Allowing TOR to use LAN and other connections, not only internet
Since the threat of internet censorship, I've been looking for a system that allows connected computers to share data anonymously, and even create 'alternate internets' via mesh networking. I believe this would be a great feature for TOR, and wanted to suggest it for a while. This is what I had in mind:
Currently, TOR locates nodes on the internet and sends data between them. My request is making internet no longer be a requirement for TOR, but just one way of connecting. By giving TOR the ability to reach nodes on other computers using any means of communication... including a Local Area Network, WIFI, and maybe even Bluetooth.
There are two reasons why I suggest this. The first is to allow computers without an internet connection (but part of a LAN) to connect using TOR. For instance, let's say an user has been banned by his ISP from using the internet at all (happens in some countries). However, he can still be part of the LAN in his area. One of his neighbors runs a TOR node, which either exits to an internet connection or leads to another TOR node that does. The disconnected user could travel to the exit node from computer to computer, TOR acting as usual from there on.
The second reason is to make TOR usable for 'alternative internets'. This is an idea of the future, but with the fear of censorship I see it coming. Basically, an area of computers which can contact each other could establish its own private network to share data, host websites, etc. without touching the actual internet. But despite not finding any software that can do this (let alone anonymously), users creating an alternate internet could still be persecuted for sharing "illegal data" if they are caught. Using TOR's system, it would be impossible to tell who in the network is hosting what.
How TOR could do mesh networking and private internet: There is a LAN network running multiple computers, none of them connected to the actual internet. One of them wants to host a website accessible to the cloud. He would create a TOR node for that, exiting to the folder where he's hosting his files or website. The user wanting to reach his page would write the IP or URL in his web browser, then TOR would go from node to node inside the cloud, looking for the computer hosting that page. Once it finds it, it establishes a permanent connection, encrypting it using any available nodes it can relay the connection through in that cloud.
In my opinion, TOR would be a great candidate for this, and would allow even more users to connect, share data and evade censorship. It could even combine both ideas... by connecting to a LAN node, then an internet node, then going through another group of LAN computers, etc. TOR could automatically choose the best path to a resource, such as determining if it's located on the internet or a direct device, if to use an internet or a LAN node, etc. So all the user must do is type the URL and have TOR figure where and how to find it. I believe this would extend possibilities greatly, and really hope the idea can be considered.