[BitTorrent] The BitTorrent P2P file-sharing system | The Register

John Hoffman theshadow at shambala.net
Sat Dec 18 10:19:10 EST 2004

Very interesting analysis of BitTorrent.

My response to the author:

I have a few comments on your analysis of the BitTorrent protocol...  My 
main criticism is that you are analyzing BitTorrent in combination with 
pirate web pages as a P2P file sharing system, when BitTorrent's real 
purpose is to be a file DISTRIBUTION system.

BitTorrent is designed to replace and enhance the performance of a 
standard http or ftp download server.  Where even ten simultaneous 
downloads can slow the performance of most inexpensive server setups to 
a crawl, BitTorrent can easily handle ten thousand or more, and in this 
it is an enormous success.

One necessary element of a true BitTorrent distribution is a dedicated 
seed server.  This server ought to be always working, and should have a 
significant amount of bandwidth behind it; I'd recommend 30KB/s minimum, 
but more is better.  You complain that seeders are "punished" and this 
is why torrents die, but while long-term seeders are nice, they aren't 
necessary.  It is better for me as a content distributor to allow people 
to close their torrent and play with their new download as soon as 
they'd like to.  Having torrents die off when interest fades is an 
artifact of misuse of this specification.

You worry about pollution on Suprnova.org, and so do I; there's no 
reason why it wouldn't exist.  But as BitTorrent was normally intended 
this isn't a problem at all.  People visiting Blizzard's website to 
download content via BitTorrent (actually Blizzard uses a modified 
downloader, but the concept would be the same if users received a 
standard .torrent file) would obviously receive a genuine .torrent file, 
and the data in that file verifies the data received in the download.  
It's only torrent file redistributors like Suprnova.org where you'd need 
to be concerned about pollution.

You're also concerned about tracker availability.  I recommend content 
distributors run their own trackers, which is an easy task given the 
numerous types of trackers available, including script-based trackers.  
There's no reason for a tracker to go down unless the web server goes 
down, in which case no one would probably be able to get a copy of the 
.torrent file anyway, and a standard download would also be blocked.

As a sharing method BitTorrent indeed has some deficiencies, but it 
simply wasn't designed for that.  That BitTorrent is being misused for 
that purpose only testifies to its effectiveness.  Perhaps a sharing 
system with elements taken from BitTorrent will someday arise; I know 
Suprnova.org is attempting to create one with "Exeem".  But please don't 
badmouth BitTorrent.  :-)

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