November 17, 2009: Today marks the end of an era, as The Pirate Bay team announces that the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker is shutting down for good. Although the site will remain operational for now, millions of BitTorrent users will lose the use of its tracker and will instead have to rely on DHT and alternative trackers to continue downloading.
In the fall of 2003, a group of friends from Sweden decided to launch a BitTorrent tracker named ‘The Pirate Bay‘. It soon became one of the largest BitTorrent trackers on the Internet, coordinating the downloads of more than 25 million peers at its height.
Despite this success, The Pirate Bay operators today decided to pull the plug and close down the tracker permanently. The evolution of the BitTorrent protocol has made trackers redundant they say, as BitTorrent downloads work well with trackerless solutions such as DHT and PEX.
“Now that the decentralized system for finding peers is so well developed, TPB has decided that there is no need to run a tracker anymore, so it will remain down! It’s the end of an era, but the era is no longer up2date. We have put a server in a museum already, and now the tracking can be put there as well,” the Pirate Bay crew write on their blog.
Aside from this shutdown, there is also another major development quietly under discussion.
TorrentFreak has learned that behind the scenes the Pirate Bay operators are talking to other BitTorrent site owners to encourage them to follow suit and completely ditch torrents in the future. BitTorrent has reached a point where trackers and torrents are no longer needed to download files successfully. Supported by all of the major BitTorrent clients, DHT and PEX can handle the transfers and Magnet links can largely replace traditional torrent files.
“We’re talking to the other torrent admins on doing magnet links and DHT+PEX for all sites. Moving away from torrents and trackers totally – like pick a date and all agree ‘from this date, we’ll not support torrents anymore’,” a Pirate Bay insider told TorrentFreak.
Switching to trackerless and torrentless downloading on public BitTorrent sites does indeed seem to be an option. Previously, many people thought that BitTorrent would collapse if a dominant tracker like the Pirate Bay went down, but this doomsday scenario never unfolded. In fact, the recent downtime of the tracker did not slow down or stop many transfers, as DHT and PEX seamlessly took over.
Those BitTorrent users who don’t want to go trackerless just yet can of course still use OpenBitTorrent and PublicBitTorrent, or indeed one of the many other alternative trackers currently available.
Whether or not The Pirate Bay and others will move away from torrent files in the future, the closure of the world’s largest BitTorrent tracker is nevertheless a milestone in the history of the Internet. Starting today, the Pirate Bay has changed its tagline from “The world’s largest BitTorrent tracker” to “The world’s most resilient (magnetic) BitTorrent site.”