BitTorrent is an excellent distribution mechanism, but for a file to live on at least one person has to keep sharing it.
This means that most torrents eventually die after the public loses interest. However, some torrents seem to live on forever.
More than ten years ago TorrentFreak reported on a fan-made ASCII version of The Matrix, describing it as a really old torrent. This torrent had survived for 696 days, which was a rarity.
At the time BitTorrent had only a fraction of the users it has now so it was harder to keep them active. A lot of things have changed in the decade since, but the torrent in question is still going strong.
The torrent file of The Matrix ASCII was created more than 12 years ago (4,419 days) on December 20, 2003. Even though the original site is no longer online, it still has 8 active seeders at the time of writing.
There are also people actively downloading the file, most likely after they found a copy of the release on one of the torrent sites where it remains available. To the best of our knowledge, this means that The Matrix ASCII is the oldest torrent that’s still being actively shared.
The 12-year-old release of The Matrix ASCII comes with a DVD cover and insert. While there are no accurate statistics available it is believed to have been downloaded by tens of thousands of people over its lifetime.
Perhaps worried that Hollywood wouldn’t appreciate the effort, the torrent includes a small disclaimer.
“This work is a parody. As such I do not believe that this DVD has any possibility of competing with the original in any market. It is not for sale,” the disclaimer reads.
Prospective downloaders have very little to worry about though. Warner Bros. is not known to go after this type of fan-art that’s created for non-commercial use and the creator has never been targeted either.
The people who’ve downloaded a copy of The Matrix have thus far responded mostly positively after watching the ASCII movie. That is, those who knew what to expect. Those looking for the original Matrix movie are less appreciative.
“Dude, tell me what to do with this Matrix ASCII, cause the picture is all green n stuff, can’t even see what’s going on. And, its in 4 VOB files, but why?” was the response of one unhappy downloader.
The fact that this torrent has been able to survive for so long is a testament to the resilience of BitTorrent. For us, The Matrix ASCII has become an iconic release and we’ll certainly keep an eye on how it fares in the future.
Update: Jack, who created the torrent, restored the Matrix ASCII website on a new address.
Update: We have a new contender! Kai, who was involved in another Matrix themed fan film called “The fanimatrix” revived their torrent and website, which was created September 27, 2003. since the torrent is active again we will be keeping an eye on this one as well.
Update: While not easily accessible, we learned that the semi-private anime tracker BakaBT also lists a few torrents from early December 2003. More reports of old torrents are welcome so we can keep track of their progress!