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Especially using OrBot on the phone Tor sometimes feels faster. Since I am not sure on how to really measure this I have been thinking about what the reason for this could be.

I have the following theories:

  • Everything goes over a single connection and using fewer connections speeds up things, if the exit node is better in handling this.
  • The exit node might have a DNS cache that already knows about the hostname I am looking up. Potentially it even has an HTTP cache, speeding things up further.
  • The connection from me through the circuit and eventually to the website I am accessing is a better path than from me directly to the website. This could potentially be due to the connections between the data centers of the nodes (special lines).
  • Stuff that Tor or the Tor Browser blocks or requests that don't have responses, because they block Tor.
  • OrBot/The Tor Browser take fewer resources.

Has any research been done on that? Are any of those clearly impossible? Is there a good way to measure that? Just doing a small script testing download speed is probably not enough, most websites load a lot of resources, sometimes even third party. Has this probably been measured by OONI? Is there maybe a project related to making Tor faster that analyzes this?

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    Pretty sure it's all that JavaScript. I can't remember if it was in relation to Orbot et. all but it sticks in my head that there was something like a 44% increase in page speed on certain websites with JavaScript disabled. Especially ad code. =P – Anaksunaman Nov 9 '15 at 3:35
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  • Everything goes over a single connection and using fewer connections speeds up things

This is possible, especially over a cellular network. Of your 5 theories, this is the best one.

  • The exit node might have a DNS cache

This is not it. A normal DNS lookup from your ISP or whatever DNS you use is at least as fast as through Tor. (There might be an advantage as hostname resolution is not a separate step, but passed along the stream setup, but I'm not sure on this.)

  • The connection from me through the circuit and eventually to the website I am accessing is a better path

Not likely. Through Tor, you start with a disadvantage of routing through 3 relays. On average it would be slower.

  • Stuff that Tor or the Tor Browser blocks

This might also be a contributing factor.

  • OrBot/The Tor Browser take fewer resources

Honestly don't know but I don't believe it.

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