[bittorrent] BitTorrent - Open or Public?

apropos at lavabit.com apropos at lavabit.com
Thu Jun 16 16:10:41 EDT 2011

Hi Arvid,

Thanks for the respectful response, I was afraid my message would be 
perceived as a provocation more than an interrogation. From your 
response, I think it is mainly because of a lack of resource (time, 
people, etc) that the specification is in its current state.

I admit I am not fully satisfied with the answers you gave me as you 
seem to have just got the job of administering the .org and I still do 
not get the direction of BitTorrent Inc.

> It's only a conflict of interest if you're paranoid enough to think that we
> would censor people interested in extending the bittorrent protocol. Which
> doesn't make any sense. All bad ideas voiced in the forums (so far) are obvious
> bad ideas to most client developers reading it. No need for censoring.

I admit I did not read the forums much as I am more interested in the 
BEPs. I believe that BitTorrent (as an open protocol) can only survive 
if the official adoption of fonctionnalities is supervised by an 
independent commitee (like many non-profit or socially-interested 
organizations do). The forum looks more like a place to actively 
exchange ideas and thoughts rather than formal stuff so I did not bother 
with that aspect.

Maybe no BEPs were censored, but you can hardly argue that ideas that 
popped out as BEPs and on the forum did not feed the company. I know 
that ideas, once out, get taken and used, I only believe that it is not 
the the role of the company to offer a place to publish those. Given the 
dilemma, I am not saying that (1) the protocol should have been closed 
and that (2) a forum should not exist, but it would be nice it it was 
not maintained by the company - I do not have the ressources, sorry. It 
is more a philosophical belief of mine that commercial and public 
interests are antagonistic.

> The goal is to provide a forum for bittorrent developers to discuss the
> protocol and extensions to it, and some sort of slightly more formal way to document
> what people come up with.
> Anyone is welcome (and encouraged) to participate in these forums. There aren't
> that many active users there though, but a few.

These are more purposes to me. A manifesto would be like "BitTorrent 
Inc., although the provider of the service, will not interfere with the 
development of the BitTorrent protocol." That is openness.

> That's sort of a funny assumption. The real answer is that BitTorrent Inc. is
> too busy to spend any real time on the .org site. BitTorrent Inc. really just
> provide hosting and people (typically it comes down to me) make updates to the
> beps every now and then. I'm quite limited in how much time I have to maintain
> the site though. Would you like to volunteer?

It seems I misinterpreted the DNA service offered by the company, I 
apologize to those offensed.

Concerning the BEPs, I am mainly interested in the availability of 
better documentation. I think anyone could rewrite it but it all depends 
on what information you want to give exactly (it all boils down to best 

By the way, I wrote my letter a month ago but had other stuff to take 
care before I could invest on it. I will think about the offer...

> BEP 11 was withdrawn by its author as it turned out to be a bad idea, we didn't
> want to implement it (he didn't) and no other developer at the time thought it
> was a good idea either. I'm a bit surprised the files are gone though, are they
> still in the subversion repository?

Well, it is used.. and if you had check, you would not have ask the 
question... they are not. This BEP is mentionned in BEP-1000 and BEP-27 
(and others which I cannot remind of).

It still does not explain why BEP numbers are not sequential.

> coincidence. It was just the ones that had been implemented for a long time in
> most popular clients at the time bittorrent.org was started.

 From what I observe in the subversion repository, that seems not to be 
false. BEP-9 and -27 date from 2008 while commit v1 date 2007. Also, the 
DHT (BEP-5) is younger than BEP-9.

By the way, the link to its is broken, see

> All of those extensions you mention are implemented by uTorrent and BitTorrent,
> both which are developed by BitTorrent Inc. Which sort of contradicts you
> hypothesis.

Well clients are client. There is no interests in building roads if no 
one has a car and nowhere to go.

> In the original specification there was a race condition in the choke message.
> the Fast extensions fixed this by introducing the reject message. I bet you'll
> understand how it's supposed to work if you read the fast extensions.

Yes, thanks anyway.

> It is possible to implement a complete client by just looking at the
> documentation. My own implementation (libtorrent.org) was essentially
> implemented straight from documentation + a lot of testing and experimentation.

And, have you got discouraged at any time? I believe BitTorrent could do 
its part to promote good software/protocol engineering with better 

> As long as the main client developers remains backwards compatible (which is
> definitely the intention of BitTorrent Inc.) you can add any crazy extension
> you'd like. [...]

 From what I can read at 
there is discussions about BitTorrent version 2 but it seems they are 
not taking place publically - that the protocol is mainly in control of 
a small group.

> [...] If it's a good one and others are interested in it, write a BEP,
> send it to me (editor at bittorrent.org) and I'll put it up. I might even implement
> it in libtorrent if I like it, and if people like it at BitTorrent Inc. we might
> even implement it in uTorrent. The evolution isn't more complicated than that.

I have ideas and I am (humbly) convinced that they would be adopted. The 
problem is that BitTorrent Inc. has too many hands over its 
specification to my taste. Although I do not mind having companies using 
open stuff, I think it is problematic when they control it.


P.S. Why work on two projects aiming to do the same thing (minus the 

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