If you care about privacy in our increasingly surveilled digital world, the odds are good that you‘ve heard about Tor. This powerful anonymity software allows people to access the web privately and securely by routing traffic through a network of servers to obscure a user‘s location and usage.
Given how much data is collected about us when we simply browse the web these days, Tor has become an essential tool for many users who wish to avoid mass surveillance, censorship or worse at the hands of authoritarian regimes.
But how widely used is Tor really? Can the network reliably protect the millions who rely on it? What are experts forecasting for Tor usage and development in 2023 and beyond?
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll answer these questions and more by exploring the key Tor statistics and trends you need to know this year:
An Estimated 3 Million People Use Tor Daily
One of the most important Tor statistics is the number of total daily users. According to the 2022 Tor Metrics report, Tor facilitated over 1.2 billion connections in 2022. With an average of 3-4 connections per user, that translates to an estimated 2-3 million daily users.
This daily usage number has steadily risen over the past decade:
|Year||Estimated Daily Tor Users|
|2018||800,000 – 1 million|
As you can see from the table above, Toradoption has grown considerably in recent years as privacy concerns mount globally.
Cybersecurity firm Atlas VPN predicts that if growth continues at this pace, Tor will reach 5 million daily users by 2025.
Windows Downloads of Tor Browser Exceeded 40k Per Day in 2022
The Tor browser is the most popular and recommended way for users to access the Tor network.
Metrics from Tor indicate that from April to July 2022, the Tor browser was downloaded over 120,000 times per day on average across all platforms.
The Windows operating system sees the bulk of these downloads. In fact, Windows users downloaded Tor browser over 40,000 times per day during the April-July 2022 period monitored.
With this volume of downloads happening daily, it‘s clear that public interest in privacy preserving browsers continues to accelerate.
Tor Traffic Has Risen to 100 Gbps Handling 45 Million Connections
The Tor network is comprised of over 8,000 volunteer nodes called relays that route user traffic in a way that obscures identities and locations.
Collectively, these fast-spinning relays are now handling massive amounts of traffic:
- As of January 2023, the Tor network had a capacity of 100 Gbps
- Tor facilitates over 45 million simultaneous connections
- Over 750 TB of data is transmitted across Tor daily
Importantly, the number of relays and overall network capacity continues expanding each year, ensuring speed and reliability for the millions who rely on Tor.
Less Than 3% of Tor Traffic Goes to Hidden Dark Web Sites
One myth about Tor is that the majority of users are accessing dark web sites involved in illicit or illegal activities.
However, statistics paint a far different picture:
- Only about 3% of Tor traffic goes to hidden services with .onion addresses, which make up the dark web.
- The remaining 97% of Tor use is simply people accessing the open internet privately and securely. This includes victims of domestic violence, oppressed ethnic groups, and average users concerned about privacy.
Tor does not exist solely to enable dark web access, but rather to allow all people to browse freely without mass surveillance.
65,000+.onion Addresses Hosted, 55% are Legal Sites
Within that small fraction of Tor use that does access hidden dark web sites, what type of content is being hosted?
- There are over 65,000 .onion websites hosted on the Tor network. This number grows steadily each year.
- Around 55% of these sites host legal content or offer legal services. The remaining 45% host illegal or questionable content.
- Only around 12% of .onion sites are dedicated to illicit drug marketplaces.
- Approximately 200 sites host clearly illegal content like child exploitation imagery or human trafficking promotion.
So while the dark web does host serious criminal enterprises, over half the content hidden behind Tor is legal and ethical. This includes dissident journalism, secure legal services, and even Facebook‘s Tor hidden service.
Crypto Dark Web Markets Topped $1 Billion in 2021
Many dark web marketplaces run as hidden services on Tor leverage cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to enable anonymous transactions.
Research indicates that these crypto dark web transactions totaled:
- Over $872 million in 2018
- Projected $1 billion in 2021
- Up to $2 billion forecast for 2025
This growth suggests continued ramping up of dark web marketplaces selling illicit goods and services like drugs, stolen financial data, counterfeits, and cybercrime tools.
While concerning, it still represents a fraction of overall crypto transactions volume, the majority of which are legal.
Tor Provides Critical Access in Countries Like India and Russia
Globally, Tor sees significant usage in countries with repressive internet controls and heavy censorship.
According to 2022 research from Surfshark on the percentage of a country‘s internet users that access private networks like Tor:
- 26% of Indian internet users
- 22% of Russian internet users
- 21% of Brazilian internet users
- 20% of Indonesian internet users
- 16% of South African internet users
- 16% of Turkish internet users
Tor has become vital for citizens under authoritarian regimes to access independent journalism, organize politically, and communicate securely.
DDoS Costs to Disrupt Tor Are Around $20k Per Month
Like any piece of cyber infrastructure, Tor faces threats of cyber attacks aiming to disrupt or endanger users.
Researchers estimate that effectively denying access to Tor via DDoS attacks on bridge nodes costs adversaries about $17,000 per month.
Similarly, DDoS attacks on Tor‘s load balancing infrastructure are estimated to cost attackers $2,800 per month.
While these dollar figures seem low, most experts agree the decentralized nature of Tor makes it resilient and difficult to meaningfully disrupt. Attacks may identify some users but cannot crush the overall network.
Conclusion: Tor Delivers Vital Privacy as Surveillance Rises
Given its open design and commitment to anonymity, there will always be some unsavory use of Tor by criminals and bad actors.
However, based on the statistics we‘ve examined, it‘s clear that the vast majority of Tor connections are by everyday people with legitimate aims – to avoid censorship, communicate securely, and preserve basic privacy in an age of mass surveillance.
As government monitoring and corporate data collection continue expanding, services like Tor will only grow more crucial for preserving digital civil liberties.