I was told a computer would take millions of years to generate such custom domain.

Obviously, that is not true, unless you have got a good piece of hardware.

Although, it still surprises me that nowadays technologies makes it possible to reduce domain generation time so much.

Is it really a hardware related type of solution?

2 Answers 2


The question is basically saying that Facebook started with this onion address, then set out to generate the corresponding private key. This premise is incorrect, as pointed out by Steve’s answer: in fact, this task would be infeasible using current hardware.

Where could this incorrect premise have come from? According to Facebook’s announcement [1], their onion address can be read as “Facebook’s Core WWW Infrastructure”. The fact that the onion address has such an elegant meaning might suggest that they must have generated it on purpose. Humans are surprisingly good at assigning meaning to randomness.

The real origin of this onion address is described in a post on the tor-talk mailing list by Alec Muffett, as cited in Steve’s answer: There are eight custom characters, and they got lucky with the rest. There is a later, more detailed post in the same thread by Roger Dingledine, which suggests the Wikipedia article “Birthday attack” as reading material. These posts were cited in a ZDNet article about Facebook’s onion service [2].

[1] Of course, this is also available via an onion service.

[2] This article incorrectly suggests that Dingledine’s post came first.

  • Thank you so much for being kind and humble! I have indeed assigned meaning to randomness. and wow! what a luck! Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 15:40
  • I'm still thinking how lucky they were... This is definitely conspiracy theory evidence for tin foil hat people. hahaha Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 15:45

Facebook's onion domain has only 8 custom characters, not 15. Since they generated multiple names with those 8 characters, they chose the one that looked best.

It is still out of reach of modern hardware to brute-force all 16 characters. Onion names with 16 characters are for v2 onion services, which are deprecated and will be removed from the network later this year. Onion names for v3 services are much longer.


Long story short: details will come out later, but we just did the same thing as everyone else: generated a bunch of keys with a fixed lead prefix ("facebook") and then went fishing looking for good ones.

I feel that we got tremendous lucky.

  • I swear I did my research, before asking this question! At least, now I know about "Tor Talk". Thanks! Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 15:46

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