With the rise of the great peer to peer file sharing protocol Bittorrent, other peer to peer file-sharing clients, fell from prominence. Clients like LimeWire, BearShare, Kazaa and Shareaza along with countless others as well as the networks that they operated on have fallen by the wayside. Networks such as Gnutella, and Gnutella2 have dwindled in usership since the advent of Bittorrent, but are still functioning, and have in many cases maintained a dedicated group of users and support.
The Bittorrent world is constantly changing. The protocol which started out quite centralized has made successful efforts in decentralizing itself, but has not succeeded in all realms. To keep track of peers of any given torrent, a server operating from a specific address had to be contacted. This was centralization, something that is extremely bad for the longevity of a peer to peer file sharing system. With the advent of the Distributed Hash Table (DHT), this was mostly solved, there still needs to be bootstrapping to DHT, but it decreases the great reliance on trackers for means of peers locating other peers. So now that locating other peers is more decentralized, what other centralized sources does Bittorrent use? Well, possibly the most vital source of all is centralized, the actual torrent file, or at the very least, file information (hashes). One cannot download a torrent without centralized sources to search for the file they desire.
These sources while centralized, have in the past have been plentiful, and easy to access. But things are changing. Laws forbidding the operation of websites which allow for the hosting and indexing of torrents or hashes have been having an impact on popular Torrent sites, causing their removal from the web. When old sites go down, new ones typically rise, but with so much turnover, things don’t work as smoothly as they once did. Some sites are experiencing more and more down time, where users are unable to access their services, while other newer sites are completely bogged down in malware, at best, and therefore virtually unusable. The task of finding the torrent you want, has become somewhat tedious in many cases, especially for the casual torrent user who is not a registered user some of the larger sites. As with the constant turnover in sites, you must find a good site, register, and then hope they stay online long enough to be useful.
So as one can see, the Bittorrent protocol has it’s downsides. There however, is not one perfect peer to peer client, they all have their faults, but the most important thing with a peer to peer client is ease of longevity. This is what we see when we look at networks like Gnutella, with virtually no upkeep, the network keeps humming along. The means of obtaining files through searches on these networks is also decentralized, something Bittorrent has never been capable of, nor probably ever will be, it is not set up in such a way. The question is, as searching for torrents becomes more and more difficult, and greater numbers of index sites have their doors nailed shut, will users once again flock back to older, more robust networks? With a host of open source clients to choose from, the possibility remains open.
Also see: Gnutella2 statistics