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Bittorrent is no longer important, but it proves the feasibility of Nakamoto’s conception


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The author, Simon Morris, worked for ten years at Bittorrent as Chief Strategy Officer. Simon Morris is on the Bittorrent perspective to tell how Bittorrent Inc. in a decentralized ecosystem has fallen. He suggested

Bittorrent can not get rid of the dependence on the torrent file, can not separate the torrent from the file itself, IPFS uses the hash value as the identifier to search the stored content is more flexible and can distinguish different versions of the data, to avoid the problem of storage duplication.

I think Bittorrent is no longer important, and it has become less important a few years ago. Admittedly, Bittorrent still has a large user base, but it is no longer as relevant as it used to be. The reason is that the media industry has evolved and Bittorrent no longer has a threat.

Bittorrent is so popular that Bittorrent consumes 10% of all Internet traffic, sometimes even more than 50%! Perhaps the biggest achievement of Bram’s Bittorrent is the feasibility of the concept of a completely uncensored global decentralized network that Nakamoto conceived when conceiving bitcoin.

The decentralization feature of Bittorrent has allowed the Bittorrent ecosystem to thrive, and even shutting down such a company does not affect the Bittorrent ecosystem. Therefore, Bittorrent-based token incentive system design is an extremely large and difficult process.

The end of an era

With the early 2018, BitTorrent was sold to China’s cryptocurrency organization TRON (or rather, TRON’s founder Justin Yuchen Sun), an era is over. BitTorrent became part of TRON. The companies most closely related to the Bittorrent ecosystem have disappeared in the last 15 years, and the remaining employees of Bittorrent are now TRON employees with the same mission as TRON.

I have worked at BitTorrent for nearly 10 years and have worked in the product, data science, strategy and general management departments. During that time, BitTorrent pioneered R&D and deployed many decentralized technologies. For example, content distribution network (CDN), file sync (folder synch), file sending, P2P communication, web publishing, and real-time streaming. In the fall of 2017, BitTorrent began working on a project to integrate cryptocurrencies into core protocols, but it was this project that unexpectedly led to the acquisition of the company.

Bittorrent is probably the most widely deployed decentralization technology at the moment. With my ten years of experience at Bittorrent, I want to learn from how the world of Bittorrent has declined and the bitcoin and the wider encryption world or blockchain industry can What lessons to learn” share some ideas.

I think it is necessary to start with the background of Bittorrent. Many people have heard of Bittorrent, and most people think it is related to illegal online file sharing. This time many people will be surprised to find a company called BitTorrent Inc. behind Bittorrent.

When I talked about Bittorrent, I always tried to distinguish between three different Bittorrents:

Bittorrent technology – the p2p file transfer protocol invented by BramCohen in 2001.

Bittorrent, a company co-founded by BramCohen and AshwinNavin in 2004, seeks to commercialize Bram’s invention.

The Bittorrent ecosystem, a large and unsupervised group of users and physical communities, illegally shares popular files online, and these files are usually media files protected by various copyright laws.

Bittorrent technology

Bittorrent technology is a file distribution protocol. It is designed to distribute large and popular files over the Internet without having to configure very large servers with ultra-high bandwidth. Unlike the current cryptocurrency system, there is no “token” in the Bittorrent system – instead, the economics behind the system relies on a short barter relationship, the node selects the node that has established the content sharing link, and shares the file one step at a time.

The details of how the agreement works are not important here, but it is worth mentioning that it is important to consider how to protect the founders and companies from direct attacks in the early stages of technical design. Bram’s goal in creating this technology was not to make copyright infringement or to make an industry that has been selling billions of dollars worth of dollars in sales for decades, but his invention directly led to this result.

Because Bittorrent has hurt too many innocent targets, and Bittorrent technology has become popular due to illegal sharing of media files, and sometimes it takes up most of the bandwidth of ISPs (Internet Service Providers), ISPs have failed to take real effective measures to eliminate them. Bittorrent. Then in the broader network-neutral movement, there were a lot of ominous signals against Bittorrent and aggressive defense actions. But because of the lack of any illegal intent and what lawyers call “substantial non-infringement use cases,” Bittorrent is ultimately protected from serious intervention at the ISP or state level.

There are a lot of ISPs trying to get the government to interfere with Bittorrent’s excessive traffic, but this attempt has never been achieved. This is largely because no one wants to set a legal precedent for reviewing generic technology simply because of the legally useful nature of the technology.

(The story behind it is more complicated, including the constant lobbying of both parties, many ISPs attempting to disrupt Bittorrent traffic and BitTorrent’s ongoing adjustment of protocols to make it less aggressive. The broader context is the rapid expansion of Internet bandwidth and the emergence of new applications. New apps are even more bandwidth consuming than Bittorrent. Over time, Bittorrent traffic issues are no longer a top priority for ISPs, so they are starting to focus on other places.)


Since its inception, BitTorrent has had to get along with other players in the ecology, and these participants have benefited from BitTorrent, and BitTorrent has had to apologize for their evil behavior. BitTorrent Inc still distributes Bittorrent’s clients – “Bittorrent” and “uTorrent”. These two clients act as the best communicators of Bittorrent technology, and the company makes money by selling ads to millions of users. These two clients are far from any infringing activities, and they constantly update and protect the technology that a large part of the Bittorrent ecosystem is running.

Bittorrent ecosystem

The Bittorrent ecosystem is made up of people who use the technology. Just like Bitcoin and other blockchain projects, there are many important roles, but each role requires a large number of participants to complete.

The main parts of the Bittorrent ecosystem include:

  1. Developers and software distributors use the open Bittorrent protocol on for communication system design.
  2. Thousands of operators of public and private seed sites provide seed file directories and community management mechanisms to help users find file downloads.
  3. Warez scene – An underground community that collects and removes copyright protection of files and publishes high quality versions of movies and other media on torrent websites.
  4. Tracking the nodes’ operators, helping peers find each other effectively (previously required infrastructure, now optional).
  5. Hundreds of millions of consumers in almost every country in the world use torrent software to download files.

Many of the roles in the Bittorrent ecosystem are naturally formed, with no governance design, no leadership or organization to manage who should do what and when. BitTorrent Inc and BramCohen have been supporting roles in the Bittorrent ecosystem for a long time. Bram is a respected but restrained pioneer of this technology, and BitTorrent is increasingly disliked to sell ads in a way that makes everyone’s favorite software plagued by advertising and cannot develop the features that the community needs most. (mainly around anonymity and content discovery).

Why is Bittorrent once important?

I think Bittorrent is no longer important, and it has become less important a few years ago. Admittedly, Bittorrent still has a large user base, but it is no longer as relevant as it used to be. The reason is that the media industry has evolved over time, and Bittorrent no longer has a threat that once existed (I will discuss this in detail in the follow-up on the subversion of decentralization).

Of course, what I mean here is that the Bittorrent ecosystem is very important. (BitTorrent sometimes plays an important role, but has little decisive influence, and more often to avoid taking on leadership roles). There are two main reasons why the Bittorrent ecosystem is important:

First, for the first time, Bittorrent allows anyone who can connect to the Internet to share very large files without any special infrastructure, which has led to an explosion in Bittorrent’s sharing of large digital media. Bittorrent may not be the first in this field or a protocol with the latest technology, but it is almost certain that Bittorrent is currently the largest operating protocol.

In the part of Bittorrent Technology and BitTorrent’s cessation of exploration, the wider community fills the gap with off-the-shelf web technologies, provides curated directories and search indexes, hosts public and private sharing communities, suggests crowdsourcing ratings and reputation ratings, in fact The standard for naming and encoding files and countless other “features” make the original technology a thriving and usable ecosystem. Bittorrent is so popular that Bittorrent consumes 10% of all Internet traffic, sometimes even more than 50%!

For the media industry, having all the files easily shared is a fundamental challenge, because the media industry initially just used the Internet as another sales channel, just like a new file format can be distributed to black. On the vinyl record/cassette/CD, let the MP3 file, VHS/DVD give way to the MP4.

But this is not the case, because sending a copy of a file to a single user on the Internet means that it is extremely difficult to prevent the file from spreading between other users on the Internet. Bittorrent is the last of a long list of technologies that completely eliminated the business model of mass media through a file-oriented approach.

Second, the open and decentralized architecture of technology and community means that it is virtually impossible to close Bittorrent’s shared files. Other file-sharing systems have come and gone, there are always some centralized fatalties, but Bittorrent continues to decentralize.

Although different parts of the Bittorrent ecosystem have been subjected to numerous legal, regulatory and technical attacks, the entire ecosystem has not been affected and still operates as it did more than a decade ago. In fact, BitTorrent Inc was able to survive the acquisition, in part because it found the benefits of file sharing through a lot of cautious and proactive attempts.

But the more important reason is that shutting down such a company does not affect the Bittorrent ecosystem. Eliminate a medium-sized constructive partner at the expense of a large number of consumers. Bittorrent users will find other torrent software used and the entire ecosystem will not be affected.

The important thing about Bittorrent is that it has incredible resilience despite the incredible and devastating effects on the media industry that lead to illegal activities. It turns out that the power of Bittorrent is incredible. Perhaps the biggest achievement of Bram’s Bittorrent is the feasibility of the concept of a completely uncensored global decentralized network that Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned when conceiving bitcoin.

If you didn’t break the rules, then you are wrong!

In any case, what is the meaning of decentralization?

Decentralization is at least the same in Bittorrent, and decentralization actually means a combination of two traits – technology decentralization and organizational decentralization.

Technology decentralization means that an application or network does not shut down due to a single node being attacked and causing the system to be compromised.

Organization decentralization means that no one person or entity can be forced to compromise to shut down the network.

This is true in the Bittorrent ecosystem. The Bittorrent architecture is distributed across client software, any number of torrent sites, and tracking node servers, which means that once a large number of people use the technology, the network will not shut down due to an attack.

In addition, because Bittorrent technology is so open, many companies and individuals have developed all the components of Bittorrent. Without a centralized technology company, there is no way to force anyone or an organization to shut down the network. It is difficult to conduct a review, at least in the most influential democracies that dominate the early Internet.

This degree of decentralization creates a third key component, and the ability to break the rules is the most intoxicating and exciting place for decentralization. While the decentralized architecture can effectively route around various faults in the network, the decentralized architecture implemented by Bittorrent (and Bitcoin for this) can bypass real-world rules.

This happened entirely in Bittorrent. Bittorrent’s original goal (unlike Bitcoin’s stated goal) did not explicitly support the ensuing violations. Despite this, violations occur on a large scale in the form of a wide range of copyright-protected documents. And with the strong opposition of well-funded copyright owners, this situation has been going on for a long time.

This applies to Bitcoin and other projects designed to take advantage of blockchain technology. It is meaningless to argue about decentralization, how decentralized each project is, and why not consider the role of decentralization first. Decentralization is not the multi-homing of the infrastructure or the fragmentation or sharing of the database in the sense of applying blockchain technology.

In this sense, decentralization means establishing an uncensored system that makes it possible to break the rules without restraint. This is why the blockchain is so disruptive – the blockchain represented by Bitcoin and Ethereum is the essence of disruptive technology. No matter what happens, once the entire network is started, it cannot be stopped.

Without the ability to break the rules, it is hard to imagine that decentralized blockchain technology would be so important. It is like a distributed data store with a complex and slow update mechanism. While some of the features of the blockchain are available in the context of partial centralization, they are hardly the most exciting thing since the birth of the Internet.

One value proposition that everyone seems to agree with blockchain technology is that blockchains are not subject to censorship. This is only important if you have something to fear being reviewed. In my opinion, the most interesting blockchain projects are those that can break the rules.

From this perspective, one of the really exciting applications of blockchain technology to date is its application in capital formation, primarily through the first issue of coins (ICOs). The rules governing the formation of US capital and the updates to the 2012 Jobs Act (Note: Regulations and Regulation D, 506 (b), provided by the Jobs Act of 2012) are complex and well-intentioned, and I do not intend to discuss them here. I certainly don’t want to defend the bad behavior brought about by the ICO boom. But two things are obvious:

  1. ICO’s prosperity took place in a way that was not controlled by the government, and (although briefly) achieved great success in raising billions of dollars to fund a range of projects;

  2. Due to pressure from the US Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators around the world, ICO is almost completely stalled.

There are few other aspects besides this example that actually break the rules. There seems to be reason to make assumptions, and if the rules are broken, then some people will be very concerned. However, there is little evidence that someone directly feels the heat of breaking the rules brought about by the decentralized blockchain system, just as media industry executives once felt the heat of the Bittorrent ecosystem breaking the rules.

Not every blockchain project breaks the rules, and the industry needs many important projects to build the architecture. But I am very convinced that the most important thing in this gold rush is to be able to build the entire system without centralization control, so that participants can break the rules without penalty.

When observers condemn the lack of application in the blockchain, the reason is that few projects break the rules that most people want to break. A pragmatism wave that is being realized is clearly disappearing.

In the early days of Bittorrent, this meant that millions of people just downloaded the latest movies for free from The Pirate Bay, and that no DRM packaging could ruin their fun, annoying. If you infringe copyright, you will be sentenced The page of Prison is conveniently removed from all pirated copies. For a while, the Bittorrent experience was better than any other online experience, and it was free.

In the blockchain ecosystem, the closest to this goal is a large number of investors who want to make a fortune with the blockbuster application that will be launched soon. But it is expected to rely on some utility that the blockchain technology itself has elsewhere. Unless this effect really occurs, the ecosystem is still vulnerable to the Ponzi scheme and may collapse.

The general public blockchain is best understood as an application platform that breaks the rules. Because if you don’t break the rules, people can’t help but ask why the decentralized architecture is the best tool for this application. If I am an investor, I will ask any application (or DApp) on these platforms: What rules did you break?

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