Up until a few days ago the three 1337x BitTorrent trackers were coordinating downloads of more 40 million peers. But from one day to another, the trackers simply stopped working.
As it turns out, the operator of 1337x was forced to abandon the popular TCP-based tracker and trade it in for a more efficient one using the UDP protocol instead. This means that for millions of torrents the main trackers stopped working.
“Sadly we got turned away from 3 data centers in the last 2 months due to the massive amounts of bandwidth we were consuming. Sologigabit even called it a ‘broadcast-storm’ due to the massive number of concurrent connecting IP-addresses,” 1337x’s admin told TorrentFreak.
Apparently the huge amount of connections were crippling the various networks, and there was no cost-efficient alternative available through which the old trackers could continue.
“They put us on our own dedicated switch but could not handle our traffic effectively. So it was necessary for us to abandon the old TCP in favor of a new UDP based one,” the 1337x admin told us.
The decision to change to a UDP-only tracker means that older torrents will only work if users have DHT enabled. All new torrents downloaded from the 1337x website, however, are automatically updated with the new tracker address.
1337x is not the only tracker to have gone UDP only, OpenBitTorrent has also dropped TCP support to save resources. This means that two of the three major BitTorrent trackers no longer support TCP connections.
The admin of OpenBitTorrent told TorrentFreak that TCP trackers are killing central hosted services, and he suggests that BitTorrent clients should actively direct users to UDP in order to save resources.
“I would be great if BitTorrent clients could make a list of popular trackers and direct all queries to the UDP version. That would lower the demand in resources but still make the tracker dual protocol,” he added.
PublicBitTorrent is currently the largest tracker that still supports TCP, and it will continue to do so in the future.
The main reason to continue supporting TCP is to give torrent site owners an easy option to list seeder and leecher statistics. “A lot of torrent sites are only capable of getting the stats via http, so we keep both open which is quite expensive,” the PublicBitTorrent admin told TorrentFreak.
It means that they use five times more bandwidth than the other trackers, but PublicBitTorrent believes they offer a vital service to torrent site owners.
“We have no plans on going UDP only, simply because we want to make sure all the torrent sites can easily access the stats,” TorrentFreak was told.
For users, the switch to UDP is not going to have much of an effect. That is, if they make sure to use a recent version of a BitTorrent client that supports UDP tracker connections. According to the 1337x admin, this is not the case for everyone.
“I’m finding many people are still using the older clients that do not support UDP. There is really no advantage to staying with the older clients so all BitTorrent users should be encouraged to update their clients,” we were told.
BitTorrent users who want to check if their BitTorrent client supports UDP can take a look at this list. Also, it never hurts to have DHT enabled just in case one or more BitTorrent trackers go offline, something that still happens on a regular basis.