Launched: New OONI Probe Desktop App for Windows and macOS
Today, OONI is thrilled to announce the public launch of the new OONI Probe desktop app that you can download and install on Windows and macOS to measure internet censorship and network performance.Install OONI Probe Desktop app
By running the tests in the new OONI Probe desktop app, you can measure:
Blocking of websites;
Presence of systems (“middleboxes”) that could potentially be responsible for censorship and/or surveillance;
Speed and performance of your network;
As soon as you run these tests, you will have access to the measurements inside the app. Your test results will also automatically get published in near real-time (unless you opt-out in the app settings), to increase transparency of internet censorship and other forms of network interference.
Thanks to support from the Localization Lab community, the new OONI Probe desktop app has already been translated to 12 languages: Chinese, Russian, Spanish, French, Turkish, Thai, Italian, Greek, Catalan, Slovak, Portuguese, and German.
We have generally tried to create a seamless experience between the OONI Probe mobile and desktop apps, which is why you will notice that the design and UX of the two apps is very similar, and that they include many of the same tests. However, the new OONI Probe desktop app includes new circumvention tool tests and allows for more extensive website testing.
Below we share some highlights from the new OONI Probe desktop app.
New circumvention tool tests
Along with the new OONI Probe desktop app, we are excited to release two new OONI Probe tests:
Tor test. Checks whether Tor works by measuring the reachability of a set of services (Tor directory authorities, OR port, OR port of directory authorities, and obfs4) and by evaluating whether they can be used in the tested network.
Currently, these tests are only available via the new OONI Probe desktop app, but we are working towards integrating them into the OONI Probe mobile app as well. These tests build upon and expand our previous methodologies for measuring the blocking of circumvention tools.
Several years ago, we released OONI Probe tests for measuring the reachability of the Tor network, Meek, and of other Tor bridges. Quite similarly, we had released a Psiphon test. However, it was only ever possible to run these tests via the legacy python version of OONI Probe for Linux, macOS, and Raspberry Pis, which required use of the command line. Due to this technical barrier and the fact that they weren’t available for more commonly-used platforms (like Windows and Android), the usage of these tests globally was relatively limited. As a result, our global understanding on the availability of popular circumvention tools (based on openly available network measurement data) was rather limited.
The Tor network, which is free and open source, provides its users with online anonymity, privacy, and censorship circumvention. Tor software is designed to bounce communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers around the world, thereby hiding its users’ IP addresses and enabling them to circumvent online tracking and internet censorship.
In an attempt to limit online anonymity and circumvention, some governments have blocked access to Tor. The Tor Project has therefore created Tor bridges, enabling the circumvention of Tor blocking. Tor Browser – the main way that Tor is used by millions of users around the world – is shipped with a set of public bridges (called obfs4) that users in censored environments can enable.
To enable the public to check whether Tor works in a tested network, we have expanded upon our previous methodologies and developed a new OONI Probe Tor test. This test measures the reachability of a set of services that are required for Tor to work and evaluates whether these services can be used within the tested network.
Psiphon is a free and open source tool that utilizes VPN, SSH, and HTTP proxy technology for censorship circumvention. The Psiphon VPN essentially serves as a tunnel that enables you to circumvent censorship because you access resources on the internet through the non-censored tunnel that Psiphon provides.
In an attempt to limit censorship circumvention, some governments have blocked access to Psiphon. We therefore collaborated with Psiphon developers on creating an OONI Probe test (which improves upon and replaces our old Psiphon test) that anyone can run to check if the Psiphon app works in the tested network.
More extensive website testing
You can measure the blocking of more than a thousand websites with the new OONI Probe desktop app.
Global list. Includes internationally-relevant websites (such as facebook.com).
Country-specific list. Each list includes websites that are relevant to a specific country. You will test the URLs in the list of the country that you are running OONI Probe from (if a list exists for that country).
Unlike the OONI Probe mobile app (where the default setting is configured to only test a random sample of URLs within 90 seconds, due to bandwidth constraints), the OONI Probe desktop app tests all URLs included in the Citizen Lab’s country-specific and global test lists in one run.
The new OONI Probe desktop app is therefore best suited for more extensive website testing. If, however, you would like to limit the number of websites that you test, you can do so through the OONI Probe desktop app settings.
Supported on Windows
Windows is not only the most widely used desktop operating system in the world, but it is also commonly used by human rights defenders globally (particularly among those interested in running OONI Probe). Supporting OONI Probe on Windows has therefore been a popular community request over the last years.
We previously supported macOS and Linux users with a command line version of OONI Probe that could also be run from a web user interface. However, setting up OONI Probe from the terminal presented a technical barrier for many community members.
We are therefore very excited to release OONI Probe for Windows! This is the first time that we are officially supporting Windows, and it’s the first time we are releasing a native OONI Probe desktop app.
We thank the Open Technology Fund (OTF) for supporting the development of the OONI Probe desktop app and, therefore, enabling Windows users to easily run censorship measurement experiments.
We thank the Localization Lab for coordinating the translations and for helping to bring the new OONI Probe desktop app to communities far and wide.
We also thank our amazing community for running, testing, and translating the app, and for reporting bugs and sharing feedback. We are very grateful for your support, and we hope you enjoy the new app!