Increased censorship and online surveillance in some regions are increasingly becoming a concern for Internet users everywhere.
This necessitates the development of anonymity tools to circumvent these issues.
The Tor Project has been on the forefront in this regard, offering tools that grant users open and private access to the internet.
The organization is looking to spread its services into the mobile domain with the collaborative development of Orfox, a Google Summer of Code project that will enable Tor anonymous mobile browsing.
The project was birthed back in 2014 when Amogh Pradeep of the Guardian Project developed a way to build a mobile version of Firefox with the settings and configuration from the desktop version of the Tor browser.
Pradeep was a Google Summer of Code student at the time.
The application has been in development since.
The Orfox mobile application was built directly from Tor browser code repository in 2015.
The initial development in 2014 focused on building mainly from the Firefox code repository but this method was not appropriate, thus prompting the change.
Representatives from the Guardian Project and Tor Project met in order to collaborate on bringing the Tor browser to mobile devices.
The collaboration was inspired by the fact that a large percentage of people all over the world are accessing the internet using mobile devices.
In 2014, mobile browsing accounted for 11 percent of smartphone usage around the globe.
The project is also meant to cater to people who do not have access to high bandwidth connections, as well as those with limited data plans.
Most of these individuals can only access the internet through alternative devices.
The Tor Project stated through their blog that the partnership with the Guardian Project serves to provide necessary services to this demographic.
The two groups have put in effort in recent years to make Orfox as functional and safe as the popular Tor desktop browser.
The Tor Project revealed that the Security Slider on the desktop version has been ported to the mobile platform.
The developers achieved the cross-platform adaptation by changing the mechanics of the user interface for the mobile platform screen.
The Security Slider enables users to alter the security levels they prefer when browsing.
This allows for a customizable mobile browsing experience.
When a user opts for a higher security level, the Orfox application blocks more aspects to boost security.
The sites experiences change as a result of this selection.
For instance, the security change may necessitate the blocking of Java Script, a feature that can be compromised.
As a result, notifications on some social media platforms such as Twitter will not be visible.
The browsing experience will also be devoid of videos that load and play automatically since they require scripts that can be compromised by malicious actors.
Developers from Guardian Project UX team ran validation tests on the alpha and beta of versions of the application to ensure that the interface was user-friendly.
Pradeep was again instrumental in the testing phase of Orfox.
The developers tested the mobile user interface with three users from the United States and 12 users from India.
This was done in order to obtain user feedback, which was essential for improving the beta copy.
This operational model marked the first time that the Tor Project adopted UX best practices for a complete development cycle.
The practices include involvement with the user interface conceptualization and hypothesis-validation through user testing.
Tor had to develop a testing framework through which the users could contribute to the testing since the platform does not collect user behavior data.
Tor further stated that the organization’s future development initiatives will incorporate UX best practices.
The Tor Project confirmed that it would continue partnering with Orfox to develop new applications and features for its users.
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