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.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Hieronymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:22pm

    Bittorrents failings

    Hopefully a new solution will bring tight encryption and a man in the middle 'cut-out' scheme to allow people to transmit in complete privacy...

     

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  2.  
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    Paul, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:28pm

    Video is no exception

    The video codecs are no exception to popularity deciding the standard.

    h.264 is miles better than xvid, but the world has been very slow to adopting it. xvid will be the "mp3" of the video world for quite some time.

     

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  3.  
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    TruePath, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 8:43pm

    And I Thought It Was Cheap Disk Space

    I thought it was just that disk space got so cheap as to effectively eliminate the difference between mp3s, AAC and ogg. You can always up the quality by choosing a bit higher bit rate.

     

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  4.  
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    zcat, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 10:29pm

    big difference

    Whatever video codec you use, the file is still generally 'avi', or possibly 'mpg'. People only find out what codec they need (or that the content is DRM-protected and they have to pay to play it) after having downloaded the file.

     

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  5.  
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    Duane M. Navarre, Nov 16th, 2007 @ 10:46pm

    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.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 9:26am

    Re: point to multi-point broadcasting

    That's called multicast and is present in IPv6 which is slow on the uptake (probably because network operators are reluctant to spend money if what they already have still works).

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 9:53am

    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.

     

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  8.  
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    matt, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 1:09pm

    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.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 2:00pm

    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.

     

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  10.  
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    Snipergod87, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 2:18pm

    its XviD not Xvid, and dont forgot h.264

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 2:46pm

    ISPs are money looting assholes!!

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Haywood, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 3:31pm

    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.

     

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  13.  
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    comboman, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 8:00pm

    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.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    AMossberg, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 9:04pm

    BitTyrant isn't selfish

    The "custom client" you link to is BitTyrant. BitTyrant actually rewards good users, it is not a "selfish" client. Read the research paper before making such assertions.

     

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  15.  
    icon
    Aaron Martin-Colby (profile), Nov 17th, 2007 @ 10:58pm

    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.

     

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  16.  
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    Adam_v1, Nov 17th, 2007 @ 11:59pm

    "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.

     

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  17.  
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    Da_ALC, Nov 18th, 2007 @ 1:29pm

    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.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2007 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re: Video is no exception

    Which also explains quite nicely the almost complete lack of adoption of either of the HD formats, and the mind-bendingly slow adoption of HD in general. :)

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2007 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    Look up skitts law genius.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Ant Bryan, Nov 18th, 2007 @ 7:03pm

    check out Metalink for metadata w/ filesharing/file distribution.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Zero, Nov 18th, 2007 @ 10:00pm

    Re: point to multi-point broadcasting

    data transfer online could not ever work that way. The bandwidth must come from somewhere.
    Figure out how to make bandwidth come from nowhere and you will be the richest person in the history of the world.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Matt, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 5:22am

    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.

     

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  23.  
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    Monarch, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 7:30am

    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!"

     

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  24.  
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    hegemon, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 7:50am

    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?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    collageartist coward, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 8:49am

    Re: Bittorrents failings

    A solution for privacy concerns in BitTorrent is all well and good. But what about a solution to the seemingly prevailing notion that it's ok to steal copyrighted software, music, or other intellectual property with impunity?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Barrenwaste, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: 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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Jay, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 11:17am

    Good article, but...

    ...WMA is certainly not superior to MP3.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Shun, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 10:36pm

    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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  29.  
    identicon
    Shun, Nov 19th, 2007 @ 10:41pm

    Bad Link

    Oops, meant to do this.

    See if that works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    J. Reynolds, Nov 20th, 2007 @ 5:03pm

    Domestic Violence, Casino Guard Assault and possib

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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