BitTorrent Search: A Bit Dodgy, a Bit Cool

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Bram Cohen, the beekeeper of Internet swarms, directs his attention to widening the avenue of BitTorrent, his own revolutionary P2P protocol into an expressway of mass-transited file sharing. Within the next two weeks, Cohen plans to release a BitTorrent based search engine, cavorting with former Yahoo! strategist Ashwin Navin.

While Cohen dotes on his software with dewy-eyed, white-gloved purity, expounding on the virtues of free speech, easy publishing, and the ability to quickly and efficiently download large files, the e-secticide wielding entertainment industry, especially the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, finds itself swatting at the swarms of pirates eating away at its profits.

They attempt to take out the pirates, nest by nest, but the impending BitTorrent search engine will make it that much more difficult to find them by utilizing a new feature that eliminates the need for torrent trackers. Locating trackers, or readily marked centralized files, were the key method for anti-piracy efforts. The decentralized, trackerless search engine may prove to be the conditions for a swarming piracy infestation on the net. The new search engine will make it ridiculously easy to find anything you want for free.

The original BitTorrent software, developed by Cohen in college dropout genius fashion “on a laptop in [his] living room using off-the-shelf-tools,” now accounts for 35% of all Internet traffic. Before its birth into the World Wide Web, large video and audio files were time consuming and difficult chores. What made BitTorrent an incredible innovation was the elegance of design that played off a file’s popularity.

BitTorrent uses a division of labor technique, breaking up large files into pieces and then splitting the download between users. More people trying to download a specific file meant more people to divide the bulk of it, causing a faster download of large popular files than obscure smaller files. And hence, the “swarming” metaphor.

The BitTorrent search engine will have the added power of advertising, using a model provided by AskJeeves. Though Cohen has always insisted his efforts were not-for-profit endeavors based upon giving penniless artists the opportunity to publish their wares without a reliance on market-driven publishing entities, it would seem that the level of revenue a search engine such as this will generate was all too enticing. It’s potentially a $100 million a year enterprise.

“Cooperative distribution can grow almost without limit, because each new participant brings not only demand, but also supply. Instead of a vicious cycle, popularity creates a virtuous circle. And because each new participant brings new resources to the distribution, you get limitless scalability for a nearly fixed cost,” according to BitTorrent’s website.

That translates to lots of growth for minimum cost and maximum ad revenue. The “virtuous circle,” though, begs for questioning among the buckets of money that will be pouring in, the imminent increase in piracy, and seemingly hands off approach Cohen and company will be and have been using with the Pandora’s box they’ve created.

Borrowing from Google’s algorithmic methods that disallow human controls and thereby eliminating subjective searching, the BitTorrent search engine will bring up all torrents, legal or illegal-a pure form set of results carrying a lack of ethical judgment, in the name of free speech and reduced bandwidth. These were, after all, the original intents.

Taking again from the BitTorrent website:

“You have something terrific to publish-a large music or video file, software, a game or anything else that many people would like to have. But the more popular your file becomes, the more you are punished by soaring bandwidth costs. If your file becomes phenomenally successful and a flash crowd of hundreds or thousands try to get it at once, your server simply crashes and no one gets it.”

Good ideas, pure intentions, and genius manufacturing are again polluted by crafty criminal minds-a classic “if this falls into the wrong hands” model. Seeing as a pirated copy of “Star Wars Episode III” was easily attained 3 hours before the theatrical release, the wrong hands are groping all over it and the progenitors seem to be doing little about it.

BitTorrent Search: A Bit Dodgy, a Bit Cool
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