Tor is not 'TOR' nor is it 'The Onion Router'tor
Warning: pedantry. I'm writing this down once so I have something to refer to in the future when I want to find this PDF again.
Dr. Paul Syverson is "the father of onion routing." He and his colleagues at NRL 20 years ago created onion routing, and he plus Nick Mathewson and Roger Dingleline wrote the origin tor code (adapted from code Matej Pfajfar wrote) in the early 2000s.
In short: Dr. Syverson is an authority figure in this space and knows what he's talking about. He was there and he is a primary source.
In 2011 he gave a keynote at ACSAC about the history of onion routing. The PDF is located here. The paragraphs before section 4.1 on page 129 explain how
- It's not "TOR" and never was.
It was also [Roger's] decision that it should be written ‘Tor’ not ‘TOR’. Making it more of an ordinary word in this way also emphasizes the overlap of meaning with the German word ‘Tor’, which is gate (as in a city gate).
- It does not stand for "The Onion Router."
Thus, when [Roger] told people he was working on onion routing, they would ask him which one. He would respond that it was the onion routing, the original program of projects from NRL. It was Rachel Greenstadt who noted to him that this was a nice acronym and gave Tor its name. Roger then observed that it also works well as a recursive acronym, ‘Tor’s onion routing’.
If you must consider "Tor" to be an acronym, it stands for "the onion routing," not "the onion router." To stay internally consistent, I begrudgingly admit that Tor is an acronym, since this post is framed as pedantic and I'm-more-technically-correct-than-you.
My personal opinion: the """war""" on what the acronym stands for has been lost. The spelling """war""" is still worth fighting.