is not exactly a P2P
filesharing device. It wasn't made or designed to be the next Napster
, or upstage KaZaA
, or improve on Gnutella
. Simply put, BitTorrent is a file transfer protocol
that uses the principle of Swarming
(also used in Overnet
) to share bandwidth between those who are downloading. Basically, instead of the server having to offer bandwidth
to everyone who wants the file, every person downloading also contributes bandwidth. This means that files everyone wants can be distributed
over the net at very little cost and investment
So now ask yourself, what files do thousands, nay, millions of people want to download all at the same time? There are Linux distributions, yes, but then there are also warez. Warez web sites used to be few and far between. Finding the illegal software you wanted was a matter of searching for hours, suffering the bombardment of hundreds of porn advertisements, and constantly clicking through to "Top-Sites" which would almost never actually lead to any downloads. Bandwidth is expensive, and any place successful enough to actually offer bandwidth is probably going to be shut down rapidly by the authorities.
Except now we have BitTorrent, a way of sharing that bandwidth. The "dubiously legal" file offering service basically boomed overnight. At a minimal investment, a copyright infringer can distribute data to hundreds or thousands of leechers all across the world. And generally without needing to resort to porn advertisements either.
SuprNova, located at http://suprnova.org is indisputably the most successful of these sites right now. Offering Games, Movies, TV Shows, Anime, Music, Applications, Comics, Books, and a few other niche items, the selection is monumentally huge, grows every day, and actually works. If you want to download the Spiderman Movie in DivX format, you can get it. If you then want to download the Spiderman PS2 game, you can do that too (of course, you'll then need to burn it to a DVD, so you can also get the application to burn DVDs). And it's all free to you. You don't have to click on any advertisements, you don't have to vote at any top-sites, you don't have to pledge to donate money that month. You don't even have to register or have an e-mail address. Just go to the site, find what you want (and it's pretty easy to find things) click, and download. All they ask is that you leave the download window open after it's finished so that you can continue sharing your bandwidth. When all the bandwidth for a file dries up, that file dies, but "reseeds" can be requested on their forum.
SuprNova used to be incredibly slow due to its popularity, but through web design improvements, back end enhancements, better funding for servers, this is generally no longer the case. Pages load quite rapidly, if perhaps not as rapidly as Google. No longer is it necessary to use the old "Novasearch" to get what you want. Indeed, mention the name in their IRC server and you're liable to get quite a few "LOL"s flung at you... the internet equivelent of being laughed out of town. Fortunatly, you don't have to deal with talking to other people when downloading your illicit pleasures.
Due to it's widespread success, how does it avoid being shut down? Simply put, it survives because it is mobile. Suprnova has several, perhaps dozens of servers spread all across the world. When you go to suprnova.org, it selects a random one based on server load for you to use. When the RIAA contacts a server owner to shut it down, that server is removed from the list, but it won't be long before another server is used to replace the old one. And contacting a foreign server to get it shut down is often very difficult indeed. If they ever take advantage of Sealand's data haven, they will always have at least one server that will never get shut down.
Furthermore, they never actually store the data being served... and in many cases, don't even store the tracker which offers the file. Instead, they organize links... direct links mind you, so it's transparent to you the user that you aren't actually getting the file from SuprNova itself... to other trackers, also around the world. These trackers are contributed by users or by other sites which host torrents and have their own ways of not getting shut down. As of this moment, the time of this writing, SuprNova is listing 61589 seeded torrents located on 957 active trackers. It also mentions that it is caching 24865 seeded torrents from 887 active trackers. While the web site offers no clarity as to what this means, I'm assuming that it mirrors a selection of torrents on the SuprNova servers. I could be wrong though, please /msg me for corrections.
Every 20 minutes, all the mirrors are synched together, which means that adding torrents to the list is rapidly propagated throughout the SuprNova network. In this way it is kinda like a P2P filesharing network, except entirely different, as mentioned before. Microsoft would obviously declare SuprNova a Darknet.
To give you a perspective on the immensity of SuprNova today, on July 20, 2004, a total of Four Hundred and Seventy Seven new torrents were added. Many of these may well have been reseeds, older torrents that had died and are now resurrected, but that's still 477 in a single day, and the day is not yet over. And keep in mind that it is extremely rare to find a torrent on the network that doesn't work. With the improvements to the BitTorrent client made on a regular basis, file integrity is nearly guaranteed, the data is distributed in as a bandwidth efficient manner as possible, and seeds are greatly encouraged. The anonymity factor also helps. Everything is so seamless and works so well that being the target of an RIAA lawsuit seems nigh-impossible. It's not, but it certainly feels that way.
McCart42 has asked me to emphasize that you are NOT anonymous when downloading anything on BitTorrent. By sheer necessity of the protocol, every client downloading a file is given the IP address of every other client downloading the file at the same time-- this is so you can download and upload with each other. But it also means that any copyright enforcer with Judge Dredd like authority can find out who you are whenever he likes, and I'm told that some people have already received Cease and Desist orders while using SuprNova. If you are interested in learning how you might be able to hide even so, take a gander at PeerGuardian, which offers a little protection at least.
For those a little more squeamish
about copyright violation
s, do know that there are SOME legal files offered for download on SuprNova, and some other files that don't step on anyone's toes. Abandonware
can often be found lurking about (for example, Day of the Tentacle
), the oft sought after Linux distributions are here for download, and Anime fansubs. Oh, there're the illegal fansubs to be found as well, but if you wanted, you could download only Anime which has not yet had any rights purchased in the country you live in and proceed with a clear conscience.
Or, you can say "screw copyright" and download whatever you want and ignore your conscience entirely. It's more or less up to you, so long as SuprNova survives. And it's looking like it's going to have a long lifetime indeed.
Update, December of 2004
What I earlier predicted might never happen has apparently happened. SuprNova is gone, and it seems to be gone for good. I'm not certain what caused its demise... hosting costs? Authorities finally catching up to them? If you know the reason, feel free to /msg me so I can add it to this node.