BitTorrent Blackout Underscores Pirate Collusion

CYBERSPACE—The unabashed brazenness of the pirate mentality is on full display in an article posted on TorrentFreak a few days ago titled Largest BitTorrent Trackers Go Offline in Protest. As I was reading it, I realized that it really underscores the collusion necessary to make Torrents work.

In fact, the opening paragraph provides a neat summation of my point: "OpenBitTorrent and PublicBitTorrent, the two largest BitTorrent trackers on the Internet, are on strike. Both trackers are going offline to protest the unresponsiveness of the makers of uTorrent who were asked to introduce a simple protocol enhancement that would save the non-profit trackers thousands of dollars. As a result of the protest, many people are having trouble downloading files on BitTorrent."

It's truly upsetting, I know, but let's compose ourselves. The story indicates the extent to which two companies can substantially impede the downloading of files, but it also reveals that the two trackers, which coordinate the "downloads of tens of millions people at any given point in time," are upset about the the fact that "many users keep adding HTTP addresses and since many old torrents also include these, both trackers are overloaded with bogus announces."

Last year, the two trackers, which don't want to clean up their act as much as clear away the flammable underbrush, "abandoned TCP support to become UDP-only trackers," according to the article. "This was done to save resources... For OpenBitTorrent this means that more bandwidth and resources are wasted on erroneous traffic than on legitimate announces."

But the extra bandwidth costs are just the tip."The bills are not the only problem either, as the admin points out that without a fix BitTorrent clients can be abused to DDoS any website," writes Eernesto for TorrentFreak,

The upshot has been an unpleasant one for people seeking free stuff. "For BitTorrent users," Ernesto continues, "the strike of BitTorrent’s largest trackers is causing problems. Without central trackers it takes much longer to find peers, and users who don’t have DHT enabled will notice that their torrents stop working entirely if there is no backup tracker."

It's hardly news that BitTorrent is a communal activity, of course, but it's still nice to be afforded a real time example of the extent to which a few companies can cause widespread interference, as well as the efforts underway to move to trackerless torrents like DHT and other methods that have been in development since at least 2009, according to TorrentFreak article posted way back when.

Also of no surprise is the fact that The Pirate Bay has been in the middle of these moves to innovate the piratesphere, though progress has apparently been slow. In fact, it was a lagging response by uTorrent’s parent company BitTorrent Inc, to a proposal two months ago by TBP co-founder Fredrik Neij—submitted to uTorrent’s parent company BitTorrent Inc., "to add a functionality that allows website and tracker owners to inform BitTorrent clients whether connections are allowed or not"—that precipitated the tracker blackout.

It makes sense that the overlords of BitTorrent want to make improvements to the technology in order to make the service more cost efficient, more accurate in terms of finding peers, and less friendly for content owners interested in seeding Torrents with links to content that is not what the user expects.

The point was driven home by one commenter to the TorrentFreak article, who wrote, "The real issue at hand is that people are adding dead and disconnected tracker URLs to torrents, thus causing the client to generate unnecessary traffic."

No shit.

In the meantime, the pressure on the trackers is mounting. An update on TF reported that "that they are working on a short-term fix to resolve this issue." Nothing quite like responsive customer service.