The people behind the popular BitTorrent site Isohunt.com launched a new community portal this week called Hexagon.cc that’s aimed at making BitTorrent more social by allowing groups of users to share and discuss content. The site also allows for the embedding of videos from YouTube, Video or Blip, and utilizes semantic web resources to catalog content — a first in the BitTorrent world.
Hexagon.cc is still in private beta, but invites have been made available by the thousands since it opened its doors earlier this week. The project is definitely interesting, and has the potential to become a viable competitor to many private torrent sites.
Isohunt founder Gary Fung said his team has been working on Hexagon.cc for two years. “I assure you this will change the way you think of a BitTorrent site and file sharing,” he said in a post on Isohunt’s forum. That may be a bit over the top, but Hexagon.cc definitely offers a unique approach.
Traditional BitTorrent sites tend to list content by categories and reduce their users’ roles to posting and discussing content within those categories. Hexagon.cc, on the other hand, allows anyone to join an existing group or start a new one. Group members can post torrents or embed Flash videos, start discussions and of course, download content. Groups can be public, invite-only or completely private, in which case they’re not listed in the Hexagon.cc index and are not accessible without special invite codes.
The privacy feature makes Hexagon.cc a prime candidate for so-called darknets, those closed, invite-only networks of users that want to share content without copyright owners or anyone else knowing about it. Hexagon.cc currently lists around 700 publicly accessible groups; it’s unclear how many private groups there are.
Of course, there already exists something quite similar to those private groups: private BitTorrent trackers, which have been used to swap files with a limited circle of users on an invite-only basis for years. Hexagon.cc’s private groups essentially make it possible for anyone to set up a forum with more or less the same functionality as a private tracker without actually dealing with any of the server set-up and maintenance.
Granted, there are some differences. Private trackers tend to use upload ratios to force users to contribute; anyone downloading much more than he uploads simply gets kicked off. Hexagon.cc doesn’t do that. But its groups can be used to curate publicly available content, something Fung believes could be a boon for copyright holders. “We have contacts with game publishers and independent musicians and film makers, who are very interested in creating their own groups where they can directly market their music, videos or games and interact with their fans,” he wrote, adding that Hexagon has plans to share advertising revenue with copyright owners that make their works available through the site.
Finally, the semantic data adds an interesting twist to Hexagon.cc. Users that upload a torrent get suggestions from Freebase.com as to which topic to add to their torrent’s description. This will make it easier for Hexagon.cc to find the content that users are searching for, but it could also in the future be used by third-party web services or torrent clients to automatically suggest downloads based on structured data.