Roger Dingledine, one of the original developers of Tor and current director of the Tor Project, has noted on the tor-talk mailing list that the number of Tor clients running appears to have doubled since August 19.
“And it’s not just a fluke in the metrics data — it appears that there really are twice as many Tor clients running as before,” he added, but admitted they don’t know the reason behind this increase.
“Anybody know details? It’s easy to speculate (Pirate Browser publicity gone overboard? People finally reading about the NSA thing? Botnet?), but some good solid facts would sure be useful,” he asked.
Unfortunately, none of the respondents so far have been able to offer a good explanation.
The speculations ran the gamut from Russia’s recent extension of Internet censorship and the fact that instructions on how to bypass this censorship prominently feature the Tor Browser Bundle, to the The Pirate Bay heavily pushing the PirateBrowser on its website.
Some mused that new Syrian and Iranian users or the recent update of the Orbot Android app might have accounted for the increase, or that the Tor client has been included in an app or a botnet is using it.
Finally, the influence of the recent revelations about NSA online spying efforts as well as the shutdown of Lavabit, Silent Circle and Groklaw might also have been big.
Perhaps it was the combination of all of those things?
The number says that the biggest spike of directly connecting users came from the US, Italy Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, the UK, Russia, Ukraine and the, and it’s interesting to note that the numbers show that the increase for all of them started at nearly the same time.
What happened around August 19 to make users turn to Tor? What was the watershed moment or news? Of course, it could be as simple as the botnet explanation. Hopefully the Tor Project people will soon come up with a valid explanation.