Hardy news site, The Register, recently published a detailed analysis of the file sharing protocol Bit Torrent. Bit Torrent has received attention in the main stream news after reports that it was carrying as much as 50% of all peer 2 peer (p2p) traffic, which in tern amounted to a massive 30% of all the traffic on the internet. The paper, by Dr. Johan Pouwelse, examines the protocol and looks especially at one of the largest bit-torrent hubs, Suprnova.org. He examines how just 20 moderators solve the problem of fake files, something that plagues the traditional file sharing networks like Kazaa.
Dr Powelse notes that the major problems facing hubs like suprnova are fakes and maintaining hub availability. The availability of files on bit torrent is based on a centralised system; without it, the network fails as users cannot access the trackers. Decentralising bit torrent has already begun - Suprnova have started a project called "Exeem" which apparently has 5,000 beta testers trialling it, and has an ultimate aim of taking the best of Kazaa (a decentralised network) and merging it with Bit Torrent. Decentralisation removes the issue of poor availability at the tracker end, yet0 it also provides more scope for fake files and a reduction in data integrity at the user end.
The paper concludes that bit-torrent needs to evolve to create incentives to users to seed files. Bit-torrent as a protocol is a system that's here to stay; it enjoys more and more usage from more main stream content providers. Yes, there is a lot of illegitimate use of the protocol, but unlike Kazaa, these users should not be allowed to over shadow the usefulness to legitimate users of the bit torrent protocol.
[Update] Since this article was published, Suprnova has shutdown as a hub for torrents. Although this cannot be confirmed, the shutdown is very likely related to legal action from the Hollywood against tracker websites; earlier in the week many other sites were taken down. The effectiveness of the takedowns could be massive; the paper below notes that when on the Suprnova mirrors went offline during their monitoring period, they saw a massive reduction in the number of users downloading files through the site.