[tor-relays] 10 Years Torservers.net: Death or Future?

Moritz Bartl moritz at torservers.net
Sat May 4 09:57:24 UTC 2019

tl;dr: torservers.net needs a new home!

I started torservers.net after a random chat at a local bar some time
early 2010. I wore a Tor shirt, and the guy next to me asked if that was
"The Onion", the satire magazine. He became pretty excited about Tor
after I told him what it was about, opened his wallet and gave me a 100€
bill "to put towards the network". Eventually it turned out that he was
an Oracle software developer, so it's kind of funny to think about this
as "one of the few good things Oracle has ever done".

I thought about it for a bit, and then decided to take the money, which
cemented the idea that I have had for quite some time: to get a more
beefy machine to "properly" run a Tor exit, sharing the costs with others.

Only a few days after I announced this idea on or-talk [1] in May 2010,
some crazy Swede wired me another 1000€ (Thanks!). So, bad luck, I
really had to do this now!

I am still surprised at how successful the fundraising was. In fact,
when we finally created a legal envelope of protection around me by
starting the Zwiebelfreunde association in 2011, it was already clear
that we needed to find others to do the same, instead of growing larger
ourselves. The network was a lot different then, and some people tell me
we had 80% of the overall exit capacity for quite some time after Olaf
shut down his fast Blutmagie exit. So I went on a tour to inspire others.

So, here we are, almost 10 years later, with 23 partner organizations in
15 countries. [2]

After I got a "real job" in 2013 (that quickly grew into "more than
full-time"), and at the same time the first grant money for
torservers.net, we tried in many different ways to "recruit" others to
"take over". Looking back, of course a lot of things happened and it was
a crazy (and fun!) time, but long story short, until now nobody stepped
up to take over the core role of a "coordinator" of activities. There
are many many offers for help, and even more ideas of what
torservers.net could do and be, but all people involved heavily at the
beginning (Thanks!) don't have time to coordinate all the wonderful
help, and do a proper handover. We tried a couple of times, only to
spend a lot of time "training" a poor person to get them somewhat up to
speed, but eventually everyone decided they had better things to do than
to become frustrated at trying to walk blindly without much guidance.
This is not an easy role to step into.

If we take the May 2010 announcement as "launch date", the 10 years
anniversary will be on May 10th, 2020. My dream would be to celebrate
this with a fresh board at Zwiebelfreunde that has taken over the
association, and another group that coordinates the international
platform that torservers.net was meant to be(come).

Of course we will not simply give away the domains and the legal entity
and all our exit relays to just anyone. But, hm, yeah, truth is,
probably almost anyone! ;-)

For some years now, we've talked about the idea of a "relaunch". The
most promising idea is to organize a proper Tor Relay Operators Retreat,
maybe 50 people or so, with all the great people who have dedicated
their lives to this project at some point, and all the great new folks
who are as excited as all of us were back then about contributing to the
Tor network. It would likely to be possible to convince Open Technology
Fund or some other money source to sponsor travel and venue. I've always
imagined this to happen in a nice "holiday" setting. At some point, I
*will* go with a group of people to this fine venue [3], as an example
of how this could look like.

So far, I've tried to talk to individuals about it in smaller groups,
and never announced it to the broader community in the way I do now.
However, I still believe that this can only really be moved forward _in
person_. I will do my best to ignore all mails you write to me or in
this thread. Please write, coordinate, do everything that you think
would be good to do to move this forward, but I don't really have the
capacity to lead a good discussion. The only capacity I can offer is
that we *need* someone to step up, and grab me at some event in
meatspace. Ideally at that point that person is willing to have the A
record pointed at some new place under their control, and we can begin
the transition. Otherwise we will probably simply kill it for the 10
years anniversary, and finally make room for something new altogether.

This is a call for help!

Thanks. :-)


P.S.: I will at some point soon post another mail about what I was up to
the past years, and what I will be up to in the next few years. Don't
worry, I'll still be around.

[1] http://archives.seul.org/or/talk/May-2010/msg00058.html
[2] https://torservers.net/partners.html
[3] For a real Tor Relay Retreat, we would need something larger, but I
think this gives you a pretty good idea of how I imagine it to look
like: https://www.homeaway.co.uk/p868562

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