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The Tor Project releases beta version of its anonymous instant messenger

The Tor Project has just released the beta version of Tor Messenger, a chat client that allows for anonymous, "off-the-record" chats based on Tor's secure browsing system. The instant messenger is a beta release more than a year in the making, and promises to create a more seamless, accessible way for people to chat securely on the web, built on the instant messaging client Instantbird but routing all traffic through Tor.

Similar instant messaging clients, like Pidgin and Adium, can be set up for encrypted chatting, but the Tor Project says Messenger takes the idea one step further, enforcing encrypted chats "out of the box" and disabling logging of information by default. The cross-platform client supports Jabber (XMPP), IRC, Google Talk, Facebook Chat, Twitter, and Yahoo.

The goal is to make Tor both more accessible and to create a secure chat client, which just isn't out there, according to Sukhbir Singh, a developer on the Tor Messenger project who worked with two other developers, Nicolas Vigier and Arlo Breault. "So it's just not Tor. It's Tor and OTR," he told The Verge in a chat on Tor Messenger. "Tor gives us location anonymity. OTR gives us encryption and secrecy."

Singh stressed that this is a beta release of Messenger, and that the team expects feedback on usability and privacy issues, saying "people shouldn't rely on this for strong anonymity" yet.