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BitTorrent Turns 10 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the many-happy-seeds-of-the-day dept.
ktetch-pirate writes "On this day, 10 years ago, Bram Cohen released the first bittorrent client to the public. Most P2P protocols have had a rapid rise and then a drop-off as the subsequent 'best thing' has come out, but after 10 years, nothing has bested bittorrent, and it still remains king of the P2P castle. Just when will it be replaced?"
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BitTorrent Turns 10

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  • Pretty much never? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @01:16PM (#36642206)

    "Just when will it be replaced?"

    Never? Going distributed is THE way of stopping people from shutting you down. So far only the tracker is fixed (and there are stuff in place to discover clients by seeing the others who you're connected to). So I'd say this is here to stay.

    • by mrogers (85392) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @01:39PM (#36642356)

      Going distributed is THE way of stopping people from shutting you down.

      But ironically, what BitTorrent got right (and it pains me to admit this, because I'm a big fan of pure P2P solutions) was centralising the hard parts - search and peer location - and distributing the easy part - content distribution.

      Another area where BitTorrent struck the right balance between pure P2P and pure centralisation was in content curation. Gnutella made it incredibly easy to share a file, but the result was a ton of low-quality, badly-labelled, nearly-identical files. BitTorrent made it just hard enough that only a few, relatively dedicated people would create torrents, and everyone else would just redistribute them. I don't think that was a conscious design decision, but it happened to hit the sweet spot.

      • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @02:41PM (#36642744) Homepage

        I think the legal balance is just as important. The fact that "BitTorrent" isn't one service or one network but that each site offer their files individually and the Ubuntu torrent has nothing to do with those on The Pirate Bay. That detached the technology and those building the tools from the shadier uses of it. Oh, they've rattled their sables a bit but never really had an legal grounds to shut BitTorrent itself down, unlike Napster, Grokster, Limewire and so many others.

        And despite the best efforts to shut down torrent sites, many of them still operate very much in the open. The fact that The Pirate Bay has been all over the media and is in the top 100 most popular sites on the web means they've walked a very fine line and come down on the right side - at least for now. You didn't have to look that very hard in the past either to find it, but it was not that obvious to everyone and their dog.

        I think something like TPB model is there to stay, if necessary they'll just move it to be a TOR onion site, still centralized but anonymous. Not the content itself as that'd be sloooow, just the site itself. For the moment that is simply not necessary, but there's now other ways should the public torrent sites lose while still keeping the things that made it a success.

      • by blueg3 (192743)

        Sort of. Bittorrent doesn't actually address search at all. Peer identification was centralized initially, which is incredibly efficient. Modern clients use out-of-band methods like DHT and PEX to either get additional clients (same torrent, but on a tracker not listed in the file you have) or to get clients when all available trackers are down (or not listing that torrent). They're much less efficient than a tracker.

        But yeah, search isn't part of BitTorrent at all. It works well now that you can sort of ru

    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @01:57PM (#36642458)

      Nowadays there is such thing as "trackerless torrents". No idea how it works, but it works. A while ago I tried to download some torrent, but the single listed tracker in the .torrent was down. Nevertheless soon the download started, like magic :-) And once one peer was found, many more followed quickly thanks to peer exchange.

      BT has in a way been replaced several times already. The protocol from 10 years ago has evolved a lot (will the original BT client even be able to handle to current torrents?), with additions like peer exchange, DHT, magnet links and encryption. The idea behind BT is brilliant and simple, and as such will always live on. It solved most if not all problems from the original P2P protocols: the P2P issue itself (too many downloaders on a single peer), disappearing peers (now you have more than one - download will continue from other peers), and overall download speed. The protocol was found to have some problems itself, most notably the centralised tracker, which is also solved now. The problems that remain are the finding of content, for that there is still no solution to the current centralised databases (aka "torrent sites"), and longevity of the content: as soon as the last seeder stops seeding, the file is lost from the network.

      And on top of it, it's not owned by a single for-profit organisation like Napster or LimeWire. When that company goes out of business, the protocol is out, and something new is needed. BT will live long I think. It's an open and free protocol, allowing for it to evolve and have people add features to it. There is no "single point of failure" - by design.

      • by klapaucjusz (1167407) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @02:03PM (#36642498) Homepage

        Nowadays there is such thing as "trackerless torrents". No idea how it works, but it works.

        It uses a technique known as a Kademlia Distributed Hash Table [wikipedia.org] (DHT). It's a rather tricky algorithm, which turns out to work beautifully for this particular application.

        --jch

        • by Kjella (173770)

          It's not really all that tricky. Instead of a hash, let's just say we assign it a date like April 3rd. You know some peers by birthday, and each peer pays extra attention to people with a birthday like their own. So you just ask the closest you know, they'll know someone closer and so your search is passed until it finds people in the right month, week and finally day. You could easily simulate this by placing people in a big circle by birthday, each get a few long connections and many short connections. Th

      • by rrohbeck (944847)

        The problems that remain are the finding of content, for that there is still no solution to the current centralised databases (aka "torrent sites")

        That works beautifully with Kad for ed2k so I've always wondered why nobody has implemented that on top of the DHT in Bittorrent.

        and longevity of the content: as soon as the last seeder stops seeding, the file is lost from the network.

        Well every block of the file has to be on a hard drive *somewhere*. If people don't keep it around then the bits are gone.
        I like Freenet's approach: Every user donates a chunk of disk (like 2GB) for anonymous encrypted storage.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Actually according to a friend in the state crime lab there could be a serious problem with the Freenet approach. The way it was explained to me was like this: You carry a box from point A to B. you don't have the key to the box, you don't attempt to open the box. the cops pull you over and find there are drugs in the box you are still going to jail whether you had knowledge of the contents or not.

          You see the way the current CP laws are set up all they have to do is have a cop download a CP file that is tra

          • if it takes the cops 3-24 months to crack a freenet packet, lacking the key you have plausible deniability about the contents of the packet. the crimelab basically made your case for you.

            now if you want to avoid the tedious process of getting dragged through court, I would recommend against using freenet or any other anonymous network or even any p2p network.

      • The problems that remain are the finding of content, for that there is still no solution to the current centralised databases (aka "torrent sites"), and longevity of the content: as soon as the last seeder stops seeding, the file is lost from the network.

        I don't see these as problems. The torrent sites can be made anonymous, and have multiple mirrors. If an entire organization is somehow taken down, a new one will pop up very quickly. The fact that you can't search a tracker or a peer for content is a good thing. And, as to longevity, it means that as long as content is popular, there will be a seeder. It's reasonably safe to say, with the popularity of BitTorrent itself, that if a seed doesn't exist, the content just isn't popular.

        • And, as to longevity, it means that as long as content is popular, there will be a seeder.

          This is why I still sometimes use eMule to download some unpopular TV show or song. It may take a while, but it usually can be downloaded, since with eMule you share all your downloaded files by default, while you have to specifically keep the torrent seeding, even though you do not move or delete the file itself.

    • I would argue that even the sites and the tracker aren't centralized in the sense that there is no single torrent site/tracker - there are many, and nothing prevents anyone from creating a new one. In smaller countries, there are local torrent sites which only the people of that country use and know about. I doubt anyone is going to go after them. When people say that torrent sites are centralized they think about the highly visible targets like pirate bay or isohunt which everyone knows.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      That was my first thought. Editors, can you please learn some basic editing skillz and do you fucking jobs? More often than not the submissions are laden with weasel worlds or flat out misleading summaries. Corrections are rare. I know it requires a tiny bit more effort to check the story but, well, that is what you are being paid for.

      The only exception seems to be Taco who usually adds a little bit of balancing explanatory text and maybe straightens out the summary. Learn from him.

  • When... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smileygladhands (1909508) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @01:19PM (#36642218)
    It will be replaced when our ISP monopolies makes it so difficult to use bittorrent, another way must be created. Destruction brings creation.
    • And with numerous ISPs capping home users' monthly transfer in the double digit or even single digit GB, "another way" is likely to involve sneakernet.
      • sneakernet

        I still want to see some kind of interface between mass storage devices, wireless and content, enabling WLAN content parties. You rock up, your device sees everyone else at the event and starts sharing, perhaps intelligently based on your preferences, Maybe smartphones hold the answer to this, but they may not offer lots of storage. However this could work on a small scale. You could just turn up to the pub and your device would sort out the rest. It could share your own content and look after the security.

        • I still want to see some kind of interface between mass storage devices, wireless and content

          I believe it's called a NAS [wikipedia.org] (not necessarily that Nas [wikipedia.org]). Wi-Fi NAS exists [linuxfordevices.com].

        • I don't know of anything pre-rolled(or, more importantly, enjoying critical mass); but it doesn't strike me as a terribly difficult problem(aside from the critical mass bit).

          While the use case is comparatively rare, bittorrent clients will happily enough interact with other nodes on the same LAN. With DHT, you wouldn't even need a tracker(though it wouldn't be rocket surgery to configure the router serving the LAN to have a little captive portal page where people on the LAN could upload .torrents for the
          • With DHT, you wouldn't even need a tracker

            Actually, you don't even need the DHT. Most BitTorrent clients implement "local network discovery", a protocol extension that allows them to automatically and quickly discover peers participating in the same swarm on the local LAN segment. It's usually disabled by default, for obvious privacy reasons, so you'll want to hunt for the features in your preferences dialog.

            --jch

            • How handy. That(again) makes everything except the 'critical mass' part even easier. Heck, there are already plenty of places with public wifi that don't bother, or don't properly implement, client isolation, and I'd imagine that virtually none of them would be configured to do much meaningful filtering of traffic between LAN clients(anybody who cares just seems to use client isolation, or doesn't offer wifi to the public), everybody else either does nothing, or does some basic throttling/blocking to keep s
    • It will be replaced when our ISP monopolies makes it so difficult to use bittorrent, another way must be created. Destruction brings creation.

      We're getting there very quickly. ISP data caps will greatly degenerate the usefulness of Bittorrent for many, many people.

    • When our ISPs charge per byte transferred at a totally oppressive rate. Who is going to give up their bandwidth 'just to help out'?

    • one of the first apps for it was i2psnark, a built-in bittorrent client.

      So, far from being replaced, bittorrent seems to be moving and thriving in at least one vehicle that can skirt ISP obstruction.

  • Once the pirates discovered BitTorrent, I seem to remember that there was a shift from pirating 3-6 MB singles on Kazaa, Gnutella, and the like to pirating 50-100 MB albums. Has BitTorrent since become better at transferring small files, or is it still suited only for large transfers?
    • Re:File size range (Score:4, Informative)

      by Dyinobal (1427207) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @01:22PM (#36642236)
      Bit torrent can do large or small files with equal ease. It's just the distributed method of seeding really shines with large files.
      • by mmcuh (1088773)
        But to be fair, small trackerless torrents can take disproportionally long to download since it takes a fixed amount of time to get peers from the DHT.
    • by monoqlith (610041)

      Unless the files are zipped into an archive, a lot of clients will let you choose which particular files you download from the torrent and skip all of the other ones.

    • By the way, when you're starting to download a torrent that consists many files, you can select only the ones you want. You don't have to download the big stuff if you don't want to.
      There's nothing in Bittorrent that discriminates against small files.

      • However, users who don't know how it works will often stuff all those files into a an archive before creating a torrent (usually something stupid like .rar), which firstly is useless as the files are already in compressed formats, and secondly removes any control over file selection.

    • It works just fine for small files; the problem is that doing so craps up the bittorrent software's window with a bunch of different torrents. Something like the eMule Kad protocol is better suited to handling lots of small files from a user's point of view.
    • by oakgrove (845019)

      Has BitTorrent since become better at transferring small files, or is it still suited only for large transfers?

      Whatever issue you're having, I'm not seeing it [btjunkie.org].

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      BitTorrent is reasonably good at small files. Other people seem to be claiming that it's *as good*, but that's not quite true. Clients can be reluctant to try to download the same piece multiple times, so any torrent with a small number of pieces gets lower performance than one with a higher number of pieces. (That is, if the number of pieces is substantially below the number of peers you could be downloading from simultaneously, you can see a performance hit.) Also, the whole web browser -> download .to

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Saturday July 02, 2011 @01:25PM (#36642250) Homepage Journal

    BitTorrent might not be replaced until tracker operators learn what an average is. A lot of private trackers require their users to keep their share ratios at or near 100%. But it's mathematically impossible for everybody to have a share ratio greater than 100%. Share ratio is upload divided by download, but across a whole swarm, the sum of upload will equal the sum of download, making the average share ratio 100%. One can't seed unless there's a downloader on the same swarm. So what are people who get in on the tail end of a swarm, where no downloader shows up for days at a time, supposed to do to keep their share ratios up to the tracker's standard?

    • by Zironic (1112127)

      Most trackers only require a ratio of 0.8 or 0.7 for that reason.

      However I've never had a problem seeding myself into the positive.

      • by tepples (727027)

        However I've never had a problem seeding myself into the positive.

        If you are among the last to download a given file, how many weeks does it typically take you to seed to 1.0?

        • by Zironic (1112127)

          Tracker Seeding ratio is usually measured as a total across all files, not individual files. Trying to get 1.0 on all files is a bit silly.

          However most files I download reach 1.5 within the hour.

          • Tracker Seeding ratio is usually measured as a total across all files, not individual files.

            True, but if the first file you download at a given tracker is overseeded, then your total across all files will stay low as most downloaders will get their blocks from someone else.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            However most files I download reach 1.5 within the hour.

            Ah, you're one of those with massive upload bandwidth who keeps his ratio huge and makes it impossible for normal people to seed.

        • Yeah, sometimes if I'm amongst the last to download a big torrent, I don't even bother to seed it because I'm not really needed - I'd rather my uploading be focused on the rare/unpopular stuff and/or the torrents I make.

    • by Tynin (634655)
      I think this is actually intentional. Most of the private trackers I use that use ratios and penalize you for going below a certain percentage, also include the option to pay them some mount monthly/yearly for premium access where your ratio is overlooked.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      Sites with ratios generally have some sort of stimulus program that keeps the credits plentiful. Underground-Gamer for instance has golden torrent weekends, where the most desirable torrents on the site are free leech and 2x upload credit for seeders.

    • by limaxray (1292094) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @02:06PM (#36642518) Homepage
      You are correct - seeding torrents is like a P2P pyramid scheme and the people on the bottom are left holding the bag.

      The thing is, this situation is a rare occurrence for most users, and most will be able to seed greater than 1 most of the time. In my experience, the number of torrents you can comfortably seed greater than 1 dwarfs those that you can't. While I have found torrents on private trackers to be typically very well seeded, often to the point of saturation, I've never had a problem maintaining a positive ratio and I usually don't seed more than a day or two.
      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        The thing is, this situation is a rare occurrence for most users, and most will be able to seed greater than 1 most of the time.

        You are failing at the exact math that you are replying to. For every person greater than 1.00, there is at least one person less than 1.00. This makes it impossible for most users to be over 1.00 most of the time.

        • by Zironic (1112127)

          No there's not. For instance you could have four users with 1.2, 1.2, 1.2 and 0.4. In this case the majority has above 1.0.

          • by Rockoon (1252108)
            The grandparent premise is that everyone must maintain near 1.0 on many private trackers. There cant be a 0.4 on said tracker.
        • The thing is, this situation is a rare occurrence for most users, and most will be able to seed greater than 1 most of the time.

          You are failing at the exact math that you are replying to. For every person greater than 1.00, there is at least one person less than 1.00. This makes it impossible for most users to be over 1.00 most of the time.

          No offense meant, but it seems you also fail at math. In the limit you just need one leecher downloading huge amounts of content from all other users, to keep them all at arbitrarily high share ratios.

          • by tepples (727027)

            In the limit you just need one leecher downloading huge amounts of content from all other users

            And in the limit, the leecher gets b&.

  • by mmcuh (1088773) on Saturday July 02, 2011 @01:43PM (#36642376)
    The one thing that could replace BitTorrent as the major filesharing protocol would be a protocol that is more anonymous and harder to track, in case people would get more privacy-conscious in the future (yeah, right). Even then it would probably be something evolved from BitTorrent, like OneSwarm.
  • BitTorrent still doesn't seem remotely mainstream still. I know with Opera you can basically treat a torrent almost like any other download. I'm not sure why other browsers never took this approach. I know for the e-l33t around here you all want a separate client, but for those that just want to download the occasional torrent the browser seems like the logical place to support ahhh...."downloading" of a file. I don't know....
    • by theurge14 (820596)

      Congrats to the Opera fans, but for the rest of us the "browser that does everything approach" died with Netscape Communicator almost 10 years ago.

      • Congrats to the Opera fans, but for the rest of us the "browser that does everything approach" died with Netscape Communicator almost 10 years ago.

        How many megabytes smaller is the Opera download than Firefox download again ;)

        FF Win32 - 13.0mb
        Opera Win32 - 9.8mb

        Even if I just want to use it as "only a browser" I guess it's still smaller! Interesting. Oh yeah, and on topic it downloads torrents too!

      • And how many addons/extensions are you using in Firefox?

  • I'm not too pleased with Cox's 200GB cap that amounts to only a few percent of what my 15mbps down/2mbps up is theoretically capable of.

    • by odirex (1958302)
      Bro, your ISP is named "c**ks", didn't you think for a minute a company with that name might f*** you?
    • by Nutria (679911)

      I'm not too pleased with Cox's 200GB cap

      Cox has a cap? Since when? (I recently d/l'ed much more than 200GB in a month and they didn't slow me down or charge me extra.)

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