Reaching a decade old is quite an achievement for any torrent site and a feat that few achieve. Today we speak with TorrentReactor, one of the oldest public torrent sites and one that celebrates its tenth birthday this year. We hear about the good times and bad, and how they’re currently fighting Google to maintain their traffic.
In file-sharing terms a decade is an awful long time and with the world’s entertainment companies baying for blood, reaching a tenth birthday is a major achievement for any torrent site.
Nevertheless, in recent times two of the world’s largest torrent sites, isoHunt and The Pirate Bay, both celebrated that special birthday. Both bear the scars of battle but remain defiant, at least for now, but there are others who achieve longevity with far fewer war wounds.
At the start of the year, TorrentReactor was the ninth most-popular torrent site on the Internet. Like The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents the site has been subjected to domain blocking in recent years but currently offers its own proxy workaround. That’s a fairly recent development though, so how did it all begin?
“It began ten years ago as a project in a new, very interesting and promising area,” TorrentReactor (TR) told TorrentFreak. “File-sharing was very ‘geeky’ at that time and torrent sites like this tended to make it more public. Over several years TorrentReactor evolved into a big torrent indexing machine serving many millions of people per week.”
Like the majority of torrent sites, TR didn’t start out intending to take over the world. The site rarely had a sustainable team of developers and many of those involved were running other projects at the same time. That was enough to keep the site moving forward and improving as necessary but a couple of years ago things began to change.
“Now we can proudly say there’s a big international group of people working on the project. We still have some side projects but now they are mostly spin-offs or otherwise related,” TR explain.
With the site’s increase in popularity has come a demand for new hardware. Starting out small, TorrentReactor originally rented servers from other companies but alongside the site’s growth came a need to buy its own equipment. Currently the site is running on five servers for databases and front end, plus others to proxy the site’s traffic.
While there is no Pirate Bay-style museum piece, TorrentReactor are no strangers to pulling off Pirate Bay-style pranks.
“The most wide-spread was probably the joke we pulled off about us buying a village in the middle of Russia. It was totally unexpected how viral this thing would go and we definitely had a lot of fun reading about it in lots of various news sources,” TR explain.
But jokes aside, it hasn’t all been so much fun. The site has experienced significant problems over the years and at least one disaster that was completely unexpected.
“In 2010 we had a large hosting partner with ten servers hosted there for various projects including TorrentReactor,” TR explain.
“At the end of the year they had a huge scandal with one of their key employees who was fired and later accessed the whole system and damaged all the HDDs they had. Servers we had with them were located away from each other so we thought it would be safe to store backups with the same hosting provider.
“However the disaster damaged everything: the website code, databases, and all backups. All the other backups we had were dated months before the incident. It took us at least several weeks to restore most of the functionality and data although some of it was gone forever.”
Since then the site has introduced a whole new way of storing and managing its data and so far there has been no situation that has required it to be tested. But interestingly, TR now cite more recent events as causing serious issues for the site. So who is to blame? None other than the world’s largest search engine.
“It is well known that Google brings lots of traffic to file-sharing websites and any changes in algorithms may affect that traffic. This year is probably the most challenging one because Google has introduced many new search algorithms and all torrent sites have suffered from that,” TR explain.
“The changes happened at the same time we were actively rebuilding the website from scratch so we had to work even harder to bring back the traffic and keep the development pace. But the experience we got is definitely a valuable one and will help us a lot in the future.”
All in all, TorrentReactor say that at times external factors caused them to lose around 50% of the traffic they had at their peak.
“A couple of years ago we had over a million visitors a day and now we have around 500k. Many new sites played their part in this too. File-sharing traffic is still growing despite many anti-piracy movements and all that. It just redistributes in a different way giving good small sites a chance to have their audience.”
But despite the setbacks, enthusiasm is high among the TR team and work is underway to modernize and reinforce the site with an eye on the future.
“Loyal visitors might have recently noticed our new main page is full of images, covers for the content we have available. We see many content-oriented websites switching to this kind of look. It helps users select the content they want a lot faster and easier,” TR note. “Visual perception of images is a lot better than reading titles, it gives you the idea of the content instantly.”
TR admit that there are other aspects of the site that should have been upgraded years ago, the user interaction system for one. That is currently being rebuilt with a focus on “friendly and fun” with content discovery mechanisms based around social elements.
“Users will be able to find out more about movies they like and actors that play in them, or browse through game-related content and chat with others who like similar games. More will be revealed in the coming months,” TR concludes.
Whether TorrentReactor or in fact any other major torrent site will be around in another ten years is open to debate but for now there are definitely no plans to fade away.