Will There Be A New Bittorrent?

from the time-to-get-working-on-it dept

At the end of October one of the admins of the world's largest Bittorrent site sat down for an interview and predicted the protocol's demise. Citing Bittorrent, Inc.'s corporate ties and some technical limitations, brokep announced that The Pirate Bay was working on a new protocol to succeed Bram Cohen's Bittorrent. The idea's been percolating throughout the filesharing scene since then: a small survey of top site admins conducted by TorrentFreak found opinion divided over whether Bittorrent will be replaced. It’s true that the protocol’s been asked to do things that its creator didn’t envision. Clients now use encryption to get around ISP traffic shaping and sometimes pad files to improve interoperability with other networks. DHT functionality, which removes the need for a central tracker, was implemented in a chaotic, piecemeal fashion. Private trackers have to monkey around with torrents’ announce URLs in order to monitor individual users’ activity. Torrent files lack metadata. Traversing firewalls remains an issue. And various researchers have created custom clients that prove the protocol can be subverted by selfish users. There are tacked-on, vulnerable and subpar aspects to the way Bittorrent works — plenty of room for improvement, in other words.

But assuming a technically superior standard is produced, will it be adopted? It's easy to find examples for and against: the Ogg Vorbis audio codec offers better sound quality than MP3, no licensing entanglements, and several awfully-cool features (like the ability to reduce a file's size without reencoding it). But Ogg has never really caught on. Some users employ the also-technically-superior WMA and AAC formats, but only to the extent that Microsoft and Apple force them. For most users, MP3 seems to be good enough. On the other hand, online video has adopted new codecs almost as soon as they become available, moving from VCD to SVCD to MPEG to DivX to Xvid and beyond. The situation's so complex that utilities exist for the sole purpose of untangling a given AVI's miasma of codecs.

What makes these cases differ? It all comes down to timing: consumers will switch technical standards so long as doing so carries few costs (i.e. only requires that more free software be downloaded). Ogg Vorbis hadn't attracted enough attention by the time portable MP3 players arrived. Once the supply chain for MP3 decoding chips was established and a generation of compatible players purchased, the game was pretty well decided. By comparison, only a handful of exotic DVD players bother to support the video formats commonly found on P2P networks. Most portable digital video players still count on users recompressing their files to save space and conserve CPU cycles. Once there's an established infrastructure — of either hardware, accumulated code or simple corporate momentum — consumers may stick with suboptimal technical standards. But prior to that point, users will stay close to the cutting edge.

Bittorrent seems to be on the cusp of this transition. Some hardware devices are coming to market with the standard baked in, but not too many. Various organizations like Miro, Joost and Blizzard Software are building parts of their business around the protocol, but not in an irreversible manner. If Bittorrent gains much more attention, its supporting infrastructure of trackers and open source projects will likely trump whatever advantages a new standard can offer. But I think that there remains a window of opportunity for elite users to popularize a new protocol, should they settle on one. Brokep and his peers still have a few months to steal BT's thunder.

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Companies: pirate bay

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Comments on “Will There Be A New Bittorrent?”

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Haywood says:

Re: Video is no exception

“h.264 is miles better than XviD”
But again, good enough prevails. If all you are doing is picking up TV episodes that you missed and deleteing them after they are watched, do you really want an over 1gb download? Even on the keeper stuff, 8gb files for a DVD rip still seems excessive when a 700mb file is perfectly watchable.

hegemon says:

Re: Video is no exception

I wouldn’t fully agree with that. x264 (the open source alternative to h264) has been widely adopted for HD rips. It is, in fact, the de facto standard for 720p+ Blu-ray, HDDVD, and HDTV rips. Again, as was said by another poster, it has been adopted where quality is more important than filesize. After all, what is the point of ripping HD if you are going to use an inferior codec and/or low bitrates that leave artifacts all over the frame?

Duane M. Navarre says:

point to multi-point broadcasting

What is needed is a method to kick off a stream
that multiple ppl can “tune” into like packetized
radio, and they have a one time upstream, and
it sends to all leechers simultaneously.

A single 5kb upstream could go to the max number
of multi-cast stream sockets and they all get 5kb.

Much like netradio works cept the data is whatever.

You would “tune” into a download, and so could
thousands of others, and anyone that tunes in
becomes a transmitter as well of the pieces they
have already downloaded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Too bad that Brokep and his crew of dilettantes lack the technical expertise to implement any new P2P protocol. Their suggestions are a bunch of poorly thought out minor improvements to Bittorrent and don’t address any of the serious flaws in the protocol. None of these people seem to be knowledgable about P2P systems or computer science. There was some serious talk amongst capable people about fixing some flaws of Bittorrent (search the Bittorrent mailing list for Bittorrent2) but that seem to have not gone anywhere.

Keep in mind that Bittorrent isn’t the end all of P2P systems and is in fact probably a poor basis for a new P2P protocol.

I think the next big revolution in P2P protocols will be the (optional) incorporation of streaming so that you can start watching or listening immediately, either a live feed or media requested on-demand. Several proprietary applications (TVUPlayer) have already demonstrated the feasability of such a system. I know that there are a couple of open source implementations but none of them have taken off. I don’t know if this is due to obscurity or technical problems.

matt says:

Re: lack the expertise?

Lack the expertise? They’ve got a worldwide group working on a new protocol.

also, Mike, bittorrent isn’t doing anything that wasn’t intended, allt he features were already there/included. However, it is not the end-all be-all. New protocols will come with time that will have better encryption support and other methods to help out things such as seeding, as well.

The next big revolution of P2P will not be streaming because predominantly most ISP’s are not providing consumers the bandwith for it. When we can stream HD over the internet, then things will be changing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: lack the expertise?

Lack the expertise? They’ve got a worldwide group working on a new protocol.

Can you point to any member of this ‘worldwide group’ that has experience engineering P2P protocols? Or even one that understands different designs and their benefits and drawbacks?

The next big revolution of P2P will not be streaming because predominantly most ISP’s are not providing consumers the bandwidth for it. When we can stream HD over the Internet, then things will be changing.

Reality begs to differ. I’ve used these systems on home connections. They work today. Big companies are backing these applications: Microsoft’s ‘Livestation’ is one example. We need a free, open implementation.

Matt says:

Re: Re: Re: Livestation?

Umm, piratebay is developing a new torrent style protocol. They have plenty of people helping worldwide. Not hard to be a part of either.

As far as livestation, that is not an example. That is a “concept with a webpage” aka vaporware. It is neither free, nor

Please note that even basic true DVD quality will eat around 1.3MB/s in bandwith, and that true HD will eat around 2.5MB/s in bandwith, and that bluray/HDDVD quality will eat around 3.5MB/s in bandwith (uncompressed). So in bits, thats a lot. 28 megabits/sec connection just to not have buffering. Anyone know a company in the US that handles that? I know plenty in Japan. 10down/2 up /etc is not going to handle such a thing, not to mention if you are doing anything at all you’re not going to be close to that amount consistantly. Docsis 3 will help but there is no guarantee.

Monarch says:

Re: Re:

The reason for that is that the majority of customers are Twelve O’Clock Flashers. Yes, even the people who purchase T1 and T3 connections are 12 O’clock flashers. They would rather call support than spend a few minutes learning the connection or hiring a competent IT person. That, in and of itself raises costs dramatically for providing service.
Imagine the money that could be spent on infrastructure upgrades if not spent for things like, “one of my computers gets on the internet, but the internet is down for the rest of my computers!”

comboman says:

There will always be a new format.

When legal problems shut down centralized-server-based P2P like Napster, decentralized P2P like Gnutella and Kazaa popped up. When those networks bogged down with fake files and legal troubles of their own, Bittorrent was born. When bittorrent becomes useless due to technical or legal problems, something else will show up.

Aaron Martin-Colby (profile) says:

In with the new.

I totally expect widespread adoption of a better option than BitTorrent. MP3 became the defacto standard since full exploitation of it requires hardware, hardware that even the most flexible geeks must use.

BitTorrent has no such requirement. It’s a totally software solution. The geeks who man the forefront will happily and easily adopt a newcomer since no hardware requirements prevent them.

Adam_v1 says:

“h.264 is miles better than XviD”
But again, good enough prevails. If all you are doing is picking up TV episodes that you missed and deleteing them after they are watched, do you really want an over 1gb download? Even on the keeper stuff, 8gb files for a DVD rip still seems excessive when a 700mb file is perfectly watchable.

i think that what your missing is the fact that h.264 can provide much higher quality in the same file size than XviD can but is just not used that way yet.

most of the people using h.264 encoding right now are using it for the fact that you can encode a DVD with it and shrink it down to 1-1.3GB and have very little loss of quality where most people who shrink a DVD down to 700MB with XviD want something anybody can easily play and fits on a CD and quality is much less of a concern.

like it or not h.264 along with the mp4 and mkv file formats are not all that well known to the public yet and what use of it you can find out there is geared to quality no matter the file size than getting much better quality at the same file size.

Da_ALC says:

As more and more ISP’s disallow the torrent more people will be looking for something new.
in P2P ive seen myself go from napster, to kazaa, to edonkey to gnutella to morpheus to emule… Its an ever evolving world.
Now we see DSL providers limiting people to 20-50gb a month download limits, at wich point they cut you down to 128/256Kbs.. which is lame, not what I want to be paying for.

We need; better encryption, changing encryption, ways of masking IP’s, and a more sensible share system, in the sence of, my net connection is 8mb download, 412kb upload.. I can never be in ‘good ratio’, unless I just dont use the donwload speed ive paid for.

Barrenwaste (profile) says:

Bittorrents failings

You want to stop the notion that it’s ok to steal copyrighted software, music, and other intellectual property, Coageartist Coward? Fine, force the industries involved to provide quality product at a resonable price without the threat of imminent lawsuits. Untill that happens the public will happily go on stealing intellectual property.

Shun says:

video codecs are not p2p protocols

Whining about whether x264 or h264 is superior is not going to get us a better p2p system. Also, the person who said streaming is being implemented for home systems (#9) is extremely optimistic. There is no way that the telco/cableco duopoly is going to approach the 10/100 speeds of home users. We aren’t talking about streaming movies and music across the house. This is about moving data across continents.

Where do you live, Japan?

OK, well, for us lepers living in the U.S.A., we need to radically reform the ISP landscape. Barring that, we “need” to introduce a new form of p2p which takes into account or real-world issues with the duopoly:

1. asymmetric download/upload speed. This could be fixed by upgrading your connection, but the duopoly might get suspicious. Best to compromise government web pages, and stick your own content on them. Like anyone ever checks those old pages, anyway.

2. Surveillance/interference with torrent downloads/uploads. The obvious answer is encryption and tunneling through a more universal protocol, like https or ssh. ISP’s would have to use some form of traffic analysis in order to figure out what p2p users were doing. Encryption would protect privacy of individuals, but effective traffic analysis could cause torrent download/upload degradation (with comparable degradation in use of Lotus Notes)

3. Trackerless. This needs to be done. The RIAA/MPAA are attacking tracker sites. Trackers/DHT should be built right into the application. That’s what I liked about limewire’s interface. You could do search and download all in one GUI. Bit-torrent is more clunky because it’s two steps (now, where did I download that .torrent file?)

4. Avoid poisoning/spying by machines in the middle of the cloud. This has already happening (MediaDefender), and we need to “legally” prevent this from happening. I heard that you could incorporate this into the EULA. Anyone who uses a “new torrent” type program should be forced to click on an “I Agree” button that states: “I will not use this program to spy on or as a pretext to initiate litigation against any other user.” We’ll see how that holds up in court.

5. Backwards compatibility. This might not be possible or desirable, but for some, it might be nice to be able to download .torrent files using the new protocol, and get the same effect. Basically, opening up the torrent file from within the “new program” would open up a bit-torrent module, and it would do all of the “old school” bit-torrent things. Happy tracking.

The most important pieces will probably be the trackerless and the encryption. For additional thoughts (and insight into where I got my ideas), see here .

I don’t think Pirate Bay, alone, is going to solve all of this. Right now, there is not sense of “Oh My God! They’re coming to get us!!!” But…come on, people! This is computer science. Don’t you just want to tinker, because it’s fun? Isn’t anyone curious about the next generation p2p engine? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

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