October 18, 2005

EFF launches contest to design GUI for Tor

Author: Nathan Willis

The Tor project, which designs tools for anonymous Internet communications, is running a public user interface design contest in two phases. Phase one will select designs for the new GUI Tor, while phase two will choose among the best implementations. A panel of top-caliber judges from the network security and human-computer interaction worlds will select the winners, and qualifying entrants will receive a free Tor T-shirt from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Since its inception Tor has run as a background daemon process, configured through a traditional torrc config file. Running Tor is simple enough, but it provides no feedback to the user regarding connection status, error messages, or application bandwidth.

Developer Roger Dingledine says, "Tor developers are really good at network-level server stuff, but we have much less experience at making good interfaces. It's time to bring in some outside clue." He adds that the extra publicity for the project won't hurt.

Contest rules stipulate the features required for the design sketch competition, which runs until October 31.

Phase one entries must include both a visual representation of the design and a descriptive document and be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution license. Winners will be announced in November.

Phase two entries must be working implementations, submitted in source and binaries for any or all of Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. Entrants may use any ideas submitted in phase one but are not limited to them alone. The phase two deadline is January 31, 2006.

A panel of "celebrity" security and interface experts, including Bruce Schneier and Edward Tufte, will judge the entries. The winners will be announced at the 2006 Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security in Pittsburgh.

Tor, which has been supported by EFF since 2004, was written to give people a simple way to protect their privacy, anonymity, and security while using the Internet. For most users, graphical interfaces are a prerequisite, making the daemonized Tor a non-starter for those who need it most.

Interfaces are always thorny to design, but even more so for a program like Tor. "Usability for privacy and security systems is a particularly tricky topic," says Dingledine, "because in many cases the usability of the system affects its security."

Detailed instructions on how to enter, along with technical information, are available at the contest Web page.

Click Here!