Blog Post

Pirates’ Quest May Spell Trouble for BitTorrent

The Pirate Bay will move away from the BitTorrent protocol within the next 12 months, one of the site’s admins has announced in a video interview. The Pirate Bay is actively developing its own, yet-to-be-named P2P protocol that will feature added security measures to foil spammers and other enhancements. The team is said to already have a working software in place but is still hammering out the details of the protocol itself, which will be open source.

This announcement could be bad news for BitTorrent Inc. and anyone who is using the BitTorrent protocol as a basis for commercial applications. The Pirate Bay claims to have between 1.5 million and two million visitors per day and is certainly one of the biggest and most prominent torrent sites; it could probably get a significant amount of its users to switch to a new application utilizing a different protocol. P2P users have proven to be less than loyal to their preferred sharing platforms in the past, abandoning Napster, Morpheus, Kazaa and many others over the years in the search for the best file-sharing fix — so why should this be any different?

Pirate Bay admin “Brokep” in a German video podcast over the weekend said he doesn’t believe “BitTorrent as a protocol will survive much longer” than a year and that his site is getting ready to abandon it sooner than later. He cited some technical reasons, but largely blamed BitTorrent Inc. and its move towards proprietary standards. “It’s closed source, and we don’t have any input as users to say what we want in the protocol,” he said.

BitTorrent Inc. recently started releasing closed-source versions of its client software; previous versions were released under an open source software license. It is maintaining a developer web site that it hopes will become a forum “to exchange ideas about the direction of the BitTorrent protocol.” But the company has also started to develop proprietary protocol extensions to facilitate video streaming and P2P CDN services.

BitTorrent Inc. and The Pirate Bay aren’t the only ones with differing opinions about the future of the popular P2P protocol. BitTorrent has been the basis of commercial P2P platforms like Pando, Allpeers and Azureus/ Azureus and Pando have been working on their own respective streaming protocol extensions, and most companies in the personal P2P space have extended BitTorrent without offering open source specifications or APIs.

This balkanization of BitTorrent could lead to a future where users abandon BitTorrent altogether because they don’t want to install a new client for every platform. The Pirate Bay’s decision to ditch BitTorrent could speed up this process, especially if other torrent sites follow suit and take their millions of users along with them.

BitTorrent president Ashwin Navin seemed to have a hunch about the trouble ahead in a recent interview with the student-run newspaper out of Ohio, The Post. In his own words: “I believe that (…) the vast majority of traffic on BitTorrent will be legitimate over time — and that could be as soon as the end of next year.”