The state of filesharing 2010: moving towards radical decentralization?


The level of P2P filesharing is levelling, but music sharing is soaring.

Slyck summarizes recent findings (from BPI, UK):

“It’s no secret that P2P usage has declined steadily over the years – but that’s just one small avenue in the bigger file-sharing picture. Consider all multitudes of digital acquisition that have developed since the early days of Napster: web based services, digital lockers, MP3 stores, and search engines like YouTube. The bottom line is, you no longer need P2P networks to find music – yet they remain quite popular.

The BPI (British Phonographic Industry) was keen to point this out in their latest press release, which gathered very dire (for the old business model) stats from a November 2009 Harris Interactive survey of UK citizens. What did they find? Basically, P2P usage remains level and continues to be the single most important method of digital acquisition. So what’s the big deal then, right? If P2P usage is level, surely the entertainment industry is doing something positive, right? Not really.

Since P2P networking is only one small piece of the pie, file-sharers have begun to branch out and start eating the rest of the cake. Where are they heading to? Not surprisingly, the Newsgroups are among the most important new avenues. According to those polled, usage of the newsgroups has increased by a whopping 42%. Other methods of obtaining digital media are increasing too. Those surveyed increased their use of MP3 stores ( type, not iTunes) by 47%, while “…other significant rises included MP3 search engines (28%) and forum, blog and board links to cyberlockers (18%).”


Slyck also offers a full report and overview on the decade for the top 10 filesharing resources, and where they are now.

Excerpts on those that remained successfull:


“BitTorrent may be very resourceful and popular, but it has more of a ‘hit and run’ nature than the more communal networks like Napster. But it’s tremendously efficient and resistant to attack – whether by legal means or cyber warfare. This has helped BitTorrent remain a permanent fixture on the internet landscape. For better or worse, BitTorrent will likely be around for a long time to come – or at least until the next great thing comes along.”


“The community grew resistant to MetaMachine’s planned changes (such as Overnet) and wasn’t pleased with the lack of progress on the original eDonkey client. As a result, the community developed the independent and open source eMule client and Kademlia DHT network, which quickly usurped the old eDonkey2000 community. Today, eMule and Kad remain very popular with several million users, and despite the quantum shift in ED2K technology, users still refer to themselves as part of the ED2K community.”

Ares Galazy

“Few have heard from Alberto Treves in several years. But what was once his network and client now belongs to the community. If it wasn’t for Alberto’s actions, Ares Galaxy would’ve vanished years ago. A dedicated community continues to help make this network a good resource.”


Nevertheless, despite the endurance of P2P filesharing networks, attacks against sharing will continue, so major players are looking into radical decentralization as an option.

Here’s an overview of recent developments from TorrentFreak:

“The way most torrent sites are setup makes them vulnerable to legal action from copyright holders, so the real solution might be to move away from web-based torrent indexes.

A rather primitive way to do this is to share torrents over another file-sharing network, and this is exactly what the Gnutella/BitTorrent client Frostwire has now made possible. Without any public announcement and stuffed away in the changelog of FrostWire’s upcoming release we find the following lines:

– New Feature: Gnutella Torrent Search. FrostWire now can search for .torrent metadata files in the Gnutella network. – Upgraded feature: Optionally FrostWire will copy all .torrent meta files to a shared torrent folder.

Technically speaking these are just minor adjustments to the file-sharing application, but the implications could trigger a revolution in how torrents are shared in the future.

When FrostWire users start downloading a torrent with FrostWire, the client will keep and share the .torrent file on Gnutella. The idea is that as time goes by and more users download more torrents, even if torrent websites are shutdown, all the torrents will live on the P2P network forever.

To make it easier to find torrents on Gnutella, FrostWire also added a specialized “Torrent Search Mode”. As more users install this and later versions – and keep downloading more torrents – the richer these search results will be.

Now FrostWire only needs to offer support for trackerless torrents and they will have completely decentralized the BitTorrent operation with just a few simple adjustments.

Although we believe that FrostWire’s approach is interesting, it will also introduce one major problem. It is relatively easy to make a P2P-powered torrent index, but keeping it clean and malware-free will prove to be very difficult.

Most people might not even be aware of it, but one of the benefits of most torrent sites is that they remove thousands of torrents linking to spam and fake files every day. This will be much harder to do in a P2P-based environment, but not entirely impossible.

Over the last five years the Tribler BitTorrent client has been working on a decentralized torrent index that would make BitTorrent sites obsolete. Unlike simply sharing the torrent files among users, the upcoming release of the Tribler client has built in several spam control and moderation options that allow users to keep the network clean. In addition, newly created torrents can be shared with peers, instead of uploading it to a central server.

We don’t know if FrostWire has plans to implement similar moderation options, but they are absolutely required for a fully decentralized BitTorrent environment.

It will be interesting to see if the idea of a P2P powered and searchable BitTorrent index takes off. For now there are still plenty of good and reliable torrent sites out there, but with continued pressure from the entertainment industry they are not to be taken for granted.”

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