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The Uncertain Future of BitTorrent 340

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the standards-are-hard dept.
javipas writes "The people behind the popular BitTorrent tracker are working on a new version of the BitTorrent protocol that could become the successor to the current one, maintained by BitTorrent Inc. The company founded by Bram Cohen — original author of this protocol — now has decided to close the source for several new features in the BitTorrent protocol, and this "gives them too much power and influence". The new file format would be called .p2p, and would maintain backwards compatibility with current .torrent files."
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The Uncertain Future of BitTorrent

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  • Oh well, (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:13AM (#21183319)
    Let them close it. As long as the open source community doesn't use it to distribute isos, I'm happy.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:13AM (#21183325) Homepage
    You can give OSS to the people, but you can't take it back!!

    Perhaps that's one of the biggest reasons people should think long and hard about attempting leverage open source to gain popularity and a user base. There's that possibility of the user base forking your work and taking it over if they don't like the direction you're going... and that's exactly what I predict will happen with BitTorrent. And while they're at it, they'll probably go ahead and build into it some anonymity protection.
    • by phobos13013 (813040) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:20AM (#21183423)
      To be fair, the actions of Bram, et al., are necessary to protect himself from liability. He has quite intelligently always stated that he did not condone or support any of the "illegal" uses of the technology. By doing this, they can claim innocence from complicity of its uses. Meanwhile, if the a community of individuals changes the protocol and uses it for whatever purposes they like, each user is responsible for their own implementation and the protocol is out there maintained by everyone who uses it, so no easy target for prosecutors to chase after. Not to say that Bram intended this, but I doubt he's concerned with the results.
      • Au contraire (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FranTaylor (164577) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:35AM (#21183635)
        By keeping the source closed, he is in fact assuming all responsibility for the actions of his code. If his code allows something bad to happen, we can say with certainty that it's all his fault.
        • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:57AM (#21183907) Journal
          If his code allows something bad to happen, we can say with certainty that it's all his fault.

          Manufacturers do not assume liability if their product is used to perform illegal activities. How long would Heckler and Koch, Gerber, and Ronson remain in business if they were held liable for every knife fight, gun duel, and arson?
          • by click2005 (921437) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:10AM (#21184087)
            Manufacturers do not assume liability if their product is used to perform illegal activities.

            That has never stopped the media companies from going after software that enables copyright infringement.
          • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:40AM (#21184501) Journal

            If his code allows something bad to happen, we can say with certainty that it's all his fault.

            Manufacturers do not assume liability if their product is used to perform illegal activities.

            I don't even have to point at an analogy, just at parallels - Napster. Kazaa. Both were very successfully litigated against for complicity in copyright infringement, no?

            /P

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by eison (56778)
              Not nearly as simple as you say it. They were busted because they actively advertised and supported and encouraged the infringing use. For Napster for example, undermining copyright was literally written into their business plan.
        • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:59AM (#21183929)

          By keeping the source closed, he is in fact assuming all responsibility for the actions of his code. If his code allows something bad to happen, we can say with certainty that it's all his fault.
          Right! Because when the Russian mob uses Excel to keep track of their extortion payments, it is all Bill Gates's fault!
          • by hitmark (640295)
            the russian mob is insignificant compared to the power of pirates roaming unchecked on the net...
          • by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @12:38PM (#21185295)

            Right! Because when the Russian mob uses Excel to keep track of their extortion payments, it is all Bill Gates's fault!
            But when the Excel math bug makes it look like someone was cheating the mob and they get whacked for it, can we blame Microsoft then?
      • by CarpetShark (865376) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:04AM (#21184001)

        To be fair, the actions of Bram, et al., are necessary to protect himself from liability. He has quite intelligently always stated that he did not condone or support any of the "illegal" uses of the technology. By doing this, they can claim innocence from complicity of its uses.


        Hmm. If he believes it's a good thing, and I'd rather see him stand by that belief. If he intended it to be a piracy tool because he believes in piracy, then he should stand by that, instead.

        Either way, Bram doesn't seem to realise that he doesn't matter any more. The technology is out there, and neither he nor anyone else can take it back. He's unlikely to release anything more important for the rest of his life, and he may as well just accept whatever small (and it was small) contribution that he made. I say small, because however good BT is, it's only a little better than the P2P systems before. Just another piece of the slow, step-by-step, but fairly obvious puzzle we all glorify as computer science.
      • Someone else replying to parent mentioned use of guns, but I think this is a bad analogy and should be applied instead to communications protocols.

        You can use HTTP, FTP, cell-phones and other communication mediums -wether protocol based or not- to perform illegal activities. I guess given the current legal system Bram has no choice. But if the reason is to protect his company assets, maybe we ought to shut down the entire Internet in order to fully prevent illegal activity. Or not. I think given the system
    • by iendedi (687301) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:24AM (#21183485) Journal

      There's that possibility of the user base forking your work and taking it over if they don't like the direction you're going... and that's exactly what I predict will happen with BitTorrent. And while they're at it, they'll probably go ahead and build into it some anonymity protection.
      And good riddance. I can think of few reasons why having bittorrent proprietary would be advantageous for users. But I can think of many reasons why special interests would pay to make it so. I also agree with anonymity protection, something like a lightweight tor cloud between p2p endpoints makes good sense.
    • I thought the subject was referring to the fact that no p2p protocol has lasted more than a few months before being reverse-engineered for a free or open alternative. When dealing with peers, it's nearly impossible to verify the program running on the other end.
    • Perhaps that's one of the biggest reasons people should think long and hard about attempting leverage open source to gain popularity and a user base.
      True, but it is also one of the biggest reasons for using open source.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:15AM (#21183361)
    And because of those closed features, the new tracking system will probably not be as popular because no one likes to use the original bittorrent client. That is until they reverse engineer it. Anyone who torrents anything (legal or otherwise) will notice there are like no original bt clients showing up. Why is that? Could it be it sucks? Unless these new features are like gold, no one will care and will continue to use the old one.
    • by eMartin (210973)
      True. Nobody likes the original. Most people like the closed-source uTorrent, though.

      If you haven't heard, Bit Torrent now owns uTorrent.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jZnat (793348) *
        You're forgetting about Azureus which is both open source and cross platform. I'd imagine that combined, Azureus and muTorrent take up most of the share of which client people use, but there are still plenty of others out there.
    • by Ginger Unicorn (952287) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:41AM (#21183731)
      except cohen bought utorrent and adopted it as the official client. a lot of windows users use utorrent, so that argument doesnt really stand.
  • so? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just keep using the existing protocol. You might miss out on the latest K-Fed release if all the kiddies are using the new format, but then again that could be a plus.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by damaki (997243) *
      Exactly. The official implementation is not the most used one. Therefore it does not matter if it changes. The open source Azureus and the others whatever-torrent will not be affected. I mean, they were already non-official extensions to the protocol, such as DHT, web seeds, ... The protocol has been out of BitTorrent Inc. hands for much time now. Few will follow them if they change it.
  • Tin-foil hat... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alexhs (877055) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:20AM (#21183419) Homepage Journal
    Are these new "features" that need the source to be closed RIAA or NSA oriented ?
  • by VengefulCynic (824720) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:21AM (#21183429)
    The PirateBay team is currently developing on a new torrent protocol that they hope will be the next-generation successor to the current BitTorrent file. They say that they're concerned about continuing to use the current standard since BitTorrent has closed the source and hope to be able to create an open-source successor that maintains backward-compatibility with the current .torrent standard. The new standard, currently named .p2p is still in the development phase, but the initial release is planned for sometime early next year. Among the planned new features are responses to the increasing number of spammers and anti-piracy organizations who currently abuse the BitTorrent protocol. Seriously, would it have been that hard to have waited for a submission that was informative and grammatically correct?
    • by Adeptus_Luminati (634274) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @11:10AM (#21184083)
      Hey Pirate Bay folks, here's my list of feature requests for the new version of your open source torrent protocol:

      ONION ROUTING:
      1) Implement Onion routing (aka: Tor / anonymize the sources) as a built in feature.
      2) Onion Routing should, where possible, try to use exit points and middle points that have roughly the same amount of bandwidth as you, otherwise torrenting will not become a reality through Onion Routing. So some kind of peer bandwidth algorythm needs to be incorporated.
      3) Onion routing should be on by default, and each user should also become an exit point and donate 30% of their bandwidth to this. This will greatly increase the number of exit routers & provide this as a defacto alternative, as opposed to just some obscure security feature for the 31337 (hackers & government homeland types).
      4) Individual site upload ratios, should take into consideration that fact that you are an exit point and some portion of that 30% should be counted toward your uploaded bytes ratio (even if traffic is going to other sites)... in other words, help promote torrent security = get bonus points from private trackers.

      SIMPLIFY ISP SHAPING BYPASS
      Background: Forcing protocol encryption isn't enough these days; some ISPs are shaping or even blocking torrent traffic by methods such as sending TCP RST packets to close a session, or their infrastructure auto-analyzes your encrypted traffic patters and if they are high bandwidth, very encrypted and on for long amounts of time to the same destination you get flagged & shapped (regardless of the fact that you could indeed be doing something legal)

      1) There's a page on Wikipedia that lists all the "BAD ISPs" (http://www.azureuswiki.com/index.php/Bad_ISPs). This is a list of ISPs internationally that in one way or another shape your bitorrent traffic (Comcast anyone?). We need to be one step ahead of these ISPs and render their multi-million dollars worth of shaping infrastructure useless - sooner rather than later - sooner so that they can't make up for the ROI on all that gear they purchased. If the ROI fails, the next time engineering dept approach CEO for X dozens of millions more, they will get declined and we (torrent community) will win.

      2) This site breaks down "throttling" into 5 different categories or ways in which the ISP can throttle you... each listing the bypass method.
      http://www.azureuswiki.com/index.php/Avoid_traffic_shaping#Escalation_of_the_crypto_settings [azureuswiki.com]
      Note that level 5 (the most aggressive shaping method known so far) is only bypassable by a single client today (Azeurus), utorrent to my understanding can not bypass this.

      Anyway my point with these above 2 items is that these facts need to be considered:
      1. The number of ISPs throttling internationally is already large and growing larger
      2. Your new torrent client needs to simplify bypassing these various levels of encryption so that it can be adopted by the masses. If it is not adopted by the masses (rendering ISP throttling useless), the ISPs will have won.

      I don't have time to type more, so please research what other clients out there (beyond just torrent) are doing and borrow ideas from them.
      Here's a brief list of intelligent encryption/anonymous software out there to investigate:
      RODI: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/06/01/1252232 [slashdot.org]
      MUTE: http://mute-net.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
      ANTS: http://antsp2p.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
      GNUnet: http://gnunet.org/ [gnunet.org]
      I2P: http://www.i2p.net/ [i2p.net]
      FreeNet: http://freenetproject.org/ [freenetproject.org]
      TOR: http://tor.eff.org/ [eff.org]

      THanks and good luck!
      • Another poster has opined that Freenet is dead, with just a few users and almost no content. That mirrors my experience. Yet you seem knowledgeable and still include a link to it. Do you know something I don't? I'm serious about this; I'd really love Freenet to work. AFAIK, though, it just doesn't in any meaningful way.

        If your experience is different, please take a moment to elaborate.

        If *anyone* has any current, positive experience with Freenet, please jump in. I figure *somebody* is probably still u
        • Do you know something I don't?

          Aw, poor Alice! She's so clueless and disappointed because she hasn't found Wonderland... yet ;-)

          Yes, Alice, I do know something you don't. Freenet is for posting stuff, but there are OTHER similar (anonymous) networks around... some haven't made it to the public, and some are still in beta (but already working imho). They implement onion routing, and are very secure. Some are used for file transfer, others for general purpose (to host websites, forums, etc). Yes, they work.
          Jus [slashdot.org]
  • and has p2p right in the extension? I'm betting many people are just going to stick with the original... This seems like his Vista...
  • There are some very interesting technologies that can be applied to a new .p2p format while remaining backward-compatible with .torrent files. Such as auto-regeneration of almost-complete torrents via in-file redundancy (small size increase, massive benefit), the possibility of onion routing and obfuscation, new uploading algorithms, that sort of thing.

    And honestly, if Bittorrent closes some of the protocol, the features either going to be ignored or reverse engineered. In which case there's already 2 different .torrent specifications -- the old, open one and the new, partially-closed one -- why not go whole hog and fork the thing all to hell? An application should be able to easily handle both.
  • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:23AM (#21183463)
    DRM? Adware? I don't see why it needs to be closed unless it's stuff people don't want.
  • Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vivaoporto (1064484) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:24AM (#21183493)
    After MPAA got Bram Cohen and the UTorrent guy on their pockets, it was a matter of time until they tried to pull such stunts. My bet is that they will try to close a "hole" in the protocol, the impossibility to create a truly private swarm, one where only authorized peers could connect, regardless of the desire of the peers themselves to share the information about the other peers (DHT style). That's the wet dream of people selling content, they could sell access to their content using the bittorrent protocol and nobody would be able to join the swarm without paying.

    But there is nothing there people should be afraid., as everybody knows, real innovation on the P2P scene occurs when the interested parts (the filesharers, not necessarily illegal ones) are the real force behind the development, as PEX (protocol encryption) came to prove, now that the cat is out of the sack, there is not a lot of things that Mr. Cohen can do.
    • Re:Predictable (Score:4, Interesting)

      by The Rizz (1319) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:34AM (#21183615)

      After MPAA got Bram Cohen and the UTorrent guy on their pockets, it was a matter of time until they tried to pull such stunts. [...] they could sell access to their content using the bittorrent protocol and nobody would be able to join the swarm without paying.
      ...and that's a bad thing why, exactly? Content companies receive a secure p2p distribution channel, and the rest of us receive a 100% bulletproof example of how p2p is not "just for illegal files". Sounds like win-win to me.
      • Re:Predictable (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LordSnooty (853791) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:40AM (#21183711)
        Except it never takes off because there aren't enough people in the swarm to keep download speeds high, because they're all on the other side grabbing rips for free.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tkavanaugh (863507)
          also why should i pay for the bandwidth that is going to benefit the *aa while i'm downloading something i paid for?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by R2.0 (532027)
        "and that's a bad thing why, exactly? "

        Because if I am going to pay a content provider for a download, I want the transaction to be as follows:

        1) I pay $$$
        2) Provider sends me file, using their upstream bandwidth and my downstream.

        As opposed to:
        1) I pay provider.
        2) Provider tells me where the files, or pieces thereof, are.
        3) I use my downstream AND upstream bandwidth, and my file storage, and my processor cycles, to distribute the file for the person I just paid.

        I know some game companies do this to distrib
        • by lilomar (1072448)
          But what if (in the scenario where you pay for the .torrent) you paid significantly less than for a regular download? Instead of having the entire transaction being in $, you could have the bandwidth you use for uploading be somehow credited to your user name. So you could, conceivably, get the file for free (or at a very small price) just by seeding for several months.
          This would save the distributer money, because they could credit you less for your bandwidth than they would have to pay for the extra serv
        • by walt-sjc (145127)
          Maybe you get a discount on your content if your "share rating" is good.
      • by CRCulver (715279)

        ...and that's a bad thing why, exactly? Content companies receive a secure p2p distribution channel, and the rest of us receive a 100% bulletproof example of how p2p is not "just for illegal files".

        Because content companies shouldn't seek a secure p2p distribution channel. They should realize that their business model is now outdated and that now they will have to find other ways of making money than by charging for copies of their content.

  • Means harder for RIAA to track you... ;)
  • by Organic Brain Damage (863655) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:29AM (#21183561)
    If a person wants to illegally share music, they could (hypothetically) get a pair of 300GB USB drives. Put all their music on them. Go to the library, check-out more music. Put that on their drives. Go to their friends houses and trade. A couple of trades with friends who are actively trading will:

    1. quickly net them more music than they can listen to in an entire lifetime.
    2. make sure they have off-site backup of their music in case their house is burned down by RIAA goons.

    And, if you don't put it on-line, none of it is traceable by RIAA. And Comcast can't stop it.
    • by lilomar (1072448) <lilomar2525@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:41AM (#21183721) Homepage
      Ahh, good, old fashioned sneakernet [wikipedia.org].
      • Closer to "Never understimate the bandwidth of a station wagon driving down the Jersey Turnpike."
    • by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:57AM (#21183903) Homepage
      Well done. And remember, newer nanotech is coming which will give us solid-state storage with terabyte capacities. Eventually it'll be petabytes. As you say, all we have to do is sneakernet the drives to each other, snowballing the number of tunes and videos on each individual drive.

      Imagine the day when you could carry the Library of Congress (which probably will be copyrighted as a work itself) around in your pocket.

      Also imagine two more things, sadly. "IP" corporations will make the manufacturers of such superstorage encrypt their devices and register the keys with the corporations/government, and no doubt will make the devices snitch you out by making them periodically check in with a registrar with a list of naughty things you may have; and possession of such devices, most certainly possession of unregistered/unlicensed content will bear the penalty of years in prison, or even the death penalty. George Hearst's men shot his miners who pocketed gold nuggets during the first Guilded Age. We are entering another. This time the evil men can track our movements and actions minutely. This age will be a police state beyond even my sad imagination. Actually it will be a death sentence to resist the new lords of IP: if you resist arrest, they will stun you, possibly killing you. If you try to flee the country, they may shoot you dead. If you are imprisoned and try to escape, they will shoot you and kill you. Death is the penalty for ultimately refusing to bend the knee and take it in the ass. And your friends will sadly shake their heads at your obdurate refusal to accede to the law, and Youtubers will guffaw as the taser darts stop your heart, cheering on the thugs who are shutting your fool mouth up.

      Here's a little line for all of you. When people ask you why you should care if the guvmint/Comcast/shadow creatures of the corporate world/ monitors your location, communications, downloads, reading material, mail, and traveling accessories if you've done nothing wrong, ask them the simple question:

      Why do you have shades on your windows if you've nothing to hide?

      If the protection of our precious kids/selves/intellectual property is more important than the right to not be monitored, then build all houses out of glass and let everyone see what we do. It's the same damned thing. If you've nothing to hide, put cameras in every corner of your house and let the government record.

      You all won't do it, because you know damned well you all do something illegal somewhere. Corporations break the law every minute of their existence. A lot of you smoke leaves. A lot of you sleep with people you know you shouldn't. You read things that would affect people's opinion of you. You listen to music and watch video without license of the copyright holder.

      Anyway, keep the bugs off your glasses and the smokies off your asses. I'd say "Peace", but we're not ever going to get that with greedy bastards convincing us to roll our pants down on command.

    • And, if you don't put it on-line, none of it is traceable by RIAA.
      You can put it online as long as it is encrypted and available only to people you know and trust. Sneakernet over IP - the best of both worlds.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      But "Don't copy that 500GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache USB 2.0 External Hard Drive" doesn't have the same ring as "Don't copy that floppy"...
  • So what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wiseman1024 (993899)
    So? It's going the same path of Overnet and so many others. Closed source = failure. Let them die alone.

    And they speak as if they were the only ones who could develop new features. Don't forget about the distributed network for BitTorrent and all the good things clients and servers have implemented to improve existing protocols, BitTorrent and others.
  • Ryan Fenton (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kamineko (851857) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:40AM (#21183705)
    Long live the Ryan Fenton [slashdot.org] protocol!
  • hmm. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:55AM (#21183887)
    Hmmm.

    I dont want to be paranoid, but...

    RIAA/MPAA/**AA are trying to legislate against P2P
    They have several key bitTorrent devs in their pockets
    They are promoting a new *better* protocol
    How long before this is a negotiating tools to the powers that that control the legislation - on the lines of "yes, P2P has legitimate uses, but the new protocol will safeguard those interests whilst protecting copyright" or something on those lines. In other words this could be an initial step towards the long term goal of a legal P2P system that is easy to police/control content. These people plan a long way ahead, I would not be surprised if something like this is brewing...

    Mind you I like the concept of packet obfuscation to thwart ISP throttling mentioned in TFA.
    • by dintech (998802)
      You could be right but that would make the MPAA pretty stupid ("but they are stupid..."). Pirates simply won't use their protocol, I think that's the point. The people who are already sharing music and movies probably aren't too worried about additionally using an outlawed protocol. I mean, what's one more law broken?

      More likely the MPAA want to gain the bandwidth benefits of P2P with a more controlled environment and shop front. That way they can market a legal service to Joe Sixpack and the sharers who fe
  • Come on guys, is .p2p the best you could come up with? It should have a name indicative of its BitTorrent roots without infringing on Bram's precious trademark. Call the file .swarm or the protocol BitSwarm or BitStorm. That ought to irk Bram a bit. Bram had a great idea and a great start. We should be thankful for that, but he is not the kind of charismatic guy that can lead a community of users and developers. So take his great idea, form a community, and let him join if he has another good idea to
  • by LM741N (258038) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @10:58AM (#21183923)
    what ever happened to Freenet? I know it had totally different objectives than BitTorrent, but it was interesting nontheless.
  • I am so sick of getting stuck at 99% with 0 seeders and 99 leechers on all my illegal downloads.

    So.. make 10% parity and then bitorrent can be even more resource intensive.. doesn't matter because we all have dual and quad cores now. So, just stick bitorrent on another core. Then, give bitorrent its own hard drive and you barely notice it running on your computer. :D

    ^^ That's my feature request.
    • by Catbeller (118204)
      Those 99% "stuck" downloads are poisoned payloads being seeded by private tracker goon companies. They are also logging your activity at the same time. If you get a "stuck" download, comment and report so that others will stop using the torrent. Oh, alternate explanation: your ISP may be forcing a reset on your connection, over and over and over and over...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Myen (734499)
      Okay, let's assume the almost-done is not caused by malicious junk torrents, and instead just that nobody has the last part. Presumably then, it's because everybody who did have it left.

      So, if there was 1% overhead that went into parity... those people would just leave 1% sooner (since they can regenerate the files they need anyway). So everybody would be stuck at 98% and still unable to use the parity. That won't be helpful.

      Parity is useful in newsgroups because your servers won't randomly run away from
  • by Arcturax (454188) on Wednesday October 31, 2007 @12:50PM (#21185477)
    They should call it... .arr

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