[bittorrent] BitTorrent - Open or Public?

apropos at lavabit.com apropos at lavabit.com
Wed Jun 15 18:33:15 EDT 2011


I am currently studying the protocol (BitTorrent, I mean), and wondering 
about who maintains it, how it is done, and what is the goal of 
BitTorrent.org. I make my questionning public in order to get feedback 
from the community and, hopefully, answers from those concerned.

Two web sites currently exist : bittorrent.org and bittorrent.com. The 
former seems to be dedicated to the advertisement of the protocol as an 
efficient technology to reduce servers' load (and its development), and 
the latter to the advertisement of non-free products based on that same 
technology. My questionning arise from the fact that a .org domain is 
supposed to be used by non-profit/community-centered organisations 
(which seems to be used that way as there is no mention of the .com 
website) but that, from what I can observe, it is maintained by the 
same people than those from bittorrent.com (which looks like a conflict 
  of interests to me, the maintainer(s) of .org have email addresses at 
the .com domain). It also appears that some proposals were removed from 
the index without notice (namely, BEP 0011). Also, most draft BEPs are 
currently implemented in most transfer clients since a quite long period 
of time and are still considered as drafts. What is, then, the goal and 
manifesto of BitTorrent.org?

If I may propose an answer, I think it is only to feed the commercial 
quest of BitTorrent Inc. Having made the information available on 
bittorrent.com rather than on bittorrent.org would appear like a 
capital-centered solution; which would have been rejected by most free 
software developers and probably have cause lessinterest than it had 
(and still has) by the public. If there had been less interest, the 
commercial adventure would certainly not have been as fruitful. The fact 
that the maintainers of bittorrent.org can be contacted through an email 
account located at bittorrent.com means they have some sort of 
involvement in the commercial group. The dual-involvement of these 
persons may be caused by a lack of human ressource to manage the 
protocol evolution (which seems improbable due to the interest in it), 
or perhaps by the fact that the protocol must primarly suit commercial 
politics and that proposals may diverge from those; what does a company 
look like when it no longer capitalize on its own creation?

It can also be observed that some BEPs are missing (notably, BEP 11). 
Although it is mentionned at bittorrent.org/beps/bep_0001.html that the 
historical record can be found, BEP 11 cannot even be found in the 
revision tree.  BEP numbers are not even consequent. Either numbers have 
been intentionnally skipped, or documents have been removed without notice.

If solutions like the DHT, the Fast extension, or the HTTP seeding 
methods (wasn't the goal to reduce the servers' load?) are viable, why 
are they still considered as drafts? And why do the ones that were 
accepted looks like the ones that will cause the less (if at all) 
disruption of possible commercial politics? If my hypothetic answer is 
right, I believe the DHT is still a draft because no one knows exactly 
who is part of the swarm at a moment; multi-trackers torrent for the 
same reason. Superseeding implies an acquisition delay that may not be 
acceptable for paying clients. HTTP seeding could make a broadcaster 
independent of paying solutions (which is actually the case anyway). 
Fast extension suppose that a client is rewarded by contributing to the 
swarm; which is certainly not interesting for costly products fore a 
client could not pay for it.

My answer is partly based on the aforementioned statements, some others, 
and the lack of details in the specification (I prefer to call it a 
description). BEP 0003 (the base specification) is only describing the 
syntax of the protocol and is completely skipping its semantics; leaving 
the student with the only solution to read the implementation of the 
protocol to know what it is all about. I am not talking about a 
rationale but, for example, what CHOKE is suppose to mean. If I choke, 
are the pending requests still considered? Developers should not need to 
rely on other clients implementation. I recognize that the protocol was 
first publicized at a conference (CodeCon) and that working code is the 
motto, but I believe that more efforts should have been made if you 
really wanted to make something really useful to people.

Is BitTorrent's evolution free of any commercial interests?


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