Lazyweb: turn the new version of Opera into an unstoppable grid of proxies for Iranians

Danny O'Brien's got a doozy of a lazyweb idea: "Here's a way to mash-up two of the most talked-about Internet issues today. Opera launched their web-server-in-a-browser, Opera Unite, today. Iranian protestors are looking for proxies to get around Iran's blocking. So why not write a Opera Unite service that acts as a simple, quick-and-dirty proxy for Iranians? Danny O'Brien lays down the challenge."
Instead of a real http proxy (like Psiphon), the best implementation would simply let you append a URL to your Unite URL and get a website back, like "". That would get rid of handing over your cookies to an unknown third-party; it'd probably also discourage people using the service for private communications (no https, in Unite -- it'd be great if Opera fixed that!).

Maybe I'd also stick in a geoip check to make sure the incoming requests are coming from a known Iranian IP block, just so users could feel worthy that they're just catering to Iranians (you could pull them out of this free geolocation database). That way we wouldn't be creating a permanent global clunky, insecure proxy network -- or at least not until Iran recovers and starts its own phishing services.

I know I'm not a good enough JS programmer to pull this off, but the Unite JavaScript API certainly appears to permit cross-domain XMLHttp calls, and you can catch generic HTTP requests using'_request',somehandler,false);, so it is theoretically possible (and here I hand wave to the implementation Gods).

wanted: spartacus, an opera unite web proxy for iran (Thanks, Danny!)


  1. Tor is similarly quick and easy to setup, and can handle encryption and is a heck of a lot more secure.

    If people outside Iran were to establish Tor bridges and share the IP/token with select sources in Iran, as well as mirroring the Tor install files on their own servers, we could get a nice robust network of Tor nodes going.

    After work, I’ll try and write up a tutorial on it- but it’s funny, at work, they don’t like you researching proxies.

  2. Instead of a real http proxy (like Psiphon), the best implementation would simply let you append a URL to your Unite URL and get a website back, like ““. That would get rid of handing over your cookies to an unknown third-party;

    How would a URL like that “get rid of handing over your cookies to an unknown third-party” ?

  3. The Iranians activists also have to deal with staying organized amidst frequent cell phone outages.

    Can a persons set up a P2P SMS network with programmable phones?

  4. The suggested idea wouldn’t technically work; you probably couldn’t create a useful proxy server with Javascript alone.

    Tor, on the other hand, is a great idea. It needs a little UX polish, but if we can get enough people to establish Tor nodes we could probably really help people in Iran and elsewhere.

  5. #1, #2, #3: I mention Tor as the far better solution in the article. Here’s the paragraph:

    A better solution, I know, is to get copies of Tor to those in Iran. But I think that much of what we’re seeing right now is less about perfect solutions, and more about loud, temporary solutions that might help, will do minimal harm, and as a side-effect further publicize the cause of Iranian protesters.

    But right now, Iranians are asking for proxies.

    #4 — the difference is between a complete http proxy, in which your traffic is passively relayed by your browser through the proxy, including Amazon cookies, say, if you visit If it’s a URL-driven mirror site, then your browser won’t send domain-defined cookies.

    (The other reason I suggested this was because building out a complete compliant http proxy is *hard*, and I just saw this as a hack to be used during the high news cycle of Opera Unite.)

  6. isn’t Opera’s new feature controlled by a central server which the Iranian authorities can simply block?

  7. Since all Opera Unite traffic has to go through Opera’s servers (to get around NAT), I doubt they will agree to host a proxy service. Not to mention it wouldn’t make sense in the context of Unite… Opera is already acting as a proxy go-between for Unite servers and clients. With Unite + a proxy service you have two layers of proxies… that’s unnecessarily complex. It would be far better to make a dedicated service for this type of proxy (and there already are plenty, CGIProxy is a good one).

  8. #8: Yeah it is, I just realized they could just block and kill it completely. Or be nice and just block to kill client functionality of Opera Unite.

  9. https is only useful if you can trust that the cert of the machine you’re connecting to is really theirs, so implementing it in a pseudo-p2p server like Unite would be pretty pointless, since by definition you’re connecting to random strangers.

    …unless you want to get the Unite users to either register expensive SSL certs or participate in a free network like That’s not a bad idea, but it makes things a lot more complicated to get going, to the point that it’d really probably be easier to just use tor.

  10. I don’t know about you guys, but I see a different problem here.

    I don’t actually know any irate Iranians with whom to selectively share the IP for my proxy or tor node or whatever.

    So, whilst I have spare server cpu cycles I’d happily turn over to this cause, I don’t know who to turn them over too.

  11. #8, #9 — No, you only go through Opera servers if Unite can’t punch through your NAT. It’s a direct connection otherwise.

  12. Iran can shut down it´s telecomunications and no javascript library will help that.

    We need cellphones with mesh networking. Sort like a XO Laptop, but pocket size, with a camera and webbrowsing. A hundred thousand of those deployed in iranian border, and another batch parachuted in north korean country side.

    Now it seems clear that twitter can spread democracy better than a hundred bombs over iran ever could

  13. Regarding #13 posted by mattofdoom,

    hey man, I do, and I know a number of farsi speaking people here in London who do have access to those in Iran taking part in demonstratons or at least supporting them. Proxies are a keen idea and they don’t involve downloading anything I’m a fan of Tor, but you still have to load sometihng on your computer to use it, I think.

    People involved in political action in Iran can potentially face computer confiscation, during which they will be checked for signs of activity.

    Using a proxy could do well to leave less of a trace.

  14. #13, send proxy info in a direct message to

    Do not post the proxy info publicly or give it to unverified sources. The Iranian government has started scouring and intercepting proxy information so they can block them. You can read persiankiwi’s twitter and google the name to check her authenticity. is another twitter account that is legitimate which you can direct message the info to. Use “Direct Message” only.

  15. Mesh networking of mobile telephones would have a lot of advantages, and not just during times of political strife. Just think of what happens during natural disasters, even the mobile network goes down because the calls are routed to the nearest cell tower and then through the ordinary telephone network. If the lines are down or fibres broken (storms, earthquakes) the mobiles can’t get through even though there might be an unbroken chain of mobiles from the disaster area to an unaffected area. Peer to peer self organizing networks using the radios already built into the mobiles (GSM, CDMA, WiFi, Bluetooth) would at least allow a low data rate text messaging service to run. If it is built as a store and forward system there doesn’t even need to be a live connection from one end of the network to the other, message can be held and retransmitted when a connection is re-established. There are several academic papers and Ph.D theses on this and related subjects but no implementations as far as I know.


  16. If I may, on behave of all Iranian I would like to thank you all for working on this urgent matter. It feels good to see that we are not alone in the world.

    Cheers, P

  17. Check out this option provided by Eric S. Raymond:

    “NedaNet, a network of hackers formed to support the democratic revolution in Iran. Our mission is to help the Iranian people by setting up networks of proxy severs, anonymizers, and any other appropriate technologies that can enable them to communicate and organize — a network beyond the censorship or control of the Iranian regime.”

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