In 2003, the World Wide Web was still in its infancy. Dial-up connections were still the default and YouTube, Facebook, and Gmail had yet to be invented.
There was a new technology making waves at the time. BitTorrent made it much easier for people to transfer large files, opening the door to unlimited video-sharing without restraints.
Many people started experimenting with BitTorrent by sharing pirated films and TV shows. These files made their way all over the world and remained available as long as all pieces were shared in the swarm.
Most of these early releases remained available for a few days or weeks, and some lasted well over a year before people lost interest. In extreme cases, some torrents have managed to survive for over a decade.
The Fanimatrix Torrent Turns 20
The oldest surviving torrent we have seen is a copy of the Matrix fan film “The Fanimatrix”. The torrent was created in September 2003 and will turn 20 years old in a few days. A truly remarkable achievement.
The film was shot by a group of New Zealand friends. With a limited budget of just $800, nearly half of which was spent on a leather jacket, they managed to complete the project in nine days.
While shooting the film was possible with these financial constraints, finding a distribution channel proved to be a major hurdle. Free video-sharing services didn’t exist yet and server bandwidth was still very costly.
Technically the team could host their own server, but that would cost thousands of dollars, which wasn’t an option. Luckily, however, the group’s IT guy, Sebastian Kai Frost, went looking for alternatives.
Promising New Technology
Frost had a bit part in the film and did some other work as well, but the true breakthrough came when he stumbled upon a new technology called BitTorrent. This appeared to be exactly what they were looking for.
“It looked promising because it scaled such that the more popular the file became, the more the bandwidth load was shared. It seemed like the perfect solution,” Frost told us earlier.
After convincing the crew that BitTorrent was the right choice, Frost created a torrent on September 28, 2003. He also compiled a tracker on his own Linux box and made sure everything was running correctly.
Today, more than twenty years have passed and the torrent is still up and running with more than a hundred seeders. As far as we know, it’s the oldest active torrent on the Internet, one that deserves to be in the history books.
A Proper Celebration for the 25th?
Initially, there was a plan to celebrate the 20th anniversary but that hasn’t come to fruition. Some of the original cast members have fairly successful careers now and are scattered around the world, so getting the team back together is a challenge.
Director and writer Rajneel Singh, who is still active in the film industry, would like to do something special for the 25th anniversary. Frost says that there is a plan to get the cast together to shoot and release a new clip, perhaps coupled with some fresh “Fanimatrix” merchandise.
Whether the torrent will still be going by that time is unclear, but Frost will do everything in his power to make that happen.
“I never expected to become the world’s oldest torrent but now it’s definitely become a thing I’d love to keep carrying on. So I’ll be keeping this active as long as I physically can,” Frost tells us.
There were a few times that the torrent almost died but after the news broke that this was the oldest active torrent, dozens of people stepped forward to donate their bandwidth.
“It’s really heartening seeing the community pull together around this torrent, despite its usually low transfer count, and work together to keep it alive and kicking. It warms my heart on the daily.”
“We’re super pumped that it’s still going and that people still take an interest in it. Looking forward to the 25th and having something special to share with the world,” Frost concludes.