The Death of Bittorrent Ratios

I don’t use bittorrent much, because it annoys me in a lot of ways, and I have a painfully slow home internet connection (On a bad day, 800/240 kbps) which goes down a lot. (Thanks, Qwest.) I also believe that 99% of the supposed technical “advantages” it provides are illusory. That said, I am for some strange reason a member of a couple “private” trackers, where one is either strongly encouraged or in fact required to maintain a positive “ratio” – bytes received divided by bytes shared. If you go onto bittorrent forums, everyone and their little brother is constantly whining about these sort of requirements – waaah, I don’t think my ratio is being calculated correctly. Waaah, there’s nobody to seed to. Waaah, I have some sort of special circumstances which prevent me from seeding at all, please exempt me from the rules. Waaah, this is too hard.

You’d think that somehow either moderating your consumption of pirated movies, computer games, and porn, or alternatively leaving your computer on to seed even when you’re not watching movies, playing games, or fapping was the hardest thing since climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the way these people complain.

And sometimes, albeit rarely, they might have a point. Bittorrent clients, from what I’ve seen, have ideas and priorities about what to seed and what not to seed that really do not take this laughable idea of “ratio” into account at all, either overall or on a per-torrent basis.

But, still, I’ve got one compound word for you all: Seedboxes.

A seedbox is a dedicated server in a datacenter somewhere, on a nice fast (100mbps, or even 1gbps) stable connection, which people are using to share torrents. They make achieving a “good” ratio positively laughable:

This is obviously good if you’re worried about your ratio on a private tracker, or just feel altruistic and want to share stuff with your fellow pirates. But, you know, people stuck on crappy ADSL connections might feel a bit bitterly envious about this sort of thing. (Note that in the screenshot above, the upload rate between the two torrents is, once you do the maths, 5.23Mbps.)

The cost to maintain a 20+ ratio? About four bucks a month.

I suspect that this is incredibly contentious to pretty much everyone involved. Underage filesharers will complain they have no money or PayPal account, and thus are being shafted by a cruel and heartless universe. Tracker operators, by and large, would probably prefer that you maintain a crappy ratio and just give them money every month. And you’ve got to suspect that the RIAA, MPAA, and so on can’t exactly be thrilled at the thought that people are out there paying perfectly good money to download movies and music and so on, illegally.

Oh, and I suspect there are two or three starry-eyed ideological activists out there who are inexplicably enamored of some idealized concept of how filesharing theoretically works, and feel that pay-to-play is somehow undemocratic, or classist, or capitalist, or something.


Anyway, after playing around with a cheap seedbox for a couple weeks, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that bittorrent ratios have now become basically meaningless, despite the generally selfish nature of people who are quite aptly termed “leeches”. IMO, it’s time to move on, and just completely stop caring about filesharing ratios altogether. Altruists will be altruistic, dicks will be dicks. It’s the way of the universe.

A couple years ago, when bittorrent was new and shiny, a lot of people were all enamored about the decentralized nature of the thing, and all the exciting technological aspects. Now, I don’t think the exciting technological aspects actually are, and the decentralization hasn’t worked out quite as planned on paper, has it? I really firmly feel that trackerless torrents are the way of the future, where filesharing is concerned. Instead of having the Pirate Bay, and a thousand other trackers, all out there tracking identical content under a hundred different torrents, why not set up a network of independent sites to share the same pool of trackerless torrent files? Because the torrent files are trackerless, it doesn’t matter where you get the torrent file from – so a “pool” of trackerless torrent files could be shared (Rsync, git, whatever) between a basically infinite number of websites, and it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if one of them were served with a DMCA notice, or otherwise taken down. The “cloud” of (trackerless) torrent files would remain, unaffected.

The use of trackerless torrents, of course, means that there’s no place to report your ratio to, effectively rendering the whole issue moot. I don’t think it would negatively affect anything; if anything, getting a large proportion of filesharers using the same torrent of a given file (rather than two hundred different torrents with identical content) would probably substantially improve the overall filesharing experience, unapologetic leeches or no. Everybody wins, in other words…

Published in: Geekiness, General | on June 17th, 2010| Comments Off on The Death of Bittorrent Ratios

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