Online chatting is about to get a little more private.

The people behind Tor, the free software that lets users browse the Internet anonymously, plans to create a new instant messaging client that could let people chat anonymously in real time.

The group is working out the logistics of adding instant messaging software to its current Tor browser software package download, according to documents posted from the Tor Project’s winter developers meeting.

Tor has grown popular over the past few years as a way of surfing the Web while blocking network surveillance, analysis of your traffic, or other monitoring that “threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security,” as the Tor Project founders state. The group’s work is all the more significant following reports of NSA’s foreign and domestic surveillance activities.

Tor’s browsing software has been somewhat stigmatized, however, for its use by some to carry out illegal or illicit activities on the Deep Web — essentially, the areas of the Internet not indexed by search engines and not typically accessed by the general, non-computer-savvy public.

To be sure, there are already anonymous, secure instant messaging options available for interested users (TorChat, which was not created by Tor Project developers, in particular, has a sizable following). But if the Tor Project workers end up bundling the messaging client with the Tor browser, it could ultimately spur adoption of the new messaging medium rather quickly.

There’s no time frame for when we’ll see a finished version of the software, but according to the documents, expect to see test builds available to some by the end of March. Tor’s browser is open-source software, already freely available for Windows, Mac, Linux/Unix and Android users.


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