The Tribler BitTorrent client, a project run by researchers from several European universities and Harvard, is the first to incorporate decentralized search capabilities. With Tribler, users can now find .torrent files that are hosted among other peers, instead of on a centralized site such as The Pirate Bay or Mininova.
We have reported on Tribler and it’s development several times already. Previously, the researchers introduced BitTorrent streaming, and new algorithms that will improve the sharing behavior of BitTorrent users. The latest innovation, however, might have even broader consequences, as it creates the world’s first ‘True P2P’ BitTorrent Client.
Up until now, central servers have always been required in order to use BitTorrent effectively. Although the transfer of files via BitTorrent has always been decentralized, the .torrent files that are required to start sharing are always hosted on central servers, those of The Pirate Bay or Mininova for example.
The Tribler developers have found a way to make their client work, without having to rely on BitTorrent sites. Although others have tried to come up with similar solutions, such as the Cubit plugin for Vuze, Tribler is the first to understand that with decentralized BitTorrent search, there also has to be a way to moderate these decentralized torrents in order to avoid a flood of spam.
BuddyCast, the decentralized search feature of the Tribler client is able to do so. Tribler project leader Johan Pouwelse told TorrentFreak: “It has taken us many years to get the zero-server search infrastructure called ‘BuddyCast’ running fast and efficiently. We believe that today BuddyCast is the most efficient, scalable, and battle-hardened algorithm out there which is also ready for user tagging and ratings in true buzz-compliant 2.0 style.”
In addition to the decentralized torrent distribution and search capabilities, Tribler aims to make the BitTorrent experience more social. For instance, users will have the option to boost the download speed of friends, the client will give recommendations based on your download behavior, and it rewards users who are good sharers while punishing those who leech.
“Tribler peers all work together towards a common purpose: fast search and downloads,” Pouwelse explained. “Peers recognize fellow ‘tribe’ members and are pre-programmed with the notion that embracing mutual self-interest is good. This is a radical deviation from the core BitTorrent tit-for-tat mantra dictating pursuit of self-interest only and no memory of past experiences.”
Although this is only the first public implementation of the decentralized search feature, it seems to work pretty seamlessly. Obviously, the content is more limited than on the large BitTorrent sites, since it comes exclusively from other Tribler users, but this will grow as soon as more people start to use the client.
Decentralized BitTorrent search has the potential to make public BitTorrent sites no longer necessary. For now, we think that such a radical shift is not going to happen anytime soon, however, since the top-three BitTorrent sites are involved in legal action in some way or another, you never know when you might need it.