Attacks on torrent sites are a regular occurrence. That’s been the case for well over a decade and isn’t likely to end anytime soon. As a result people are increasingly looking at ways to make them more resilient.
Proxies and mirrors, for example, helped keep The Pirate Bay accessible in the face of countless web blockades. And today, projects like Open Bay and other sundry clones keep the spirit of the site alive even during its prolonged downtime.
While these projects are of interest, they all rely on other people taking the initiative. A new open source tool, however, brings torrent site preservation into the hands of everyone with a PC.
The idea behind BitCannon is straightforward. The software allows users to download and import torrent site contents into a database hosted on a local machine. From there users are able to browse and search torrents using a web browser in much they same way as they can on the site itself. Torrents can then be downloaded using magnet links and any compatible torrent client.
After getting a local copy of KickassTorrents up and running, TorrentFreak caught up with BitCannon creator Stephen Smith for the lowdown.
“I’m a self taught web developer currently in college studying computer science. I’ve always been fascinated by BitTorrent and its decentralized nature,” Stephen told TF.
“With BitCannon, I am hoping to reduce the incentive of taking down torrent sites by encouraging users to utilize the site archives, and I hope this will also encourage more torrent sites to offer full site archives.”
Currently only a handful of sites offer these archives (notably KickassTorrents and Demonoid) but they are offered openly and are easy to download and use once BitCannon has been installed.
Downloaded site databases, which be viewed in any web browser, are presented in a straightforward and clean format. The image below shows BitCannon running a KickassTorrents dump of all torrents uploaded in the past 24 hours.
BitCannon is certainly fast. While tests with a 24 hour dump of KickassTorrents were impressive, Stephen says searches on a database of 6 million torrents can be completed in about 10ms, plenty quick enough for most users.
Unsurprisingly BitCannon is open source and currently available on Github. Stephen says the decision to go this route was an obvious one.
“I want BitCannon to be useful to people, and I want it to be clear that I don’t intend to profit off of it, although I decided to have a donate button because the domain did cost money and I’m a college student,” he says.
“I also want to allow people to use BitCannon as they please without any restrictions, in hopes that even if someone wanted to rebrand it and use it to host their own public torrent site, they may do so with minimal trouble.”
And that’s the other trick up BitCannon’s sleeve. Stephen says in addition to personal use he hopes that BitCannon will prove flexible enough to provide public facing versions of cloned websites to lower the barrier of entry for those brave enough to host their own torrent sites.
BitCannon works well but is still in development, so there are some issues to be ironed out. The installation process could be more automated and the browse page can take a while to load when databases contain more than one million torrents. Seeder/leecher counts are also on the to-do list as is a fully embedded database rather than MongoDB.
“What would be ideal, I think, is if more torrent sites allowed users to download archives AND if more users downloaded these archives. Taking down torrent sites would then have less and less of an impact,” Stephen says.
BitCannon’s creator is grateful for the invaluable help he’s received from friend Casey Nordcliff and is now is calling on the community to help the project along.
“BitCannon isn’t 100% production ready, but I’d like to invite BitTorrent enthusiasts to try it out and provide feedback on how I can make it more useful and easier to use,” Stephen concludes.