Nowadays, it is impossible to do anything on the Internet without being tracked by media corporations. Online services that claim to be free often collect your data and either sell it, or show you ads based on that collected data. Open Source applications are free as well most of the time, and they do not collect your data (sometimes they do collect telemetry for fixing bugs, but those are devoid of any identifiable data) or show you ads.
However, with open-source applications, your options are very limited regarding file-sharing and chatting applications. There’s Signal which is an end-to-end encrypted chatting application, but it requires you to have a Phone number and there’s also 100 MB file sharing size limit on Signal just like Discord.
OnionShare is a free and open-source application that allows for secure and anonymous file sharing over the Tor network. It’s cross-platform, can be used as a chat application, and even allows users to host a .onion website. Despite the dark reputation of the Tor network, applications like OnionShare harness its potential for positive, privacy-centric uses
This is where OnionShare comes in.
Exploring OnionShare and its Connection to the Tor Network
The Tor network is just a lot of Computers around the world connected and running a Tor relay and exit nodes. Whenever you visit a link in the Tor network, your query hops around those computers running the Tor Relay and then reaches its destination, thus protecting your identity on the Internet.
The Tor network can be accessed with the Tor browser. It is entirely decentralized (that is, there is no one main server), unlike the services like Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive, or Google Drive which are owned by corporations. The websites on the Tor network uses
.onion domain after its website, which is usually a string of numbers and characters.
OnionShare utilizes this protocol to share and receive files, chat anonymously, and even host a website on the Tor Network. All the files you want to share are stored on your computer and not on a centralized server like Google Drive or Dropbox.
OnionShare offers the following features:
- It is a cross-platform file-sharing application and officially supports Windows, macOS, and Linux.
- Sharing and receiving files anonymously using the TOR network.
- It can be used only from the command line, and therefore you can install it on your home server and share files with other devices anonymously.
- Works as a chatting application as well, along with file sharing.
- A Stealth mode is available for people looking for even more security.
- If you are unable to connect to the Tor network for some reason, you can also use bridges.
- You can host an Onion website from the application itself.
Quick and Easy Installation Guide for OnionShare
You can install the application’s Flatpak version from Flathub really easily if you have already enabled and set up Flatpak on your system. On the terminal, you can type the following command and install this application:
flatpak install flathub org.onionshare.OnionShare
Mastering the Use of OnionShare
After the installation is complete, you can run the application from your app grid/menu. You will see the following interface:
Set it to auto-connect to Tor network and then click on the ‘Connect to Tor’ button.
From here, you can select the files you want to share and then click on the ‘Share Now’ button.
You will receive an Onion address and a private key upon sharing the file, which you can share with your friends so that they can access the download page. Note that they will need a web browser that supports
OnionShare and Tor Network: A Final Summary
The Tor Network is both a boon and a curse, depending upon its usage. It does not allow anyone or governments to track any person or a journalist. Wikileaks even has an Onion address so that any whistleblower can share any media or highly confidential documents anonymously, which would get them in trouble if not for the mask.
Any form of censorship can also be circumvented using the Tor network. Thus, the Tor network is a boon for Journalists and anyone who wants to avoid being tracked.
The Tor network is a curse as well because of the evils of the Human race. It can be a safe haven for people looking to do illegal things, The Silk Route is a famous example of this case, and the creator even got busted by the FBI.
The Onion Share just makes the Tor Network easy to use and easy to work with anyone who does not know the details of how the Tor network or the Tor Browser works.