Trackers are a crucial part of the BitTorrent infrastructure, making it easier for downloaders and uploaders to connect to each other.
Technically speaking trackers are similar to a DNS provider, they function as a ‘phone book’ pointing people to content without knowing what it is.
In 2015, Demonii was the largest torrent tracker around. The Demonoid-inspired service handled requests from more than 50 million peers, resulting in more than two billion connections per day.
This reign ended abruptly at the end of that year. When the Motion Picture Association shut down the torrent icon YIFY, Demonii went down with it. As it turned out, YIFY was also the driving force behind the popular tracker; a fact that was relatively unknown.
With YIFY in the grasp of the MPA, some people feared that Demonii had been compromised as well. There was no evidence for this claim but that was irrelevant as Demonii soon went offline. It stayed offline too, until just a few days ago.
Out of nowhere, Demonii suddenly became responsive again this month. The comeback went largely unnoticed by most torrent users but those that keep a close eye on tracker connections could have noticed. As it turns out, many active torrents still have Demonii in the tracker list.
Immediately after its resurrection, Demononii roughly started where it left off, coordinating transfers of over four million peers. These millions of torrent users connect to nearly two million older torrents that were also active before the tracker’s shutdown.
The instant activity shows how many active torrents still have Demonii listed as a tracker. And since these torrents often have less than a handful of downloaders today, a central tracker will help to improve connectivity.
The big question is, of course, who resurrected Demonii and how did they get their hands on the domain?
Demonii Has a new Owner
After reaching out to several people, we found out that ‘Suni’, a veteran in the BitTorrent scene, is behind the comeback. Suni was once the operator of a smaller torrent site and was connected to a collective of torrent sites that was started back in 2005.
This collective, which included popular sites such as myBittorrent and Fenopy, pooled resources and knowledge to get things done. The group eventually fell apart after a few years, but many site operators remained connected.
Suni eventually shut down his site, which he prefers not to name in public, but kept a close eye on the torrent ecosystem. When YIFY was shut down in 2015, he noticed that the Demonii.com domain remained in the hands of the original owner.
Demonii was “an icon” according to Suni, who decided to reach out to YIFY in the hopes that they would agree to hand it over. After all, with more than 50 million people relying on it, the tracker served an important function.
“The tracker served a purpose. While many may argue that the loss of Demonii back in 2015 was no big deal for the ecosystem, realistically, it was; it was one of the most relied-on Torrent Trackers in the world,” Suni tells us.
Indeed, while trackerless technology such as PEX and DHT were able to take over the functions of the defunct tracker in most cases, centralized trackers can be crucial for less popular torrents to survive.
7 Years Waiting…
Unfortunately for Suni, YIFY didn’t want to hand over the domain; at least, not at the time. It would take almost seven years before that would happen.
After the early offers to take over Demonii were rejected, Suni and YIFY remained in touch. Over the years the Demonii topic was brought up on occasion, but usually without success.
“I would jokingly be like ‘hey, you should give me Demonii.com,’ and always was rejected; never told why and of course, I accepted it.
“It wasn’t until we were chatting more recently about the cost of domain pricing for each of our online presences, that YIFY randomly sent back a random string of characters; and was like ‘it’s yours, let me know when it’s transferred’,” Suni says.
This version of what happened is corroborated by another source. We also spoke to a member of the original YIFY team, who preferred not to comment. However, the end result is that Demonii is operational again, with millions of people using it.
Demonii, like the original, runs on the OpenTracker software which is relatively lightweight. Suni informs us that the tracker is currently hosted on two virtual machines, running Debian 11 from docker containers.
The tracker supports both IPv4 and IPv6 connections. The former are still much more prevalent and the dual-stack server handles around 300,000 active requests per minute on a 1x 6 Core 16GB machine. However, it’s only using a fraction of its total capacity.
“Everything is as optimized as possible; realistically anything and everything that can be stripped out is stripped. At time of writing; the v4 server is using 850mb ram. and about 11% of a CPU core,” Suni says.
The above shows that Demonii is ready for more growth if needed. Suni also ordered new hardware to expand the operation even further. This is all coming out of his own pockets as the tracker itself doesn’t generate any revenue.
It is important to stress that the tracker is content-neutral. It’s simply a service that anyone can use to add to their torrent files. The tracker itself doesn’t host any torrents, nor does it have any control over how people use the tracker.
Still, rightsholders may yet demand the blacklisting of certain torrents. Like others such as OpenTrackr.org, Demonii will consider accepting these requests, although it doesn’t believe that it’s doing anything illegal.
“I am of course, more than willing and able to implement blacklisting, it’s a small price to pay really. But like others I would be putting up lists of hashed that have been blacklisted from the tracker,” Suni says.
All in all, Suni believes that Demonii is just offering a neutral service, much like ISPs or even torrent clients. And judging from the more than 400 million requests per day, it’s quite a popular service already.