The Pirate Bay is shutting down its tracker technology, its crew announced in a blog post that only accentuated the positive, in a move that follows a multiyear hailstorm of legal machinations, jail sentences thrown at founders, and constant public scrutiny. The positive spin in the blog post is reminiscent of the founders’ claims that their jail sentences represented “an epic win.” But now that the site will switch to decentralized distributed hash table (DHT) technology for pointing to torrent sources, what is the likely impact on downloaders and freeloaders? They will have to turn to new alternatives, but those choices will take shape.
According to today’s blog post:
Now that the decentralized system for finding peers is so well developed, TPB has decided that there is no need to run a tracker anymore, so it will remain down!…By moving to a more decentralized system of handling tracking (DHT+PEX) and distributions of torrent files (Magnet Links), BitTorrent will become less vulnerable to downtime and outages.
Magnet links let users download torrents directly into BitTorrent clients, circumventing browsers. Through DHT technology, users seeking torrents access a dedicated DHT network, and find peers for the actual downloads. So, effectively, The Pirate Bay is seeking to avoid centralizing tracked torrents and services in such a way that it can stay free of legal problems.
Does that mean the end of widespread torrent downloading, including illegal downloads, though? Absolutely not. The Pirate Bay’s position as the leading purveyor of BitTorrent traffic is threatened, but torrenters will march on.
For one thing, TorrentFreak already spoke with Pirate Bay insiders who said that a decentralized model can work across many high-profile torrent sites:
We’re talking to the other torrent admins on doing magnet links and DHT+PEX for all sites. Moving away from torrents and trackers totally — like pick a date and all agree “from this date, we’ll not support torrents anymore.”
The idea of a federated collection of BitTorrent trackers around the web has been raised before. Now that idea could shift to a federated trackerless collection of sites, with P2P-based torrenting becoming more widely distributed.
Let’s also keep in mind that the overall world of torrenting extends to many useful, legal sites providing content. NewTeeVee collected many of them here. Legaltorrents, for example, distributes lots of Creative Commons-licensed content. Legal and illegal torrenting will continue as The Pirate Bay sends its tracker to Davey Jones’ locker, but today does mark an official end to a torrent tracking strategy that was central to The Pirate Bay’s ongoing notoriety.