When private torrent sites first started, they were little known, and small. To join, you had to know about the site, and if you were lucky enough to find a slot you could join (most sites were small, with 10,000 members max). Most private sites were (and are) perceived as exclusive communities. Members who do get in often share more, not only because it is required, but also because they want to be a good member of the community.
As time went on, torrents became more popular and the membership of private BitTorrent trackers increased. Part of it was speed , such sites tend to have better ratios of seeds to peers. Other factors are the absence of garbage and the fact that duplicates are kept to a minimum. However, such factors made them also prime targets for the anti-piracy groups. After the joint ICE and FBI raids against the US-based BitTorrent tracker, EliteTorrents, in 2005, even though it became clear that such investigators were members of such sites, invites became popular.
The theory behind invite-sharing is simple: Someone you know, who happens to be a member of a site invites you to join. You are known to them, and it should restrict the ability of people with bad intentions to join. “good members” invite their friends, who become good members, and are likely to be ‘safe peers’. In time, these new members would get/earn invites of their own, and they invite people they trust.
The problem is, many of these sites have members that promote their favorite site as ‘the best’, ‘the fastest’, ‘the safest’, or some other praise. Best is subjective, fastest often depends on luck and timing as much as anything else, and I discussed safety almost a year ago. Regardless of the truth of these statements, many sites have a cult following, and demand for invites to private trackers skyrocketed. People started to beg and plead for invites, and to trade them, or even worse, sell them. This is where things get problematic.
The invite system was based on a chain of trust. Yet now, a lot of people trade invites with strangers. They often know nothing about the other except that they’re a member of one site wanting another’s invite, and their email address. The chain of trust is often broken on large trackers, and the entire system is circumvented. Some consider this to be a problem, others believe it doesn’t really matter in most cases, because most people who do get in have to obey the rules anyhow.
There are some negative side effects of the scarcity of invites. Some users have started selling invites on ebay (such as for what.cd or waffles.fm), and trading sites have also popped up, some of which are attempting to profit from invites.
Of course, the final word comes from the admins of the private torrent sites themselves. Every one TorrentFreak spoke to reiterated that if you are found to have sold invites, your account will be deleted, as will the invited account. Still, people will be greedy, and try to profit from their invites. The most important message seems to be, sharing invites is a good thing, but watch out who you’re sharing with.
What do you think?