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History of Whonix. TorBOX → aos → Whonix.

Brief Whonix History[edit]


Whonix in its first iteration was called TorBOX. It was later renamed to aos, which stood for anonymous operating system, before finally being rebadged as Whonix in 2012.

TorBOX did not start as a software project and it was originally only a wiki site. The goal at that time was to simplify instructions on how to use Tor as a Transparent Proxyarchive.org.

Initial Concept[edit]

Whonix founder Patrick Schleizer [1] was inspired by this simple concept: using a (virtual) machine to route all traffic through Tor and simultaneously protecting against IP address and DNS leaks. Moreover, this configuration means proxy settings are no longer necessary for any applications. Interested readers can review the first ever version of the torproject.org TorBOX wiki sitearchive.org, to see how simple it appeared. [2]

Other contributors quickly improved the wiki article. [3] Over time, the TorBOX wiki site grew in popularity, leading to a corresponding rise in the amount of information and its complexity. The difficulty of instructional steps meant it was necessary to provide leak tests, which were conducted by smarm. Anonymous created a shell script to complete many of the steps in an automated fashion. Anonymous also created the first downloadable TorBOX images.

TorBOX Development[edit]

In the past, articles were provided on how to manually build TorBOX via shell scripts, as well as how to use the downloads. It became too burdensome to maintain the comprehensive, manual build instructions for TorBOX, while also updating the shell scripts. The TorBOX developers agreed to drop the manual creation instructions in favor of the shell scripts. Nothing valuable was lost during this transition. The full documentation, along with explanations and justifications for each and every step, was migrated into the shell scripts. Since all shell scripts are written in bash, anyone is able to read them and complete steps manually on the command line.

The shell scripts steadily grew in number and complexity as additional functionality was added, or changes were made to increase TorBOX safety in line with security research. After TorBOX 0.1.3 was released, no one was willing to create new images because the creation process was tiresome. It is time-consuming to install the operating system manually, place the scripts inside the virtual machines, and then run them for every improvement. The TorBOX developers therefore agreed to fully automate the build process. It also became clear that TorBOX should no longer consist of only two shell scripts - it was necessary to split the big scripts into many fine-grain files. A dedicated TorBOX website for development-related discussion and source code commits was then established, as the wiki was deemed unsuitable for this purpose.

The following resources provide further information on early TorBOX and Whonix development, including package information and news:

Project Renaming[edit]

Patrick Schleizer was privately contacted by Andrew Lewman (an ex-director of The Tor Project) and advised it would be better if TorBOX was renamed. Although the TorBOX website announced that it was unaffiliated with the Tor project, some people had mistakenly connected the two. A new project name had to be found quickly and Schleizer hastily renamed the project to aos, an acronym which stood for "anonymous operating system". [4]

This choice was sub-optimal because search engines did not provide any relevant results - it was already used for too many other things. [5] The tor-talk mailing list was consulted about a suitable new name for an anonymous operating system project and "Whonix" was one of the many suggestions provided. This term was among a handful that were unused in search engines, leading Schleizer to adopt it as the new project name. The name is pronounced as "Who Nix" - a combination of two words, who ("what person/s") and nix ("nothing"). [6]

Figure: Stylized Project Logo History (more versions on Dev/Logo)

History ToDo[edit]

TODO: Discuss TransPort, SocksPort, Transparent Proxy, and Isolating Proxy developments.

Old Forums[edit]


  1. Whonix developer, named proper in the pastarchive.org, renamed himself to adrelanosarchive.org, published his OpenPGP key on 29 May 2012archive.org (wiki historyarchive.org). Revealed his identity on 18 January 2014.archive.org Patrick Schleizer posted his OpenPGP key transition message on 18 January 2014, signed by both his old and new key.archive.org
  2. That was on 11 January 2012.
  3. This can be verified by using the Tor Project's wiki history featurearchive.org.
  4. Technically "aos" is an initialism, but this term is not frequently used.
  5. Further, using an uncapitalized project name was inconsistent with grammatical conventions regarding capitalization of words at the beginning of a sentence.
  6. The "W" is silent.


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