP address, and that isn't displayed to users. So there could be an argument made for just indicating that the address is an alisas and not ever showing the .onion address, either. This will confuse way less of the general population.
= Considerations =
- how should the redirect behavior work?
- how can we implement this without tracking?
- should we allow users to turn off this redirecting behavior?
- should we hide the .onion address from the users more so than the proposal above?