On Monday the Tor Project released version 9.5 of the tor browser and with it a long-awaited new feature. The update will tell you if a website you visit in the browser has a corresponding onion service.
Initially, when you visit one of these websites (such as this one), the URL bar will display this label:
Clicking on this label will take you to the onion service version of the website.
And the cool part: you can set tor browser to always redirect you to these onion services, by finding this preference and setting it to 'Always':
This functionality depends on websites setting a
Onion-Location HTTP header containing the link to their onion service. For example, all I had to do was add this line into my nginx.conf in my clearnet site's server block:
add_header Onion-Location http://mcolxyzogp3cy4czf52oa2svu2vjge3otm3shxmtvwshyum47sis3iid.onion$request_uri;
That header is all it takes for tor browser users to use onions by default on all sites that host them, removing any need for manual identification of whether websites that they visit host onion services.
By improving awareness and accessibility of onion services in this way, not only can we discover more onions for popular websites that may have them, but we legitimise and encourage the use of onion services as a simple means of making the web more accessible for those who experience internet censorship.