This is an excerpt from Browserling's Tor Browser Testing Guide. Browserling offers an online service for testing regular websites and onion websites in multiple Tor browser versions, which can be accessed via The Tor browser is sandboxed in a virtual machine, runs on Browserling's servers, and is isolated from your device and network.

Onion and Com Domains – What's the difference?

Both .onion and .com domains serve as top level domain identifiers for websites but they operate in very different environments and have distinct characteristics. Here's a comparison:


Onion domains can only be accessed through the Tor network, typically using the Tor browser or other Tor-enabled tools. Com domains are accessible from any standard web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox) through the regular Internet.

Anonymity & Privacy

Onion domains are designed to ensure anonymity for both the website operator and its visitors. The physical location and IP of the server hosting the hidden service are obscured. In com domains, the server's IP address is publicly visible and website operators and visitors can be tracked unless additional privacy measures are used.

Domain Generation & Ownership

Onion domains are derived from the service's public key through cryptographic methods and there's no central registry for Onion domains. Com domains are managed by domain registrars and overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). They require registration and annual fees.


Onion domains provide end-to-end encryption by default. The traffic between the user and the Onion service is encrypted, ensuring intermediaries can't decipher the content. For com domains, encryption (HTTPS) is optional but highly recommended. If a com website doesn't use a HTTPS certificate, then data is transmitted in clear text.

Certificate Authorities (CA)

Onion domains don't have a specific CA as the Onion traffic is already encrypted but some Onion sites use SSL/TLS certificates from regular CAs for added trust. For com websites, SSL/TLS certificates are often issued by recognized CAs to enable HTTPS and confirm the website's authenticity.

DNS System

Onion domains don't rely on the traditional Domain Name System (DNS). The Tor network handles the resolution of Onion addresses. Com domains use the standard DNS system for domain resolution.

Duration & Renewal

Once an Onion domain has been generated, it remains valid as long as the owner has the corresponding private key and keeps the service running. Com domains are typically registered for a certain period (usually one year) and need to be renewed periodically.

Legal Considerations

Operating a com domain adheres to international and national laws, with legal recourse for misuse. Onion domains are lawless and are often associated with a higher risk of activities, given the anonymity they offer.

Search Engine Indexing

Com domains are indexed by standard search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Onion sites are not indexed by these search engines and require specific Onion web search engines or direct URLs to access.

Website Hosting

Hosting a com website is straightforward and can be done through numerous hosting services. Hosting an onion site requires specific configuration to maintain anonymity and need specialized hosting services.


To conclude, the distinction between .onion and .com domains lies in their access methods and privacy levels. The Onion domains are accessible exclusively via the Tor network and the Tor browser and offer enhanced anonymity and privacy, while com domains are widely accessible via all regular browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc.) but are less private. For those interested testing Onion domains, Browserling offers a unique solution, allowing users to open these domains directly in a Tor browser without installing it, thus bridging the gap between these two diverse digital environments. Give it a try!