I2P vs. Tor: The Debate To Find Out Which Onion is Better?

I2P vs Tor

Darknet is the new buzz word in the internet town. People feel privileged to know about it, even a little bit. Usually, Tor and Silk Road are linked with darknet and considered everything of the darknet. However, they are just the popular ones. There was a time when the purpose of the internet was to send and receive data packets. The data packets used to be simple tasks and email. Then came the time when the internet became a social hub for socializing through multiple social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. What we fail to conceptualize is the internet is much more than looking up for recipes and updating Facebook statuses, but also for things that will land you in a severe dark hole involving the authorities. Nowadays the case is more towards being anonymous online while having complete control over your privacy. Anonymity in a gist means that the two users communicating together or more are hidden from the outside world, the goal is to keep the conversation amongst the two users in secret.

However, if we think about the Darknet, people assume it’s a digital lair of the underworld criminals and Hitmen. The darknet comprises of much more complex elements like I2P. Like Tor, it is also an anonymizing network which strives to create the internet completely free and anonymous. The fact is the darknet comes in all shapes and sizes. People opt for the Darknet to anonymize their traffic and activity. While anonymity sounds illegal, the concept behind it is to secure yourself from unwanted attention on the internet having access to clouds and hidden services while being anonymous.

Different anonymous communication systems have been developed to provide anonymity and privacy such as Tor, 12P, JAP, Tarzan, Morphix, Mute, and Free-net. Though the goal of all these anonymous systems is to provide ample protocols to secure online communications, not all of them are competent enough to be the one solution that fits for all. Today, we will have a closer look at the notorious I2P and Tor that are more famous tools. This guide will serve as a I2P vs Tor guide and we will walk you through all the details pertained to the subject.

What Is Tor?

Tor is an exceptional platform that offers services offering a wide range of content whether it’s about forums, criminal services, movies, etc. Anything that is restricted and you need to mask your identity to access it. The primary purpose of tor is to enlighten anonymity to users who are obtaining and providing the content.

Tor is the abbreviation of The Onion Router (onion shaped logo)  as it is based on the concept of Layering servers for communicating your internet traffic. It has three different type of nodes;

  1. Directory Server
  2. Exit Points (exit relays)
  3. Internal Relays

When you connect to tor, the client focuses on approaching a list of relays from the trustworthy directory server. The browser is built on Mozilla Firefox and accessing websites from where the data is encrypted and passes through multiple relays with only one relay containing the IP address to be decrypted along with the node, which is why it is very much different from the typical internet protocol.

Each hop in the transit between the internal relays and are encrypted using ‘Cryptographic keys’. Multiple encrypted relays are transmitted, and the final relay sending decrypts the entire bundle of relays, delivering the data to its destination having strong security. Tor isn’t like the traditional internet; it only encrypts data which is sent and received within the tor software, which is why it is used to browse content anonymously being invisible in the digital world.

To avoid any malware and malicious hardware infecting the system its advised to utilize tor with disabled scripts (JavaScript) as many tor services could hamper the system. Most importantly Tor is a good tool for bypassing high-end security such as China’s firewall. Read our guide and learn how to unblock Facebook in China.

What Is I2P Network And How It Works?

I2P, Invisible Internet Project, initiated its operation in 2003. I2P is basically an anonymizing network that creates a secure connection (internal) between different users. In a deeper sense, I2P is actually creating its own internet. I2P is known as the ‘Anonymous Overlay Network. Similar to the tor browser, the garlic routing protocol encrypts abundance of messages altogether to make sure the data traffic analysis becomes difficult, at the same time increasing network traffic speed. The name ‘Garlic’ routing is derived from the actual garlic, where the entire encrypted pack represents the bulb. Each specific message is encrypted with its own delivery steps, where each endpoint working as a “Key” or better known as a cryptographic identifier.

Having the structure of a peer to peer technology, there is no hard and evident coded trusted pack of directory stores. Unlike that, the network of I2P uses the directory netDb (which is a replicated database across the entire network). Since I2P doesn’t offer normal internet, it cannot be accessed from a normal computer. There is a specific software required to log on to I2P. Once the software is installed, you can access the I2P and initiate routing traffic similar to Tor middle relay. This way I2P makes dynamic, decentralized, and distributed network that enables anonymous and secure connection between different users. I2P has a minimum to no censorship and it is impossible to identify any individual. I2P follows a complex mechanism. It is extremely hard for a layperson to understand how I2P works. However, the following infographic will break down the procedures involved in the functioning of I2P. It should be kept in mind that the infographic is just an oversimplification of the I2P phenomenon rather than the technical explanation.

I2P Anonymous Network

Do not judge both the routers since they look very similar having the same task of providing anonymity operating at the same complex threads of encryption. However, the garlic routing approach has the advantage of permitting I2P to vigorously route around traffic similar to the traditional internet IP but in a highly reliable manner.

Once its connected the user can access multiple services including:

  • Encrypted cloud storage. See the list of online storage options.
  • Real Time chats
  • Personal email with address @mail.I2P addresses
  • File sharing through BitTorrents.

If you love to torrent, then read how to safely download torrents without compromising speed and privacy.

Features And Benefits Of I2P

I2P has following features and benefits that make it stand out from the rest of similar services;

  • Timed & Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

It eliminates the risk of timing or man-in-the-middle attacks. Timing attacks occur when a spammers times the pattern and delivery of the message but I2P has an erratic schedule of transferring messages so it is not possible to track. Whereas, man-in-the-middle attack occurs when one of the receivers decrypts a message and sends the spammed one forward but I2P’s garlic routing doesn’t allow the message to be decrypted unnecessarily.

  • Destination Locations Are Encrypted

I2P has fully encrypted locations (any service or eepsite). They are differentiated by a 516-byte crypto key which contains a 256-byte public key, a 128-byte signing key, and a null certificate. You can see the encryption is of extreme level here.

  • P2P File Sharing

I2P has unilateral proxy tunnels which makes sure P2P file sharing happen easily. It has thousands of torrents which can securely and anonymously share via your torrent client.

The Buzz Around I2P & The Darknet Operators

I2P, despite being around for a while, has never been able to generate media buzz until recently. A few incidents occurred that changed the opinions of people about I2P. It suddenly became something serious rather than just an anonymity experiment. The following two darknet operators changed the faith of I2P;

  • Silk Road Reloaded

Silk Road Reloaded, a revival of the notorious Silk Road platform, happened on I2P in early 2015. It was a surprise for media and privacy communities as the original Silk Road debuted on Tor. The significant shift of location by Silk Road operators was a big surprise for many since I2P was a relatively unknown platform then.

  • Cryptowall 3.0

After Silk Road Reloaded, I2P became fairly popular. Then Cryptowall 3.0 happened and the platform’s popularity went through the roof. The Cryptowall variant used I2P to command and control communications. The filthy ransomware dented 2400+ hold-ups and victims lost more than $24 million. Many companies tried to develop ransomware blockers but only very few succeeded.

I2P Torrenting – Is It The Solution?

With Postman Tracker and I2Psnark, I2P almost has the power of Pirate Bay and uTorrent. I2P has no issue whatsoever with the torrenting. In fact, torrent users are beneficial for I2P as they generate more traffic thus increases anonymity. I2P has privacy by design and it is a far better option than any other way to torrent.

Despite the general belief, I2P has user-base which is interested in torrents of books, backups of leaked government docs, banned literature, movies, music, and obviously porn. However, you won’t find users searching for child pornography, unlike the popular belief.

However, I2P has the torturous speed of just 30KBps which is super slow as compared to normal 1 to 2 MB/s speed offered by other torrenting sources. At the end of the day, you have to pay a price by bearing the slow speed to avoid MPAA or RIAA legal notice.

I2P vs Tor – What’s The Difference Between?

I2P and Tor do serve the same purpose in providing anonymity and are among the best in the market. These proxy networks are famous among the Darknet websites such as the Agora Marketplace.


  • Developed using the java software and it utilizes a peer to peer approach.
  • It follows the API design feature which is essential in providing anonymity.
  • I2P uses Garlic routing that encodes numerous messages so that the attackers are unable to perform traffic analysis


  • TOR (The Onion Router) follows a centralized directory-based approach to manage and monitor its own network.
  • Tor has three different types of nodes known as directory servers exit points and internal relays
  • In tor after connecting it the traffic bounces off different relays to reach the final recipient.

We have also provided a table to make things easier in understanding both the platforms key differences.

Tor I2P
Cell Message
Client Router or Client
Circuit Tunnel
Directory NetDb
Directory Server Floodfill Router
Entry Guards Fast Peers
Entry Nodes Inproxy
Exit Nodes Outproxy
Hidden Service Hidden Service. Eepsite or Destination
Hidden Service Descriptor LeaseSet
Introduction Point Inbound Gateway
Node Router
Onion Proxy I2PTunnel Client
Onion Service Hidden Service, Eepsite or Destination
Relay Router
Router Descriptor RouterInfo
Server Router

What Are The Similarities Between i2P and Tor?

  • Both are created in the 2000s
  • Both platforms are used to provide anonymity online
  • Both the platforms are free of cost
  • Majority of the content on tor is similar to I2P such as the many tor hidden services have mirrors on I2P that displays the same content on darknets websites such as Silk Road marketplace and Tor’s popular Yahoo-like question and answer site, Hidden Answers.

Tor vs I2P – Which One Is Safer?

Both the networks serve the same function as providing anonymity online. However, trying to figure which ones safer needs some justification as both platforms have their own uses and purpose for which making them apart. I2Ps architecture has not been tested in a way that the famous Tor has which is why it has some loopholes. For example, if you are a journalist and you are securing a lead online then Tor is the best choice as it provides excellent anonymity, while free and secure internet surfing is top notch as well. But Tor compared to I2P is extremely slow.

Due to popularity is takes a good swing but if you want to access the Dark Web, then I2P beats Tor anytime. Not as popular as Tor but a good choice for P2P downloading. Which is why I2P is much safer is talked about the reach of it masking your identity to an utmost online.

I2P vs Tor – Which One’s The Speediest?

When the speed is concern, there are certain factors that need to be considered. If the interest is more towards having effective out proxy then I2P stand out. While if you are more attracted towards attaining spectacular onion routing network, you must opt for Tor. However, I2P offers extra protection together with higher speeds and beats tor in this genre. The reason tor is slow due to its supporting network as the data travels through multiple nodes which takes time to deliver.

Pros & Cons Of I2P


  • easy-to-use and a well-built system, while peer-to-peer sharing is the backbone of the entire service making it secure.
  • Fully distributed and self-organizing.
  • Peers are selected by continuously profiling and ranking performance, rather than trusting claimed capacity.
  • Tunnels in I2P are short survived, reducing the number of samples that an attacker can use to launch an active attack, unlike circuits in Tor, which are typically long lived.


  • Installation is easy but navigation needs some thought process.
  • The architecture of the system has not been tested in the way that Tor has, and labelling as the best anonymity providing platform is debatable.
  • Manually reconfiguration of browser is required before you see the landing page appear.
  • Other sites cannot be accessed automatically, even if you have their .i2p address. Hypothetically, to get on the Silk Road Reloaded, you need to know its Base 64 or Base 32 address, another string of letters and numbers.

Pros & Cons Of Tor


  • Being an open source which means anyone can inspect the code. This reduces the risk that it contains malicious backdoors.
  • It provides security by routing the internet through three relay servers (One for entering, one in the middle and the other at the end) makes it as secure as having three proxies.
  • Supports .onion sites which cannot be accessed apart from Tor.
  • Tor can be utilized to provide anonymity to websites and other servers used to receive and send inbound connections which are only accessible by other Tor users. It is otherwise called as hidden service.
  • Hides IP address through which you are accessing the deep or dark web.


  • Internet connection can be tracked my authorities even if they can’t find your real IP address. Once you access Tor for an illegal purpose, you can get targeted for monitoring.
  • Tor doesn’t recommend for use with BitTorrent or any other torrent clients. It is because the clients may reveal you’re true IP address even if you don’t configure them.
  • Doesn’t encrypt your traffic, anyone monitoring your connection could read information like usernames and passwords that are transmitted in plain text. Bandwidth speeds are reduced on Tor.

I2p vs Tor – Which One’s Best For Avoiding The Pitfalls Of Dark Net?

When it comes to Tor, it involves packaging your packets in many layers of encryption where each router that passes the message has the key to decrypt its layers. Each router can see the router that sent the message in packets and vice versa. While I2P was designed to be known as the true DarKNet security tool because of its network within the internet. As Tor uses SOCKS proxy, I2P tends to fare better for security than Tor. But, P2P file sharing is supported over I2P, whereas Tor does not support it making it a viable choice for using the DarkNet.

Tor vs I2P – Which One’s Better For Cryptos?

If you are a frequent user of the cryptocurrencies, then you must have noticed that Tor support is advertised on all websites and services. Majority of the bitcoin-related websites have Infamous Onion sites that can be visited by users over Tor. A good example would be of blockchain.info that has been running a Tor Onion Service, while most Bitcoin Tumble services usually work over Tor services.

The Bitcoin core project has integrated with the Tor onion services to their network. Tor being installed in the system will automatically connect the Bitcoin and create an onion service acting as a Bitcoin node to avoid IP leaks. Tor is exceptionally vital for cryptocurrencies for the I2P since it helped the Cryptocurrency grow and gives ultimate security while transaction takes place.

Is There A Way You Can Use i2P and Tor Together?

Two is better than one. If one network can provide ultimate anonymity then imagine what good would two do? It’s a myth that I2P and Tor can’t be used together.Follow the below mentioned steps. These steps include:

  • Download the FoxyProxy configuration file
  • Install the TOR browser: https://www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en
  • After installing open the browser and connect it to TOR
  • Next go to FoxyProxy Addon page (available in TOR browser) then install it
  • Next restart the TOR browser then hit key: CTRL+SHIFT+A, click on FoxyProxy
  • From the FoxyProxy options, go to File then Import settings and select the .xml file that was downloaded prior
  • Browser may crash but you need to restart it and voila you can use both together.

I2P vs Tor vs Freenet

I2P focuses on creating its own internet whereas Tor focuses on accessing the regular net anonymously. These two are involved in completely different fields of services so comparing them doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, Freenet is a peer-to-peer (P2P) network which lets anonymous file sharing, exchanging messages, and publishing websites. Basically, all three of them are involved in supporting the freedom of internet users and making it a completely anonymous and private space. However, each service is doing it in a different way. One cannot pit them against each other as they are dealing with issues differently.

I2P vs VPN

I2P vs VPN is an interesting debate. The choice between the two totally depends on your needs. They both are responsible for providing utmost privacy. If you have to use the internet normally and you are not whistle-blowing a major government flaw then a simple VPN is enough for you. However, if the nature of your job (like journalism) requires you a completely unpenetrable network then, of course, I2P is the best.

Note: I2P uses your computer as a tunnel connection which means you will be facilitating a lot of activity unknowingly that you would never want to be associated with.

We highly recommend the use of a VPN service as it is more convenient to use, and does loads of job in a click. Below are some the VPNs we use personally to stream VoD content and access geo-restricted websites.

I2P vs Tor – Which One You Should Use?

The question itself is quite generic and open-ended. What’s best differs from person to person due to the needs and requirements of the users. At times it’s the technicality that differs, for example, the Peer to Peer file sharing on the I2P where Tor nor it supports it or encourages it. I2P is a complex part of the darknet. It creates a world of its own. The privacy and anonymity are of maximum level here. The network has been used for illicit activities as well as whistleblowing major government scams. The use of I2P is in users’ control. It is the best platform for torrenting if you ignore the speed issues. It should be a conscious decision to get on the bandwagon of I2P.

Furthermore, the content on Tor and I2P network will vary, which doesn’t mean you should not host tor or shouldn’t out-proxy I2P. The networks itself are designed with different specs in their respected reigns. If you want the ultimate network, then its recommended using both.

Is there any confusion or question about I2P? Let us know in the comments section below.

Talal Zuberi

Passionate about technology and writing, Talal Zuberi is having the time of his life getting paid to do what he loves. He tests. He writes. He never rests. He gets a kick out of finding new cool things and coming up with clever sentences to complement them.

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