While millions of users frequent popular public torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and RARBG every day, there’s a thriving scene that’s hidden from the wider public eye.
Every week, private torrent trackers cater to dozens of millions of BitTorrent users who have taken the time and effort to gain access to these more secretive communities. Often labeled as elitist and running counter to the broad sharing ethos that made file-sharing the beast it is today, private sites pride themselves on quality, order and speed, something public sites typically struggle to match.
In addition to these notable qualities, many private sites choose to focus on a particular niche. There are sites dedicated to obscure electronic music, comedy, and even magic, but HDClub’s focus was given away by its name.
Dubbing itself “The HighDefinition BitTorrent Community”, HDClub specialized in HD productions including Blu-ray and 3D content, covering movies, TV shows, music videos, and animation.
Born in 2007, HDClub celebrated its ninth birthday on March 9 last year, with 2017 heralding a full decade online for the site. Catering mainly to the Russian and Ukrainian markets, the site’s releases often preserved an English audio option, ideal for those looking for high-quality releases from an unorthodox source at decent speeds.
Of course, HDClub releases often leaked out of the site, meaning that thousands are still available on regular public trackers, as a search on any Western torrent engine reveals.
Importantly, the site offered thousands of releases completely unavailable in Russia from licensed sources, meaning it filled a niche in which official outlets either wouldn’t or couldn’t compete. This earned itself a place in Russia’s Top 1000 sites list, despite being a closed membership platform.
The site’s attention to detail and focus earned it a considerable following. For the past few years the site capped membership at 190,000 people but in practice, attendance floated around the 170,000 mark. Seeders peaked at approximately 400,000 with leechers considerably less, making seeding as difficult as one might expect on a ratio-based tracker.
Now, however, the decade-long run of HDClub has come to an abrupt end. Early this week the tracker went dark, reportedly without advance notice. A Russian language announcement now present on its main page explains the reasons for the site’s demise.
“Recently, we received several dozens of complaints from rightsholders weekly, and our community is subjected to attacks and espionage,” the announcement reads.
While public torrent sites are always bombarded with DMCA-style notices, private sites tend to avoid large numbers of complaints. In this case, however, HDClub were clearly feeling the pressure. The site’s main page was open to the public while featuring popular releases, so this probably didn’t help with the load.
It’s not clear what is meant by “attacks and espionage” but it’s possibly a reference to DDoS assaults and third-parties attempting to monitor the site. Nevertheless, as HDClub points out, the climate for torrent, streaming, and similar sites has become increasingly hostile in the region recently.
“In parallel, there is a tightening of Internet legislation in Russia, Ukraine and EU countries,” the site says.
Interestingly, the site’s operators also suggest that interest from some quarters had waned, noting that “the time of enthusiasts irretrievably goes away.” It’s unclear whether that’s a reference to site users, the site’s operators, or indeed both. But in any event, any significant decline in any area can prove fatal, particularly when other pressures are at play.
“In the circumstances, we can no longer support the work of the club in the originally conceived format. The project is closed, but we ask you to refrain from long farewells. Thank you all and goodbye!” the message concludes.
Interestingly, the site ends with a little teaser, which may indicate some hope for the future.
“There are talks on preserving the heritage of the club,” it reads, without adding further details.
Possibly stay tuned…..