In this article we explain everything you need to know about I2P and how to get connected. While there may be some apprehension in the thought of having to learn how it works, we explain why it’s actually really simple, largely thanks to a new release that requires not much more than a few clicks to get started.
I2P is an acronym for Invisible Internet Project, which is a type of darknet that is entirely separated from the clearnet. The idea behind I2P is old and the project has roots going all the way back to the 1990s, however it has only recently gained popularity among darknet markets and their users as it provides an alternative point of access. This makes it handy for those who cannot access their favorite darknet markets via Tor due to DDOS attacks or other network problems. A few major darknet markets that have I2P sites include AlphaBay, Bohemia, and Tor2Door.
How is I2P Different than Tor?
There are a few key differences between I2P and Tor; chiefly, it is a closed network that cannot access outside sites (it can only access sites that end with “.i2p”). This is unlike Tor, which can be used as a regular web browser in addition to accessing “.onion” sites. Also unlike Tor, the I2P network is peer-to-peer and relies on each user to act as a node. It wraps transmitted data in multiple layers of encryption that travel in unidirectional tunnels through random intermediaries, which makes it particularly hard to profile its users. This is in stark contrast to Tor traffic, which has an easily-distinguishable fingerprint.
Other differences include the fact that I2P uses a method of routing known as Garlic Routing (as opposed to Tor’s Onion Routing), which means that data packets are grouped and encrypted together, breaking off at the correct destination per their delivery instructions. This means there is no way for observers to know how many layers are being used, and more importantly, no way to read what is being sent in the data packets. I2P also uses its own API protocol and does not rely on SOCKS, unlike Tor.
In general, I2P is considered to be more secure than Tor. While it is true that your IP address is displayed in the list of nodes connected to the network, there is no way to know what sites your are visiting, and this situation can be remedied by connecting to I2P through a VPN, through Tor, or even a combination of VPN and Tor. It does not work with Tails, however, as it requires special configurations in order to operate.
First, you will need to install the I2P software, which is available for most major operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Android. It is not available for iOS, however. The latest release for Windows, I2P 9.5, is named “Easy Install”, as it does not require additional downloads in order to use. This version is recommended for Windows 10 users. The installation process is very easy and only requires a couple of inputs from the user (preferred installation language and file path for installation). If you are installing a different version or using a non-Windows operating system, you will also need to download and install Java.
Upon installation, I2P will perform additional configuration steps via your Tor browser (if you have one installed) and use it as your default I2P browser. If you are a Windows user, you can also use Firefox as your I2P browser as pre-configuration is largely handled by a special plugin developed for this purpose, known as I2P in Private Browsing, which is very easy to install. A similar feature has been implemented in the Brave browser wallet.
I2P must be started before attempting to access its network (just like any other application) and then it can only be accessed in an I2P-configured browser. To configure your Firefox browser properly for I2P access, go to Settings and then Network Settings, down at the bottom, then do the following:
- Change the Configure Proxy Access to the Internet option to “Manual proxy configuration”.
- In the “HTTP Proxy” field, type “127.0.0.1”, and “4444” for the “Port”.
- In the “HTTPS Proxy” field, type “127.0.0.1”, and “4444” for the “Port”.
- In the “No proxy for” field, type “localhost, 127.0.0.1”.
- Click OK to update the settings.
The Network Settings will look like this when properly configured:
A few things to keep in mind when accessing I2P via Firefox or Brave instead of Tor include:
- You will need to type “http://” at the beginning of the address, or else the browser will process the address as a search request.
- Firefox might prompt you about username and password saving (we recommend never doing this for security reasons). This potential security hazard can be avoided by using the Private Window feature.
- You will not be able to browse other, non-I2P websites when using an I2P-configured browser. It is also recommended to avoid browsing the clearweb altogether when you have I2P running on your computer.
To stop I2P, right-click on its icon in the task bar and select “Stop I2P” or “Stop I2P Immediately”. After your session has finished and you have disconnected from I2P, you will need to reset your Network Settings to their original (most likely “Auto-detect proxy settings for this network” or “Use system proxy settings”).
To sum it up, I2P is a powerful utility to have at one’s disposal when seeking an alternate way to connect to a darknet market (that also has an I2P address). Like Tor, it can be a bit slower than the normal web browsing experience. Also like Tor, it does not render its users totally anonymous. It does, however, do a great job at helping users protect their privacy, and many would say an even better job than Tor.
For a complete list of documentation pertaining to I2P, click here.